Restaurant review: we have a taste of The Yellow Heifer
The Yellow Heifer: 16 Main Street, Camlough, Newry. Tel: 028 3083 0505
Newry has a fresh buzz about it. Trade is brisk and commerce is flourishing. While there may not be much by way of heritage and culture, the city compensates for this by fulfilling the role of the busiest border shopping town between the two loughs: Carlingford and Foyle.
One or two restaurants of note have popped up in recent years including Deli-Lites in the Quays retail centre. But the Quays centre is suffering from its own success. It is now so congested and choked up with cars that a visit there has become a chore. They have reduced the number of parking spaces to make way for new developments and the result is a clogged up approach road as cars stack up along the kerbsides for hundreds of yards.
A recent lunch time meeting in the town was to be followed by a trip to Deli-Lites for lunch but we abandoned this plan and headed out instead to nearby Camlough where I'd heard good things about The Yellow Heifer Bar and Restaurant. The Yellow Heifer website claim that Camlough is the sporting and cultural hub of the region had clinched it for me. This I had to see.
The claim was immediately validated when we stepped into the charming old country bar with its ancient nick nacks, musical instruments and old fashioned bar stools to find a space-age, carbon-frame, road race bike worth thousands, leaning against a chair just inside the front door. It belonged to the boss, the server explained. Images from Flann O'Brien's Third Policeman (there's a great reference to people who spend a lot of time on bikes and how this affects their physiognomy) flashed through my mind and I imagined that O'Brien would have loved to see this.
The place only does lunches from Thursday to Sunday but if you happen to be in the area on these days it's worth keeping in mind. Particularly if you have visitors and want to show them a "lil piece of Aarlan".
The Yellow Heifer is designed by somebody who clearly enjoys Irish bars in the States. You throw in a load of wood panelling and put old stuff on shelves, instruct staff in the ways of smiling, banter and the old friendly ways, and stick some framed pre-war newspaper cuttings up in the loos and Paddy's your mad Irish uncle. You'll have created something which is so stagy and rehearsed even the most humourless cynic will be seduced by the sheer gall, charm and bravado of it. It works convincingly and beautifully.
And they have enough breadth of mind not to focus too much on making the food historically or geographically accurate. There is Thai chicken (or beef) curry, cajun chicken Caesar and lasagne, thereby already covering three continents. But there are mussels, Guinness wheaten bread and salmon too.
A bowl of Carlingford mussels in garlic, white wine and cream does the job well. Although the mussels are smallish they are tender and juicy. A few slices of fresh focaccia accompanies. I know what you're thinking: but the focaccia's your man for dunking, its sponge-like consistency soaking up great volumes of sauce.
The Thai green chicken curry is very good. There are bite size pieces of aubergine and generous quantities of chicken in there. The aubergine is novel but that's the thing about Thai curry, you can put just about any kind of veg in there and make it work. The sauce has a kick but is well balanced with equal share of voice from the savoury, sweet, sour and salty corners.
The salmon steak is slightly overcooked but that could be remedied with the accompanying white wine sauce which looks suspiciously like a thickened version of the one the mussels came in. An accompanying mixed salad is good with a delicate dressing and the sweet potato wedges are a suitable partner.
The apple and rhubarb crumble, however, is the main achievement. A nutty crumble covers a well-balanced tangy sweet fruit interior. The accompanying crème anglaise has a bit of a cloying Angel Delight sweetness and is best avoided.
The Yellow Heifer is good spot, particularly if you want to escape the gridlocked streets of Newry. The service is quick, friendly and informed. It's only a few minutes' drive from the town centre yet you feel you are in the depths of south Armagh's gorgeous hill country or possibly the Adirondacks.
Thai curry £9.95
Rhubarb crumble £4.95
Toffee pudding £4.95
Sparkling water x2 £3.60