Good food should not be price related. I recently paid a four-figure sum for a family of four birthday celebration in Patrick Guilbaud and have no regrets, just great memories and a desire to do it again as soon as I can get the money together.
But last night I paid £8.75 for a takeaway krua king (super-hot and spicy minced pork dish) with sticky rice from Bo Tree Kitchen and made it last as long as possible, it was so good. Last week a fiver got me three top quality tacos at Taquitos food van on Donegall Quay and I can't wait to get back.
A new opening on Belfast's Ormeau Road is proof that quality and value for money are more than achievable. Never mind that the Ormeau Road is approaching peak cool and about to steal that crown currently held by Ballyhackamore. When you have a sit in/takeaway called Dirt Bird on your strip, you're a contender for the top city district trendsetter award.
Dirt Bird is Jim Conlon's latest venture. The same man has given us the Devenish, Pizzaco, and the Chip Company, all of which are popular. Dirt Bird is a more considered proposition. Branding is bright, cheerful and while it is homey, it's corporate homey. It has all the hallmarks of corporate brand values: cartoon colours, fun, pictures of golden crispy rotisserie chickens, flames from a grill, lush burgers, and perfect chips, and that's just the website. Once inside, it's stripped timber beRnches and tables, neon signs ("Get saucy, mother clucker!") and funky, friendly, assertive staff. Could this mean we will see more Dirt Birds rolling out across the country soon? Probably. Looks like Andersonstown is next to get a Dirt Bird.
Two of us (today I am in the company of the Irish Curry Awards founder, restaurateur and community leader Ali Askir) with mighty appetites slipped into Dirt Bird last Friday lunch time. Geared up for take away it may be, but the little dining room has its charms. We sat in a booth after ordering and paying for our piri piri half-chicken, buffalo wings, dirty rice and ribs at the counter. I told you we were hungry.
It took very little time thereafter for the woman who'd taken the order to deliver two laden aluminium gaol trays to the booth. All looked well. None of the squished up burger wrapped in greasy paper here. Instead, a couple of very presentable dishes made to look just how they appear on the website and above-the-counter pictures. That's no mean feat. Have you ever compared your Five Guys, Big Mac or Whopper to the picture? That's what I mean.
The chicken was well rubbed with piri piri, moist, cooked through, crispy in all the right places and full of that African/Portuguese scent. The wings were "better than Frankie and Benny's" which apparently is home now to the second best wings in the north. These, Alis says, are as fine as they get, meat peeling away from the bone effortlessly, the hot sauce, hot, but not tastelessly high-octane and the accompanying chips better than standard.
Pork ribs, Ali looked on longingly, are out of this world. So tender you only need look at them to fall apart. Juicy, tasty, a bit sweet for me but frankly textbook otherwise, these are worth coming back for.
The only fly in this bird's ointment is the dirty rice. If you've had Yugo's dirty rice, you need no further calibration. Yugo's is the dirty rice gold standard. Dirt Bird's does not compare and is not unlike a Tesco microwave basmati rice in a bag (possibly Mexican flavour). That aside, though, this is straightforward, old school street, BBQ food which the kids, coders, software workers and anyone who likes to eat food without cutlery will adore.
Half chicken: £7
Wings X 6: £5
Dirty rice: £3