Belfast Telegraph

Restaurant review: 28 Darling Street in Enniskillen

Restaurant review: 28 Darling Street, Enniskillen, Tel: 028 6632 8224

The interior of 28 Darling Street, Enniskillen
The interior of 28 Darling Street, Enniskillen
Joris Minne

By Joris Minne

The circle of life in restaurant-land isn't so much a circle as a, er, tree. In the beginning there was Paul Rankin. Paul's ground-breaking Roscoff restaurant which opened in 1989 then begat a generation of new chefs including Andy Rea, Noel McMeel, Niall McKenna and Robbie Millar who then went on to create their own next generation such as Danny Millar, Paul Waterworth, Stevie Toman, Marty Murphy and so on.

Similarly, the charming and super talented Neven Maguire who established McNean House and Restaurant just over the Fermanagh/Sligo border in Blacklion two decades ago, has spawned some more chefs. This time, it's the young Glen Wheeler's turn to have a go at his own restaurant. After years and years in McNean House, Wheeler took the plunge and installed a new kitchen into a former jazz bar in the middle of Enniskillen and opened 28 Darling Street last year.

The louche jazz bar interior touches including black and silver flock wall paper and almost gothic dark furniture provide a glamour not normally associated with Enniskillen. This town is home to Blakes of the Hollow, one of the most beautifully preserved olde Ireland pubs in the country, Toppings, the Land Rover dealers and SD Kells known for its ladies' fashions, long-lasting menswear and bedding and linens. Convention is your man in genteel and elegant Enniskillen so when 28 Darling Street opened, a few eyebrows would have been raised when they stepped in through the door and saw the decor.

But the decor is the least of it. It's warm, well-lit and servers are attentive and helpful in that country way Belfast and Dublin restaurants have largely forsaken. The influence of Neven Maguire is clearly evident in the tasting menu: organic tomatoes with goat's cheese and basil, smoked Thornhill duck with pea and mint risotto, scallop with baked apple and black pudding, rump of lamb, black garlic and shoulder pie or beef striploin with mushroom strudel and red wine jus. Vanilla panna cotta with strawberries and elderflower finish off with a sweet flourish.

A la carte (I'm always reluctant to go with a tasting menu as it narrows everything down and places you on a kind of inescapable track: as long as there are no delays and the wine is plentiful, that's fine, but you can't always rely on it) takes you into deeper Fermanagh convention with smoked salmon risotto, sweet potato and rosemary soup, salt baked beetroot or duck pithivier among the starters; and chicken with brioche crumb and savoy cabbage, pork with black pudding and apple, wild halibut or beef strip among the mains.

The duck pithivier is rich and meaty, its pastry flaky and the accompanying buttered leeks a welcome lubricant. The wild halibut us a generous chunk but is overshadowed by the little bed of pearl barley and caulifower. The fish is slightly overdone making it a bit dry and cloying but the flavours are bang on and rewarding nonetheless.

Chef Wheeler wins the prize for best sides: the mousseline of potato is an absolute treasure, as welcome and endearing as a puppy, warm, comforting and reassuringly buttery. Glazed carrots and parsnips are a tribute to the humble root veg, their sweetness enhanced by their sticky glaze.

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Desserts are very good but the cheese board is possibly as good as I had in Patrick Guilbaud featuring very well kept smoked gubbeen, powerful durrus, a Ballylisk that doesn't taste of nappies and a very balanced blue cheese from Young Buck. All the cheeses peaking at perfect room temperature and then further blessed with Wheeler's own chutney, a delicious dark rich, fig-like apple butter.

28 Darling Street is the best in the town which also boasts the must-visit lunch time café, the Jolly Sandwich. Both are in the same street. So there is your perfect Enniskillen afternoon: Jolly sandwich for lunch, afternoon in Blakes and dinner in 28 Darling Street. The family tree of restaurants shows no signs of slowing down.

The bill:

Pithivier......................................... £11.50

Halibut ............................................... £22

Chips ............................................... £3.50

Steamed greens ............................ £3.50

Creamy potato............................... £3.50

Total................................................... £44

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