Belfast Telegraph

Restaurant review Bull and Ram Belfast: No bull, this is one restaurant that you'll never regret visiting

At last, a restaurant which all can agree serves up high-quality food, allied to great service and enough variety to keep everyone happy

By Joris Minne

I'm getting tired of inflamed sensitivities when it comes to favourite restaurants and takeaways. You make one claim about the best fish and chip shop in Belfast (undisputedly John Long's) or Indian takeaway (Asha in Bangor) and the crazed hounds of Cu Chulainn, the merciless armies of the Visigoths and the faceless and yellow-bellied trolls of Twitter will be unleashed and bear down on you with relentless ferocity until you surrender and recant.

I kind of get it. Everyone has their own favourite eating place and loyalty to these is on a par with the lifelong membership of a rugby, GAA or soccer club.

If you live in Rosetta, King's Fish and Chips is your man. If you're up the Newtownards Road, you won't be going past the Mandarin City. If you're on the Falls Road, how could you not support 26 West? It's cultural and territorial. You stick with your local.

The same happens to any level of the eating-out sector. Is Eipic better than OX? They're both holders of a Michelin star. Is Howard Street better than Poacher's Pocket? Both are top of their game as leaders in the bistro world.

But now I think I have found one place which defies all this and may actually bring calm where there are stormy waters and unity where there is division. The new Bull & Ram may very well be the restaurant which everyone agrees is the go-to place when no one can agree on anywhere else.

Its mothership has been a big hit in Ballynahinch and it took just a little over a year for it to produce an offspring. The original is a place of worship for lovers of offal, sweetbreads and proper butchery. But there is little of this in the city version.

Occupying a charming site once home to Beatrice Kennedy and more recently Buskers, Bull & Ram has struck a tone which is at once charming and reassuring but enticing and exciting too. But better than anything, it feels as if it has been a Belfast fixture for at least 100 years.

It's a bustling, crowded little place which, once sat down at a table, offers cosy comfort and a sense of occasion. Groups of four will be very comfortable in the booths at the back. I saw six squeezed into these without complaint.

The theme is very meaty. Hannan meats are everywhere and the now famous Glenarm Shorthorn Delmonico features at £30.95. This is a fabulous cut somewhere between a ribeye and tenderloin. The only other place I've seen it is in Michael Deane's Meat Locker. Bull and Ram is really a direct competitor of Meat Locker. It could even feasibly be on a par with Deane's Love Fish restaurant if oysters were ever to feature here, as the full title of the place implies (Bull and Ram Belfast Steakhouse and Oyster Bar).

But it's also the kind of restaurant where food intolerances are remarkably well tolerated. My friend has a series of quite serious allergies and intolerances, all of which were catered for without so much as a second glance. This is the kind of slick hospitality we need to see more of.

Pheasant starters were substantial, strongly flavoured and robust in presence. Cured sea trout was cigarette paper-transparent and beautifully enhanced by the salt-baked beets, horseradish and watercress. Whipped St Tola goats cheese with mulled wine poached pear, puff pastry and spiced pear chutney was a mean little dish with tiny, teaspoon-sized bits and pieces.

I looked longingly at the pheasant beside me, but it was quickly forgotten with the arrival of a Glenarm sirloin. It had been a long time since I had sirloin, but I would be back for this again. Moist, juicy and charred, firm yet tender, and bursting with beefiness and iron, it was worth the money. The accompanying chips were a match for anywhere, crispy, brittle, golden and plentiful.

The packed little place is restaurant heaven so long as you don't mind confined spaces. It has that magical quality of ensconcing you comfortably while surrounded by frantic activity. Like the inscription above the door of Mussenden Temple written, by Earl Bishop Hervey: 'How comforting it is to be safe here watching the ships tossed by storms at sea.'

Bull & Ram Steak House and Oyster Bar,

44 University Road,

Belfast

Tel: 028 9031 2229

The bill

St Tola goats cheese ..................... £7.95

Pheasant x 2.................................. £15.90

Sea trout ......................................... £8.50

Shorthorn sirloin.......................... £31.95

Shorthorn Delmonico.................. £30.95

Shorthorn ribeye......................... £31.95

Skeghanore duck......................... £15.95

Bottle Uruguayan red ...................... £35

Bottle Rioja ....................................... £30

Christmas pudding x 2 ................ £13.00

Cheese............................................. £7.95

Total............................................. £229.10

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