Ramore Wine Bar, The Harbour Portrush: Food worth waiting for
I HATE having to queue for anything, but such is the popularity of the Ramore Wine Bar in Portrush, that unless you are prepared to stand in a lengthy line of people (sometimes stretching almost as far as Lower Main Street) until the doors open (at 12.15pm for lunch and 5pm for dinner), you have to be prepared to wait a while for a table.
One of four eateries in the Harbour area (there's also the new Ramore Restaurant upstairs, Coast Pizza Pasta below, or the Harbour Bistro), the consistently high-quality of the fare on offer and the excellent front of house organisation mean that no-one really minds if they have to wait a while to be seated.
When myself and a friend visited recently, the venue was already packed, so we were given a number and were able to adjourn to the nearby Harbour Bar, where, when a table was ready, a tannoy called us back to take our seats.
The Ramore Wine Bar is certainly not the place for a quiet, romantic meal. It's busy, it's noisy, the tables are squashed together and you have to place your food order at the bar, pay before you've eaten and collect your own cutlery and condiments - however, when ready, your meals are served to your table by friendly and helpful staff.
But it's the quality of the food (and the happy atmosphere - it caters for parties of all sizes and ages at bench-style tables and also smaller window seats with stunning views over the harbour) - that keeps this restaurant packed from the minute it opens right the way through to last food orders at 10 to 10.30pm (9pm on Sundays).
On first glance, the menu doesn't seem particularly cheap, but when you see the size of the portions you realise you're getting serious value for money.
The choice of dishes is huge and all tastes are catered for with a good range of original variations on the usual staples of chicken, fish and steak dishes. There are also salads, home-made burgers, a few veggie options and pasta and rice dishes.
There's also a kids menu available, daily specials and from Monday to Thursdays, out of high season, special offers as well.
Side selection is excellent and includes big chips, French fries, various salads, French-fried onions, vegetable selections, garlic mushrooms, rice and noodles.
Personally, I recommend the Spanish potatoes - soft fluffy slices in a creamy red pepper sauce.
The wine list also comfortably caters for all tastes and budgets.
The Ramore Wine Bar prides itself on its reputation for fresh food and all credit to the chefs - our meal couldn't be bettered.
Having already witnessed the portion sizes, starters were a no-no and we went straight for mains.
I chose the peppered chicken breast which was served with a gorgeous mushroom sauce and big, fat French-fried onions. My friend Margaret went for the salmon which was served with roast vegetables, cooked to al dente perfection.
After polishing off our meals we weren't fit to move for quite a while and that's the good thing about the set up at the Ramore - as you have to go up and order your food yourself, no-one hassles you to move on to the next course or puts you under pressure to order dessert.
So when we were ready, we waddled up to view the puddings and I've never seen anything quite like it in my life.
A huge cabinet filled with an unbelievable array of beautifully-presented desserts, each and every one homemade. Massive servings of Pavlova, cheesecake of the day, tiramisu, gateaux, fresh berry concoctions... (you dream of it, it was there) were on offer with dollops of fresh cream for only £3.95 a pop. How could two girls resist?
Portions of lime and ginger cheesecake and summer berry compote were happily paid for along with coffees, which we could collect when we were ready.
You can always tell when a dessert is homemade and these were melt in the mouth heaven - but so huge that one between the two of us would have been perfectly adequate.
It really is a treat to find a mid-price restaurant that makes all of its desserts in-house and sells them at such a reasonable price.
It's small wonder that even decades after the Ramore Wine Bar first opened its doors, people are still more than happy to queue to get in.
.Tel: 028 70824313. www.portrushharbour.co.uk