Restaurant review: Edo - Jamon down to a little bit of Spain in the heart of Belfast
Edo: City centre eatery had reputation for combining Iberian classics with higher-end dining even before arrival of Michelin-starred Danni Barry
The popularity of Spanish food can be measured by the vast numbers of food pictures posted by holidaymakers on social media. How many more paellas, tortillas, bowls of patatas bravas and gazpacho, tiny tapas of glistening anchovies, shards of burgundy-coloured Iberico ham, creme Catalan and churros beside pots of thick hot chocolate can we take? Loads more! It seems our appetite for these is never going to be sated.
Keep them coming, because, in fact, Belfast is Spanish-poor.
When Edo opened in Upper Queen Street last year, I wasn't sure if it was intending to be a Spanish restaurant, or something more broadly Mediterranean. Two recent return trips this week on the back of chef Danni Barry's impending arrival in Edo's kitchen reveal that Spain is, indeed, the main theme and that adherence to authenticity is as strong as the will to make something more of the Iberian repertoire.
This means that the menu is composed of some of the best bits from Spanish bars, cafes and the higher-end, more formal, restaurants.
There are small dishes para picar (tapas to pick at), which feature a range of low-cost to expensive mouthfuls, including sternly rustic oven-baked padron peppers and juicy, salty manzanilla olives, jamon Iberico, the crowning achievement of Spanish curing skills, and various frituras such as ham croquetas, softshell crab and monkfish scampi. There is even an ample tortilla with proper morcilla (black pudding) and red pepper.
These are delightful, particularly as the wines, sourced from Direct Wine Shipments, are more often than not available by the glass. And we all know that nothing beats a plate of thin Iberico ham cuts with a glass of tinto.
But if the little tapas dishes and small plates are not your thing, you can embark on a more traditional route and engage in a starter, main and dessert approach instead.
Three of us, unable to decide what to do, mixed it up last weekend on a Saturday lunchtime when the place was jumping. Upper Queen Street has a great buzz at the best of times, thanks to the bus stops and constant movement of people. I always enjoy finding a place to sit down and relax to watch the word go by and Edo provides this.
Better still, the interior is a plush blue velvet sanctuary, which appears both formal and comfortable. The kitchen occupies an entire fourth wall, providing a second focal point.
Service is quick and city centre slick. It's also smiley and warm. The downtown feel and plushness is very urban and European, which means there is a too-strong linger factor for people like me with no self-discipline. This winter, which promises to be very cold, will be best spent in the likes of Edo.
And the main courses will help you build that inner warmth, too. From the Bertha oven (they use turf as well as pear and apple wood) are various rustic favourites, including chicken thighs (with romesco), BBQ ribs with sweet potato and roasted corn, roast salmon and crushed herb potatoes, beef cheeks, ham hock and lamb kebabs. The last are outstanding, kofte-like shish, better than any we had in some very fancy places in Istanbul earlier this summer.
The adviser has asked for a prawn linguini minus the promised chorizo. This is an excellent call, because the balance of flavours between the prawns, lemon and garlic and well-judged pasta is untarnished by the heat and noise of chorizo. There is a place for it, but not here.
The teen vegetarian says the burger is top-class, on a par with Sozo's amazing chickpea-and-bean pattie.
There is a choice of sides, including must-have patatas bravas, the best this side of Madrid, and quality skinny fries.
My perfect meal in Edo on a diet day would feature the Iberico ham, the glass of tinto and then a second glass of tinto to accompany the polenta cake. This crumbling yellow edifice has an orange kick and is joined by a thyme cream, which is frankly astonishing.
What chef Danni Barry is going to bring to the party is something to look forward to.
Iberico ham: £10
Monkfish scampi: £7
Lamb kebabs: £12
Prawn linguini: £14
Vegan burger: £10
Polenta cake: £5
Glass viognier (x2): £15
Edo 3 Upper Queen Street Belfast Tel: 028 9031 3054