Shed Bistro, 467 Ormeau Road Belfast, Tel: 028 9064 2630, www.shedbefast.com
Opening a new restaurant in Belfast in the autumn of 2020 must be like pointing a leaf blower at a large stack of loose bank notes.
All that careful planning and budgeting turned on its head by an unpredictably stormy set of circumstances.
Yet the owners of the smart new Shed Bistro on the Ormeau Road have persevered with their investment and, having had to postpone their opening night a number of times since September, are now turning over just enough with their click and collect dinner kits to keep the lights on.
They were finally able to open and let the punters in yesterday. The official opening, for restaurants like to mark these dates in an outburst of generous outreach and relationship-building with food bloggers and reviewers, will now be in January. In the real world, however, the restaurant is now open.
Unusually, this means that this week we can take a look at how a Shed dinner kit which is put together in the restricted confines of my kitchen compare with the sit-in experience which will be reviewed next week.
Competition among restaurants for the dinner kit takeaway business has heated up in recent months. With all top-flight restaurateurs now joining in the bun fight, we the consumers have more choice than ever. Quality meals from Stock, Noble, Cyprus Avenue, Mourne Seafood Bar, Deanes, Hadskis and many more across the country have helped upgrade our skills and give us a better understanding of the difference between a pro-chef’s dinner and our own.
And by putting these sometimes complex meals together our insight and respect for what chefs do is much enhanced.
This applies just as much to Shed whose husband and wife team Jonny and Christina Taylor took over the site two years ago and recently embarked on a refurbishment which has doubled its size.
Their timing might have been scuppered by the Covid curse, but the plus side of this is that in the longer term, they have opened exactly the right kind of operation for that upper Ormeau area whose restaurant, cafe and bar scene is blossoming.
Small French town bistro vibes are very Rosetta. Just look at the success of L’Etoile, one of the grottiest looking restaurants in Belfast (a taxi driver who took me there a few years ago said it looked like an entry that had been wallpapered) but whose mood and quality of food won our hearts. This was proof that the Rosetta crowd is happy with the whole boho thing. Roll on a few years and the area is now competing with Ballyhackamore in terms of restaurants.
The Shed at home offer is well pitched with a range of starters including salt and chilli baby squid, butternut squash, sage and rosemary open ravioli, beef ragu arancini. Four of us tried these and couldn’t fault them or the simple preparation instructions. The baby squid was particularly memorable for the sheer volume of tiny, breaded ringlets and the generous accompanying dressed salad.
Among the mains were Peter Hannan’s salt and dry aged beef rump (8oz), pan roasted cornfed chicken, roasted cod filet and brie with cranberry and chestnut strudel.
For those who raise an eyebrow at the thought of reheating a rump steak, rest assured that the five-minute blast in a 200 degree oven does the job perfectly. The Shed instructions are simple. Everything goes into a 200 degree oven for varying lengths of time. Just make sure your timer’s working and you’ll be grand.
The other thing is that other than the fish, the food is forgiving if you go under or over by a minute or two. The roast cod fillet goes in with its accompanying potatoes and vegetables for 10 minutes. I did eight minutes and it came out slithery smooth, pearly and moist.
Desserts are all belters: chocolate fondant, sticky toffee pudding and Baileys cheesecake are the classics I never tire of seeing. Comprehensive allergy information is provided.
If this is what you get at home, let’s see what it’s like next week when I get to sit inside the place.