Restaurant review: We take a bite from Daniel's at Tweedies
11 Main Street, Parkgate, Co. Antrim. Tel: 07486 439083
The people of Parkgate, just north of Templepatrick, are very lucky. They now have a restaurant which gives the place a bit of definition. Up until a few months ago, Parkgate was just a pleasant little dormitory village. Apart from its residents, nobody was entirely sure where it was.
With a name like that (we could twin it with Back Gate, Arkansas or New Front Door, Queensland and only one of those is made up) they needed popular Tweedies pub to become more than a local for locals. What Parkgate needed was someone to lease part of the pub and establish a restaurant which would grow the village's reputation as a must-visit destination.
Enter Daniel Harvey and his youthful vigour and within a few months Daniel's at Tweedies has become the talked-about destination restaurant for which the villagers yearned.
This is well worth the 20-minute drive up from Belfast. Particularly at lunchtime. What appeals is the intimacy and the rural informality, matched by hospitable yet rapid service, and that food. There's a bit of a mismatch between the rustic timbers and open rafters of the dining room and the high precision presentations on the plate, but that's ok. The sense is that everyone is doing their damnedest to please you.
Daniel Harvey looks barely old enough to have a glass of wine, yet his cooking is assured and confident. There's a lot of very local produce, vegetables and fruit from literally a couple of miles away, fresh fish from the Irish Sea and, you're in the heart of County Antrim, some very fine lamb and beef.
I took Belfast 89FM broadcaster, Chris 'And Most of all Thanks for Listening' Hughes, there for lunch a couple of weeks back. From his house in north Belfast it took us 17 minutes to get parked outside Tweedies. Business leaders please note: this is the place you were looking for to take clients for lunch before they fly back from Aldergrove.
A former successful bookie who is now slipping into middle-age with his honeyed tones and reassuring manner, Thanks for Listening Hughes knows a thing or two about good food and is handy in the kitchen.
Today he nods appreciatively as the ham hock roulade disappears. There's some Gracehill black pudding in there somewhere along with truffle, but a bit more of the black stuff would not go amiss.
Ham hock has a beautifully moist and rich texture and that black pudding would be interesting if its presence was felt. The Portrush mackerel with horseradish and beetroot is exceptional: sweet, salty, tender and juicy with not a hint of that tangy, dry acidity that mackerel can throw at you sometimes.
A big white brick of glistening hake from Ewings sits at the centre of a dish surrounded by a smooth, creamy mound of cauliflower puree, some samphire and little crunchy beignets which add bite and sparkle to the buttery lunch. The hake is spot on, flaking and slipping away at the mere touch.
Hughes hasn't eaten since the day before and throws himself on the vast, dark and glossy braised beef cheek. The wine gravy and creamed potatoes beneath are the ultimate comfort food and he gets great satisfaction from the beefy flavours and the super tender textures of the cheek.
Near to Parkgate is Glenwhirry, which produces some of the finest rhubarb in Ireland. Here it's presented stewed, bright, pink and with a foamed crème anglaise. This is posh rhubarb and custard, but it's dynamite if you love sweet and sour.
Daniel is not yet prepared to frighten the natives and clearly he has made a name for himself with the locals. There are classic and popular dishes here: pressed belly of pork with burnt apple, apricot and olive mash, Loughanmore rib eye with pepper sauce and burgers. There's even salt and chilli chicken. Once he gets his feet under the table and starts doing what he saw in his former post in Chapter One in Kent, I'm sure we'll start seeing a more adventurous spirit unleashed.
In the meantime, this is a place worth travelling to if you want a change of air - and to find out where Parkgate is, once and for all.
Ham hock roulade £4.00
Portrush mackerel £4.00
Braised beef cheek £10.00
Ewings hake £10.00
Bottle pinot grigio £17.00