Restaurant review: Lobster burger on Freight's menu on the Lisburn Road
Restaurant review: Freight, 423 Lisburn Road, Belfast. Tel: 028 9508 1587
Freight, the east Belfast brainchild of brothers Gerard and Christy McQuillan, has opened a second operation across town on the Lisburn Road.
The new restaurant, also called Freight, promises to inject some much needed nouveau cool into the road. The old stalwarts like Shu, French Village and Tony & Jen's are keeping some semblance of urban chic alive, but the McQuillans who are also behind The Gypsy Kitchen, bring some cheeky b****** swagger, banging tunes and a style of knock-out street food which isn't just dirty but deeply and profoundly filthy.
Unlike their eye-catching east Belfast base made from three 40ft cargo containers, the Lisburn Road challenge will be for Freight to ignite that magic and keep it lit in the more conventional environment of a street presence with four walls and a front door. But don't underestimate the McQuillan handling of marketing.
The modest restaurant gains instant recognition from quite some distance thanks to the solid wall of H&W yellow which encloses the smoking area outside on the footpath. You can see it from the moon.
Once indoors, the interior is more school canteen than post-modernist intent. Thankfully, the same quality soundtrack is playing loudly but not obtrusively providing another layer of cool and charm.
And the two things which work so well in the containers are replicated here: some of the best staff in the sector, people who keep their eye on the door and immediately jump to smiling attention the moment someone walks in; and that lush, messy, sinful, indulgent food which is so wildly exciting, do not be surprised if it soon appears on a PSNI list of illicit and mind-altering stimulants.
The menu features nine dishes plus a good few sides. The youthful millennial will appreciate the inclusion of a codes numbers system alerting them to allergens.
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The menu reads like a list of fantasy cures and fixes and includes truffled eggs, merguez sausage (Morroccan lamb and harissa, best eaten out of the back of merguez vans in small French coastal towns), sourdough and chives, Korean fried chicken, waffles, sticky greens jerk sauce and a poached egg, pulled short rib benny (benedict) with salsa verde, fennel and pomegranate, buffalo chicken pho boy with Caesar, white onion and iceberg.
I've had a few of these or versions of these in the east Belfast venue and can vouch for the volume, the flavours, textures and sheer addictiveness of them
Today, however, I'm having the lobster burger. I've had lobster rolls before in good quality brioche rolls, but never a burger. And that's what it is: a burger made from lobster meat, solid, firm, meaty and apparently 100% lobster.
The sizable pattie sits on a bed of lettuce with dill mayo and is crowned with a fried egg, the whole lot perched on the base half of a quality bap. The top half of the bap sits beside it beneath a mound of chipotle slaw.
The chipotle is almost overpowering until you get used to the big, bold, primary colour fusion of McQuillan's cooking.
The slaw is hot and breathy and seems to clash with the lobster.
But the lobster stands up for itself gallantly and I flit between mouthfuls of both for the entertainment that's in it.
On the side is a bowl of kimchi fries which adds a third dimension as powerful and as in your face as the other two. The three components are so different in character: warm smooth lobster, hot chipotle and fermented cabbage I almost laugh out loud. Yet it's all brilliant. Chomping through these I wish it would last for ever.
Freight is the latest in a new line of tiny restaurants serving up exciting and very good quality meals. Turkey Street Food in Ventry Street is another as is Bites of India on lower Ravenhill Road. If this is the future of Belfast's restaurant life, then let's have more of them.
Lobster burger ..................................£13
San Pellegrino orange........................ £2