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Stormont is finally getting the public's vote - at the Members' Dining Room

By Noel McAdam

Published 20/08/2015

The oak-panelled fine dining room at Stormont
The oak-panelled fine dining room at Stormont
One of the tasty dishes on offer

All too often the Assembly leaves a bad taste in people's mouths...

But this summer Stormont seems to have finally found a recipe for success.

For opening the MLAs' exclusive restaurant to the public has had people voting with their feet - to get in.

The Members' Dining Room has had booking levels which would have most restaurants eating their hearts out.

Over the two months our elected representatives have been on recess the upstairs eatery has enjoyed a 95% occupancy rate.

And now officials are dining out on its popularity - with the prospect it could be made even more available in future.

This could include the six-week period when the Assembly dissolves before the next election.

So far this summer more than 1,000 people have lived like an MLA - at least for a lunchtime

And though the 36-seat restaurant returns to the regularity of serving MLAs and their guests after the end of next week, it is fully booked until then.

Sebastien Mingout, support services manager in the Assembly, said the experiment had gone way beyond expectations.

But a decision on repeating the idea, or extending it, will rest with the Assembly Commission, which oversees the day to day running of Parliament Buildings.

"The restaurant has been booked at 95% of its capacity at lunchtime - 1,100 covers - for the first six weeks of the summer recess," Mr Mingout said.

"It has exceeded our expectations and a report will be submitted to the Assembly Commission in September that will include a recommendation to continue providing these facilities during the summer recess in 2016 and during the period of dissolution in the run-up to the Assembly elections in May."

The oak-panelled room has all the class and atmosphere of a top-class restaurant and the service from staff is first-rate.

Prices are not quite at the fully subsidised special level the MLAs enjoy, but still quite reasonable.

Main courses are around £9.50 - but there are two courses for £12 and a full three-course banquet for £15.

Apart from the lunches, patrons have also been able to enjoy morning tea and coffee from 10-11.30am with freshly baked scones served with jam and clotted cream or a selection of Danish and pain au chocolat pastries.

And then, of course, there is always time for afternoon tea, with a selection of freshly prepared finger sandwiches, warmed scones with clotted cream and preserves and a variety of home-made cakes and pastries.

And you don't even have to listen to a debate or attend a committee afterwards....

The menu

Starters

Summer leaf salad with buffalo mozarella, cherry tomatoes and basil

Smoked salmon risotto, with poached salmon, mint and sweet peas

Ham hock terrine with apricot and ginger chutney

Mains

Grilled supreme of chicken, with basil puree mash, chipotle butter, spinach and asparagus;

Tempura of hake with lemon and chilli orzo;

Slow roast pork shoulder with bourguignon garnish or butternut squash and potato gratin

Desserts

Glastry farm ice cream and summer fruits

Raspberry and white chocolate truffle with Viennese biscuit

Strawberry and orange tart with cream Anglaise and villa ice-cream

All of which can be washed down with the house merlot or sauvignon blanc as well as tea or coffee to round off

Belfast Telegraph

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