This series of reviews on Covid-imposed takeaway lunches and dinners may be approaching its conclusion. But not just yet. Restaurants are girding themselves for a reopening. What this will mean in terms of ambience, physical space restrictions and service remains to be seen (I'll be reviewing a Belfast pub which serves food next weekend).
In the meantime, now that restaurants have got used to the complexities of the takeaway proposition which includes deciding on menus that can survive transportation, part preparation of food kits, sometimes for three or four courses, packaging for every side, sauce, drizzle and sprinkling, producing written instructions (one of the hardest exercises for any writer), staffing, choice of operating days, way-signing and organising deliveries, they're running their takeaway operations more slickly than ever. I can't believe I'm writing this, but it would be a shame to lose the posh takeaway habit imposed on us by a disease.
This week a trip to Edo, the Spanish tapas restaurant, proved to be another takeaway winner. Manager Matthew McIlwaine, set up an online menu system whose ease of use took a lot of the faff out of the ordering process. It's not unlike the remote ordering systems installed at McDonald's. This is important because while top restaurants have been providing very classy take-home dishes, many of their ordering processes have given rise to rows in our house. The ordering process usually starts with a Whatsapp from me at the start of the week to the rest of the family suggesting dinner from a restaurant. There then follows a series of responses questioning why that restaurant, why does it have to be at the weekend and is there egg in this or a vegetarian option in the other. This correspondence can go on for days before some kind of consensus is reached. By this stage, the restaurant of choice will have sold out so we all have to settle for a Chinese anyway.
With Edo, it's all there on the interactive screen. Just click on the dishes and drinks you want. Because the dishes are tapas made to order, Matthew says timing is essential and you don't want to leave them sitting for too long.
The collection from Edo's front door in busy Upper Queen Street at the appointed time works smoothly with the bags being brought out to you.
Once home, the little packages are opened to reveal the dishes you forgot you had ordered. There are little pots of garlic lentils with Morteau sausage, ham croquetas, patatas bravas, falafel salad, cajun rice, meatballs in sauce, lentil dahl, pil pil prawns and a few more and they have survived the transit intact. Heating guidelines are simple and straightforward. Some will be for the pan, others for the oven or boil in the bag.
And while at first glance the dishes look too small to feed four, by the end of it, we all sit back sated and smiling.
These are no ordinary tapas: they may be small but they are high density, belly busters.
The croquetas have lost none of their crispiness and the unctuous, creamy ham and potato puree within is as rich as I remember in the restaurant. The Morteau sausage in the lentil fabada is equally rich and designed for small mouthfuls rather than a large dinner.
They are far more substantial than the tiny tapas I remember in Madrid bars. Chef Lotte Noren has nailed the concept for Irish palates. The richness of each little dish prevents you from eating too much so the variety and choice is what keeps you trucking on. I recommend three or four dishes per two people. You won't need more.
We loved them and the patatas bravas still hold the title of the best this side of Cadiz.
Morteau sausage and lentils £9
Lentil dahl £8
Ham croquetas £5
Falafel salad £6
Cajun rice £4
Patatas bravas £.4
Edo IPA £2.75
San Pellegrino £2.20
Pil Pil prawns £9