Restaurant review: We take a bite from The Guillemot
2 Seacliff Road, Bangor. Tel: 028 9146 2037
The dirty food movement has taken firm grip in Northern Ireland. We love a bit of culinary filth, particularly when out for the evening in a large group, and possibly the next day too, when nursing a hangover.
Dirty food, for those of you of a more emotionally restricted disposition, loosely refers to stuff that's bad for you but is irresistible nonetheless. It's anything from burgers and ribs to deep-fried chicken wings and pulled pork sandwiches that might feature gallons of maple syrup, chips and barbecue sauces, fried eggs on top and batter-coated sweet potato fries.
The restaurants serving these killer delights are usually found in out-of-town leisureplexes, where the proven commercial mix and formula means you will reliably find a cinema, possibly a betting arcade and sometimes even a swimming pool. Carryduff Road House, which unusually exists alone perched above a petrol station, Blue Chicago, Wolf's and Beef 'n' Bird are key examples of the genre.
But while we are hooked on heart-stopping foods, particularly at weekends and during party moments, they are also, paradoxically, a gateway drug to another emerging phenomenon: the Australian breakfast, which is filthier still but, weirdly, features health-giving super foods.
First seen in The General Merchant, smashed avocados on thick slices of Vegemite-coated, toasted sourdough crowned by a bleeding egg and shards of crispy bacon have become Dirty Food 2.0. The mood is the same: carefree and tasty.
One proponent is Bangor's Guillemot. At brunch time, the menu reads like post-hen or stag do heaven. And just as you always find a mix of tastes in such a party, so you will find morning dishes ranging from Live-a-Little Granola made with pumpkin seed granola, seasonal fruit, raw cacao and chia seeds, and Captain Ahab's Breakfast, named after the Nantucket skipper who must clearly have been an Ulsterman because it features a "major" sausage, bacon, egg, herb-roasted mushrooms and tomato, black pudding and soda bread soldiers.
In between are the Wintery Breakfast (maple porridge with almond milk, winter berries and seeds), Croque Monsieur or Madame (mature cheddar and ham toastie with béchamel (with egg on top for a Madame) and the mysteriously monikered Bond's Breakfast with smoked salmon, soft scrambled eggs and potato bread.
There are various breads from something called the Toastery. Here you will find sourdough, rye sourdough, soft white, granary bagel, wheaten and gluten-free breads all toasted and served with almond butter (or jam, Nutella, honey or cream cheese), or guacamole, or garlic and thyme-roasted portobello mushrooms, or slow-roast tomatoes or two eggs done your way. But I bypassed all of these and went instead for an odd coupling of tom yum soup and the Guillemot Omelette starring pale-smoked haddock, parmesan cheese, hollandaise and salad.
The tom yum broth was shot through with bite-sized cod and salmon chunks and mussels, and plenty of freshly chopped scallions. The heat of the Thai chillies was perfectly graded for the time of the day (early Sunday afternoon) and the flavours possibly too much on the sweet side, but this is so subjective I wouldn't want to put you off what was in fact a mouth-wateringly rich and uplifting fortifier.
The following omelette was fluffed, thick and generous in every way. The Guillemot does not skimp on the ingredients and I battled to finish it, managing to do so only through greed and desire for more. The advisor was so taken by her Captain Ahab she vowed to return as soon as possible. The Guillemot is a fantastically San Francisco-type, postmodernist, hipster heaven with a true sense of hospitality. The floor staff are as keen to keep the smile on your face as the chefs - no easy task considering how tiny the place is and how popular. But queues are quickly finished and tables turn over fast enough, although not so fast as you'd notice when you're enjoying your meal.
It was so good, in fact, we booked it again for the Saturday evening the following week. This was a completely different experience, in a very good way, and you will read all about it very soon.
Captain Ahab's Breakfast £7.95
Coffees x 3 £6.30
San Pellegrino £1.80