The Malone Hotel kept busy during the Covid-19 lockdown by creating Gallery, south Belfast’s newest place to eat.
Executive chef Andrew McConnell promises a menu packed with elegantly cooked local produce.
To further enhance the dining experience, the restaurant also put together a new cocktail menu with a selection made up of spirits distilled locally.
Our weekend visit started off on the right foot with a very pleasant greeting from a waiter who led us to the dining room.
The attractive mix of teal and copper made us feel at ease, as did the space between tables.
While there were just four starters and five mains on the menu, each entry sounded so delectable that choosing wasn’t easy.
Vegetable soup, pork belly and goat’s cheese dishes were passed over by both of us in favour of the scallop, pea and black pudding to start.
My friend opted to try one of the cocktails and was thrilled by her rhubarb and ginger Greyhound Jawbox with creme de cassis and grapefruit juice.
Generously offering me a sip, I immediately regretted my choice of a glass of house sauvignon blanc, even though it was crisp, cold and deliciously dry.
Our starters were a feast for the eyes. Three plump scallops rested on a bed of black pudding crumb, garden peas, tasty pea puree and samphire.
The scallops were tender and perfectly seasoned, while the pea and black pudding created an extra layer of flavour and texture that really tickled the tastebuds. Not a crumb was left on our plates.
For mains, the choices included pan-friend cod, slow-roasted beef shin, pan-fried chicken, a 10oz sirloin or a meat-free option of cauliflower steak.
I went for the pan-fried chicken with wild mushrooms, cauliflower, new potatoes and tarragon veloute, while my friend opted for the 10oz sirloin with onion rings and garlic butter and a side of truffle and parmesan fries.
I was disappointed to be told there was no tarragon veloute, and instead was offered a red wine jus which I found perfectly acceptable.
Soon, more appealing plates of food were placed before us.
My chicken was moist and tender and the potatoes cooked perfectly crisp, but I felt that the red wine jus needed an extra punch to make it a superb sauce.
My friend ordered a medium-rare steak that was tender and juicy but not pink and slightly overcooked. A generous dollop of garlic butter melted on the meat, adding to the flavour.
The selection of desserts promised a delicious end to our meal.
The options included roasted pineapple with coconut sorbet, chocolate delice with raspberry sorbet, vanilla panna cotta with rhubarb and amaretti crumb or an Irish cheese selection with fruit chutney and crackers.
Panna cotta is one of my favourite desserts, making the choice easy for me. My friend’s sweet tooth led her to opt for the rich chocolate delice.
Again, beautifully presented food arrived, both dishes coming in generous portions.
The delice was sweet and crunchy, with the dark chocolate balanced by the sharp sorbet. I also enjoyed my creamy panna cotta with tart rhubarb topping.
Service throughout the meal was first-class and the prices for a Malone Road area restaurant of this quality were reasonable.
The relaxing atmosphere, good food and pleasant, efficient service made for a great night out.