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Bullitt Hotel, Taylor & Clay Restaurant: Simple and straightforward choice, the ideal venue for a long lazy Saturday get-together

How you spend your Saturday afternoons (if you don't work weekends) says a lot about you. Golfers, footballers, shoppers, dance lesson and orchestra taxi drivers know exactly how their Saturday is going to pan out. It's a standing order, a welcome and reassuring predictability, the way life is.

Our house used to be like this (taxiing to orchestra, camogie, hair & make-up). But we are down to one resident teenager, the others having fled (probably only temporarily) to greater things. Now Saturdays are all different and unpredictable.

Last Saturday was memorable because it was largely spent in the Bullitt Hotel's restaurant, Taylor and Clay. Friends and family joined around a very large table in the middle of the restaurant for lunch and there we stayed until they asked for the table back at 9pm. After that we moved a few yards into the bar.

It was the best Saturday the advisor and I had spent together in years. Older children home from Leeds and New York, younger ones keen to hook up with each other, seven of us embarked on a lunch which would turn into a gently epic afternoon of fun, gossip and craic fuelled by very good food and wine.

Taylor and Clay (named after the street corner in San Francisco where Lieutenant Frank Bullitt of the eponymous 1968 movie lived) is a hotel restaurant like no other. The lines are blurred between it and the bar beside it and, for that matter, the hotel reception and the Baltic coffee lounge beyond.

All the spaces flow together seamlessly, yet there is something very anchored about the place you choose to sit, wherever you choose to sit in this vast, ground floor series of spaces. A table in the middle of the restaurant sounds exposed yet we felt ensconced and comfortable. Being within a couple of steps of the open kitchen and its dramatic wood fired grill heated up the mood, the anticipation and that sense of occasion.

Service is relaxed, attentive and charming. For servers so young, the training must have been good. And then there is the simple and straightforward menu. Actually there's a section of menus: one for breakfast, lunch, dinner, winter, Sunday and even one for desserts.

But they are all easy and instant. The lunch menu we had featured four starters including chargrilled flatbread pizzas (smokey aubergine with roasted squash and feta, chorizo with sobrasada and Toonsbridge mozzarella, chicken with field mushrooms, truffle and parmesan or harissa roasted red onion, burnt onion cream and pine nuts) and salads. But there are others which we were offered from the Sunday menu and which proved to be memorable. Sumac and garlic tiger prawns transported us to the eastern Mediterranean as did the beef shin fritters with sunflower tahini. Sumac is not all that common a set of spices but as soon as you taste it you know you're in the middle east, a deep, rich and enhancing set of flavours which give instant identity and distinction to the prawns.

We fought over those and the hot pickled sausage and burnt onion cream and the vegetarians went bonkers for the flatbreads and orange and chilli olives, escabeche vegetables and pepitas.

I could go on about the various mains but the tomahawk pork chop with firepit vegetables will stay in my mind for a long time. A big blackened chop from a sizeable animal cooked over that wood fired asador was as good as I've had in Florence and paired to barbecued baby gems and roasted roots and peas proved heavenly, remarkably light and unfatty and bursting with fine porky flavours.

I tasted others' offerings including the wagyu beef burger (crumbling, dark and very good), flat iron with béarnaise (sensationally well cooked, sliced and presented as if styled by Trish Deseine herself), grilled hake (pearly and slippery) and cornfed chicken, again moist and salty and perfect with those crispy fries.

I'm gushing now, but it really was that enjoyable: that moment with the people you love, doing what we all enjoy which is eating and drinking and spending time together. I hope next Saturday is half as good.

The Bill

Pork chop .....................................£14.00

Wagyu beef ...................................£24.00

Short rib fritters ...............................£6.00

Flat iron steak ...............................£14.00

Lunch special fish ........................ £10.00

Flat breads ......................................£3.00

Tiger prawns .................................£13.00

Beef croque monsieur .................£10.00

Pickled sausage ..............................£5.00

BBQ baby gems ..............................£7.00

Chocolate tart ................................£4.90

Cheesecake .....................................£9.00

Prosecco ........................................£29.50

Bullitt pint ...................................... £4.30

Esperao pe Branco wine ..............£19.50

Total: ............................................£173.20

 

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