37 Patrick Street, Strabane.
Tel: 028 7138 2690
This is a restaurant which consistently scoops at least one award for the Tyrone region in the Irish Restaurant Awards, so I had to visit and see if those accolades were warranted.
They are clearly very proud of those awards as they cover the walls of the establishment. As we awaited our menus I remarked on the nice surroundings and comfortable seats. The menu boasts a classical fine dining style with an emphasis on quality suppliers.
I did find the addition of items such as chicken goujons and battered cod a bit odd at first but realised it was likely to appeal to a wider audience and make those ultra-picky eaters feel included.
Some freshly baked bread arrived while we awaited our starters. It was a wonderfully light and flavourful garlic and tomato focaccia and freshly whipped butter.
That quality shone through in the first starter consisting of a smooth and creamy chicken and bacon terrine surrounded by a host of terrific tastes and textures.
The best of these was the crisp quail scotch egg complete with golden brown shell and perfectly soft yolk which oozed out and made everything taste that little bit better.
The other starter of crab and prawn ravioli was a bit less successful.
The seafood filling worked well with the salty samphire on the dish but unfortunately, the pasta was much too thick, it could have done with a few more passes through a pasta roller or a heavier press on the rolling pin.
The main let-down, however, was the lobster bisque the pasta sat in, it had no sweetness or richness; it just tasted like a metallic tomato sauce. It was a dish with a lot of promise but had too many elements poorly executed.
My main course was a piece of John Dory with a crisp skin sitting on top of some samphire, which is a classic accompaniment to seafood so I had no complaints there. Along with it were some greens and a few wedges of well-seasoned potato.
There were little dots of a wonderful puree around the plate that made everything taste even better.
The dish was finished with a garlic cream sauce packed with flavour but it was a bit thin. A cream sauce needs to coat my food, not drip off.
The other main was a simple supreme of chicken sitting on top of a delicious creamy risotto packed with roasted peppers. All of the ingredients were great and there were some fantastic flavour combinations, but the dish was a little let down by very chewy chicken skin.
The side of potato gratin was exactly how it should be: rich and creamy with a cheesy topping, a true piece of classical cuisine at its very best.
We did enjoy our meal and there were no major faults but it was missing a little bit of magic.
In fine dining it is the attention to detail that sets the great apart from the good, but the little errors in execution and a fairly average level of service meant that this was a good meal, but not a great one. I always seek greatness, but then again don’t we all?
Chicken terrine £7.95
Fish special £22.95
Chicken supreme £17.95
Soft drinks £6