Restaurant review: Finegan & Son in Newry, refreshingly different fare that’s bordering on great
Review: Finegan & Son in Newry, 9 Kildare Street, Newry, Tel: 028 3025 7141
Newry, the bustling frontier town is all swagger, super-pubs and cross-border Euro-trade. It is the Tijuana of Ireland. Thanks to its position on the north-south axis between Belfast and Dublin it has levels of prosperity most towns across the rest of Ireland deeply envy. What's more, its progressive council is supportive of the arts which means that this is one place whose continuing regeneration is assured.
One of the shining jewels of the region is Newry Chamber Music, an ensemble which has interchangeable members who are all brilliant and from across the globe. Led by world-class musicians, local violinist Joanne Quigley and her pianist brother David, NCM is bringing some much-needed class to the city through a steady supply of performances of early and modern music, some featuring participation of contributors such as Ciaran Hinds.
And it was thanks to a recent visit to Joanne and partner Pat's house in nearby Camlough that I became aware of other green shoots of quality appearing in the area. Two recent developments include the refurbished Killeavey Castle which now boasts a recommended restaurant and Finegan & Son, the café restaurant which has operated in the handsome Victorian building on the corner of Kildare Street and Sugar Island for some time now.
Finegan & Son is the first outpost of classic, bearded hipsterdom to grace Newry and already you can feel the locals relaxing a bit. Country towns get a bit uptight when introduced to new concepts, particularly in the hospitality sector. Sure what's wrong with a bit of stew instead of all this new foreign stuff?
But Finegan & Son has won this argument if a lunchtime last week was anything to go by. An ample crowd, the kind of numbers to fill 75% of the dining room made for a busy bright atmosphere, helped by the huge amounts of natural light coming in through those big old shop windows.
The mandatory canteen furniture is suitably worn and slightly wonky and there is a woody echo as people walk past although not so much as to interfere with your enjoyment of the Funkees soundtrack.
The lunch menu is appetisingly unencumbered; seven dishes vie for attention, no sorry, six. The Carlingford mussels in Thai broth, coriander and served with toasted sourdough, have already sold out. Double drat. Instead, there is a seafood chowder. Co-director of road trips Jane Williams sets her sights on the chowder (which turns out to be the best she's ever had and features samphire) so I'm left with a choice of burger, FiveMileTown flatbread (goat's cheese with roast pepper, red onion, rocket and sundried tomato pesto), beetroot hummus and avo toast, 28-day dry aged beef chilli tacos or jackfruit bao buns. I ask for guidance and probably because this is Newry and early days yet for the pioneering hipsters, am warned that this is a vegan dish.
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Jackfruit is a weird one. Loved by vegetarians and vegans, it has more porky presence than, er, pulled pork itself. It really does look like a cross between pineapple and compressed pulled pork. In a bao bun with kimchi, chilli red cabbage, shredded iceberg and Korean BBQ sauce, it is a thing of substance, flavour, colour and delicious satisfaction.
It is hugely impressive and proves that the need for weighty, meat-like roast dishes will be quickly forgotten when Extinction Rebellion advocates win the day and we outlaw meat production.
The vegan argument becomes increasingly persuasive as the new generation of woke young things grow intolerant of our destructive ways. Unless the beef , pork and poultry sectors respond with a sound counter-argument, the jackfruit may be the thin end of the wedge.
Finegan & Son is a quality stopping point for shoppers flocking to Newry. It's central, comfortable, relaxing and individual. It's also friendly, warm and imbued with a sense of social good health.
There are no fizzy drinks, not even bottled water. The coffees and teas are the drink of choice here. So, let go of your inner culchie, embrace the new bearded era and enjoy food that will make you feel as good as it tastes.
Look out for their evening dinners which I have on good authority, are very high quality indeed.
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