Restaurant review: The Linen Hill Kitchen and Deli
Boulevard Outlet Park, Banbridge. Tel: 028 4062 6957
People from the city have a tendency to forget or overlook the fact that, in the words of the great Pat Catney, former owner of the Kitchen Bar which made way for Victoria Square shopping mall, they are mostly only a generation or two from the land. What he means is that many city folk are the immediate descendants of country ones and it's the country ones who know all about good food.
I know loads of people from Tyrone, Armagh and rural Fermanagh who have adopted fancy city ways (they've become rude, mouthy and pushy in the mistaken belief that this makes them more slick, go-gettin' and urban) and talk of culchies and the backwater. I've always found country people to be far more well-mannered, philosophical, informed, tolerant and generous of spirit.
They've more time for those of us around them even though they face the same economic and social pressures as the rest of us. (Rural decay is a real issue: it may look rustic and attractive but it's just as bleak as the empty warehouses and factories of the city.)
Anyway. The Linen Hill captures that country spirit very well. For all its slickness and polish and the fact that it sits in the seriously very pleasant surroundings of the Boulevard Outlet Park near Banbridge (I know! Who'd have thought it!), it has a country heart and its staff have the natural talent of hospitality in bucket loads.
This translates onto the plate. Whereas volume was always a sign of generosity, here it's matched by quality. A special of the day, scampi would have fed two people particularly as it was reinforced by a big ramekin of mushy peas and a flower pot of chips. The quality shines through here. After a bit of faffing (remember your table number then go to the counter to place your order) service kicks in with plenty of smiles and quick-stepping efficiency.
The scampi is pukka -there must be a dozen full Portavogie prawn tails in there - the batter delicate and crispy, the prawns within firm, salty and juicy. Chips are hand cut and excellent and the mushy peas delightfully thick, creamy and dotted with whole peas who escaped the blender.
I cannot fault this shopper's special. There are finer things on the menu including seabass, wild mushroom and goat's cheese arancini, sugar pit ham croquettes, spinach and ricotta tortellini and so on.
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But it's family food; nobody gets left behind when there are vegetarian options, big burgers and salted chilli chicken.
The dining room is an exceptionally cheerful place to sit and take the weight off your feet. The 20ft high ceiling means similarly sized windows and the whole place is bathed in light even on a rainy day.
And because it's a family place (although I saw plenty of office workers, builders, tables for one and the like) there is a dessert menu to smash any beach body principles. I forsook my own beach body ambitions for a sticky toffee pudding and I have no regrets.
Unlike restaurants in airports, those in shopping centres and retail parks are competitive and therefore attentive.
The Linen Hill has been operating here more or less ever since Michael Deane vacated the site five or more years ago and making a very good job of it.
In the face of new competition from Moe's Grill across the alley, the Linen Hill has proven its worth and the loyalty of its clientele tells you all you need to know.
Country people shop here and they know where all the good things are including the good places to eat.
Scampi and chips .............................. £14
Bottle McIvers Cider .............................. £5
Sticky toffee pudding ........................... £5
Americano ....................................... £2.40
Total ............................................... £26.40