Restaurant review: We try out Carryduff Roadhouse
520 Saintfield Road, Belfast Tel: 028 9081 3822
Successful businesses flex and bend with the ever changing commercial environment and economic climate. They are permanently adjusting their course and the way they work to keep up with technology developments, market trends and staff requirements. Those businesses led by visionary and ambitious leaders are able to change their habits not only in order to survive but to succeed.
And so the sons of Carryduff curry house owner Tariq Nabi, Johnny and Stephen, have made some dramatic alterations to their dad's restaurant. For one thing, the tandoori oven, flock wall paper and gentle bhangra soundtrack have been ditched.
In their place is country music (this is debatable: the advisor suggests it's more easy-listening driving tracks), faux bare brick walls and wooden flooring. The menu features ribs and burgers and ice cold beers, and there are pictures of Elvis on the walls. Welcome to the Carryduff Roadhouse.
But it's not all changed. The banter corner - I mean the waiting area where guests can have a drink as they await their table - is still there and there are glimpses of the old Khyber red velvet here and there.
They may have got the dad out of the place (now safely out of the way and happily running the takeaway a couple of miles up the road), but the furniture is still there.
Gone is the sit-in or takeaway apartheid room where you go to order and await your carry-out, well out of sight of the sit-in diners. Now, the room is brighter, airier and, yes, more like a proper, high-ceilinged roadhouse of old.
The biggest treat for us as children was coming back from Dublin or Dundalk to Armagh and stopping at the Road House Grill Bar at the border.
The very idea of a grill was always mouth-watering to us: it conjured up what we thought was an American way of life, all barbecues and huge steaks. As I grew older and it became the Carrickdale Hotel and Spa, a little of that magic may have been lost.
The roadhouse concept brings us back to the origins of the restaurant itself. From the French adverb, meaning a combination of refortification, refreshening and restorative, the original restaurants would have been inns by the road offering travellers food and drink and often a bed for the night too.
The Carryduff Roadhouse takes its style cues from the US glory days of Route 66 and the post-beatnik, new country, American Dream era, which for some of us still resonates.
With these come the more democratic and informal ways of eating. This means less reliance on cutlery and a return to simpler (some would say more savage and uncouth) ways, just how modern young families these days like it.
But this is a competitive sector and the sub-genres of burger houses and rib shacks are not only competing with each other but with the whole gamut of hand-food provided by the likes of Boojum, Bubbacue, Chicken Shacks, Bao bun sheds and so on.
So is the Roadhouse cutting it? Actually, yes, it is. For one thing, it's not like walking into a cartoon palace. Teen Two made this point. While Eddie Rocket's, McDonald's, Burger King and the big successful chains are designed with young children in mind, this is more grown up and not slavishly trying to be American either.
There are Italian beers and wine (I'd love to see the back of those quarter bottles of wine, though. These are an abomination and should be banned. Open a proper bottle of wine instead and offer the punter something decent by the glass, I say).
Ribs and chicken wings are excellent. The ribs have been marinated in apple juice and cider and evidently cooked very slowly. They are light, not overburdened with sauce (although be sure to ask for the thick and heavy BBQ mesquite sauce to be served on the side otherwise you lose that lightness of touch under a thick blanket of the stuff).
The meat literally falls off the bone at the merest touch. The wings are crispy and unadulterated and the accompanying sweet potato fries and salad do the job nicely. Coleslaw could do with being a little less mayo-heavy; the burger is quality although a more brioche-like bun might make it even better; and the highlight of the night is the salt and chilli prawns, which are distinctly Cajun in character.
Stephen and Jonny are friendly, hard-working and hospitable and families love them.
If you need somewhere easy to park, relaxed but not slow service and mood and want to get in touch with your east Kentucky inner self, swing by. And don't be asking for poppadoms.
Ribs and wings............................. £14.95
Plain burger ...................................£8.95
Chicken tenders ............................£9.95
Moretti beers x 3 .........................£11.85
Coke ............................................... £1.95