Belfast Telegraph

An Ulster Log: It's farl and away the best chef Hix had ever tasted

By Eddie McIlwaine

Michelin-starred restaurateur Mark Hix (51) has given his tastebuds a treat by tucking into a good old fashioned soda farl bacon butty for breakfast.

It happened when the celebrated chef was on a visit to Hanna Meats in Moira, Co Down, buying supplies for the kitchens at his nine restaurants in and around London, including an exclusive diner in Selfridges.

Peter Hanna produced a prime cut of Ulster bacon for the delicacy and the soda bread came from the Moira Bakery of David Lindsay (42), a few doors away down Main Street.

Hix was so impressed with the soda bread that Lindsay has landed a deal to provide supplies of the farls to the Hix eateries in England and to the kitchens of his restaurant in Selfridges.

It's a double success for Moira, for Hanna Meats already has Hix as a customer. "He loved the soda farl bacon butty," says David. "Mark tucked into it along with a cup of coffee one morning when he was in the village buying up meat."

David, father of Katie (12) and baby Alfie, and his team of five bakers, bake their sodas to a recipe, the ingredients of which are closely guarded. One order from Mark Hix was for 1,000 farls to have on the menu at a festival he was running.

In Selfridges and on other Hix menus, including those in Brown's Hotel in Mayfair, the chef calls his soda farl bacon sandwiches Goanciales which has an Italian ring to it, but it is clearly stated too that the farls and bacon come all the way from a little village in Co Down. David fell in love with the bakery business as a schoolboy when he helped out in the Bushe Bakery in his home village of Crumlin, Co Antrim. He passed a four year course in the College of Business Studies, Belfast with flying colours and, in 1996, bought and modernised the 50-year-old Moira Bakery.

David and his bakery were given an over-the-top order by the producers of Game of Thrones. "We were asked to bake a huge six-tier wedding cake for a scene in the film. We used several different breads for the job instead of traditional wedding cake ingredients."

Then they varnished the cake so it could stand up to a journey to the shooting location in Croatia.

"This was one Moira Bakery product that was never meant to be eaten," explains David, "but it was a challenge."

Maureen's poignant tribute to sister

Maureen Nolan, who is playing Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers at the Grand Opera House in Belfast until next Saturday, September 27, is one of three sisters from the celebrated singing family who have starred in the role.

Which means that Maureen, Linda and the late Bernie are in the Guinness Book of Records – the first time three members of one family have performed as Mrs J.

"I saw the show 18 times before I played the Johnstone lady," says Maureen. "I adore this musical drama and I dedicate my performance each night to Bernie, who was only 52 when she died. She was the first Mrs J I saw and she was so amazing."

I bet you love this lament ...

Somebody called Wilson Shaw wrote a lively piece of doggerel and called it The Punter's Lament.

This cautionary tale first appeared in a weekly paper called City Week in December 1965. Now for some curious reason this lament in verse has been revived and is doing the rounds again, says John Mullan, of Crumlin, who tells me that the late comedian James Young loved the piece, which runs to some 16 stanzas, and often featured it in his show.

But what is the story behind Wilson Shaw's Lament? Here's how it goes:

To a bookmaker's pitch near the centre of town

Six days a week the punters rush down

Each one convinced that at last he has found

A sure way to beat the Bookie.

Here's how that man Shaw describes gamblers:

They differ in faith, profession, background

But a strong camaraderie keeps them close bound,

Giving tips, systems, hunches, they're on common ground,

United to beat the Bookie.

But punters don't change though fortunes may spin

Their one dream in life is that fabulous win

That's the rainbow they're chasing, they'll never give in,

Seeking fortune and fame in the Bookies.

What's behind sign of dull times?

There's a sign in Church Street, Portrush, which gives passers-by a giggle. Believe it or not, the notice reads:

On this site

In 1897

Nothing Happened.

Now, I'm sure there is a factual explanation behind the humour of this statement.

Perhaps someone in the Port will be able to tell me what prompted the signwriter to record such an, er, unmemorable occasion?

Surf 'n' turf surprise at Whiterock

A little girl appeared to have quite an imagination when she told me she wouldn't go on the beach at Whitepark Bay, up at the North Coast, because she was afraid of its cows.

So I decided to take a look for myself and, sure enough, there, paddling in the surf, were several handsome black moo moos.

So I had to apologise to the eight-year-old, who now prefers to build her sandcastles on Portrush East Strand.

Apparently those cows have been inhabiting this heavenly stretch of National Trust sand for a while. The theory is that they are good for the environment and can graze happily in the dunes.

I hope these farmyard milkers aren't frightening too many children away.

Trapped by a cunning cabbie

A theatregoer had just jumped out of a taxi at the Grand Opera House in Belfast on his way to see the thriller The Mousetrap one night last week when his driver called him back.

"If you don't give me a decent tip I'll tell you who done it," he declared.

Ungrammatical but effective. He got £1.

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