Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Feast your eyes: Three Northern Ireland eateries where your festive tastebuds will definitely be tickled

John Toner at Mikeys Deli eating the Christmas Bronx with battered Oreos. Pictured is Mikeys Owner Michael Curran. (red Coat). PIcture Colm O'Reilly 04-12-2019 Sunday Life
John Toner at Mikeys Deli eating the Christmas Bronx with battered Oreos. Pictured is Mikeys Owner Michael Curran. (red Coat). PIcture Colm O'Reilly 04-12-2019 Sunday Life
John Toner

By John Toner

I was something of a troublesome kid and never really believed in Santa - you could say I was a rebel without a Claus.

But I always made up for my lack of festive spirit with a genuine love for my Christmas dinner.

Like Darth Vader, I like my turkey meat on the dark side and as my dad can vouch for (as he opens all the dining room windows each year) my love of Brussels sprouts is legendary.

So, there was absolutely no doubt about which reporter would be sent out to sample some rather different Christmas cuisine this week.

The Chippy, Railway Street, Antrim

This beloved Antrim chip shop is renowned for a slightly different take on deep-fried delights and this year its offering you Christmas in a burger.

Now, you may not immediately think of a chip shop when you imagine a Yuletide feast but The Chippy is trying to change that with a battered turkey dinner burger, complemented with deep-fried pigs in blankets and battered Jaffa cakes.

I had never tried any deep-fried confectionery before so I was a little hesitant about the batter-encased biscuits.

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How empty my life was before this moment. The molten chocolate-orange disc was a sticky, gooey revelation inside the light and delicious batter.

I was a little concerned the batter might carry an essence of cod from the fryers but it was clean, crisp and fresh.

Having whet the appetite with a deep-fried discus of joy, it was on to the main event. The beast of a burger contained a slab of ham topped with stuffing and sandwiched between two hunks of turkey breast. All of which was wrapped in scrumptiously light batter, topped with cranberry chutney and dressed with two battered pigs in blankets.

It was a huge golden boulder of meaty festive flavour which oozed decadence. The chutney was the cherry on top, adding an extra note of Noel to the dish.

The bun which contained this monster began to fall apart as I chomped through it with reckless abandon and my belly began to fill up.

Despite my rapidly filling tum, I managed to finish it off purely driven by cravings for the delightful batter and well-cooked turkey dinner inside.

After working my way through Christmas dinner in a burger, I was very glad I had skipped breakfast that morning. I was completely stuffed.

At £5.95 a pop, this mini-mountain packs a punch for the price and is a wonderfully compact take on the festive feast.

Mikey's Deli, Bridge Street, Belfast

THIS Belfast burger joint has become a legendary late-night spot for hungry partygoers and is dishing up Christmas US-style this year with festive loaded fries and a selection of battered treats.

I have found myself there after many a night out enthusiastically chowing down on a burger the size of my head.

The innovative fast-food outlet is known for its "have it your way" attitude to food as well as its highly popular south-west sauce. It's also well known for its food challenges, including the giant "dog bowl" chillies and attempting to eat a burger the size of Luxembourg.

For the festive period this year, owner Michael Curran (38) has unveiled the Christmas Bronx as well as battered stuffing and Oreo donuts.

The concept of the Christmas Bronx dish is effectively loaded fries with a Christmas twist and it delivers in spades.

Served in a classic American fast-food basket, complete with greaseproof liner, this is a melting menagerie of flavour including bacon and chicken strips, stuffing, cranberry sauce, cheese, nachos, fries and south-west sauce.

Every forkful is a wild lottery of textures with each bite surprising the palette. You can go from cheese, bacon, cranberry and fries in one bite to chicken nachos, stuffing and south-west sauce in the next.

It's a delightful variety and array of sensations which makes eating the dish quite a journey. I hadn't expected loaded fries to feel like Christmas but cranberry, bacon and cheese transform them from Americana to Nollaig shona.

Next up I tried out the battered stuffing balls and Oreo donuts. If I was unsure about how festive these dishes would be, the Christmas-ness was about to be turned up to 11.

The stuffing balls were like deep-fried Christmas grenades - somewhere between a dumpling and a stuffing ball, these baubles were heavy and heavenly.

I didn't think it could get more luxurious than deep-fried stuffing dumplings but the Oreo donut was next up.

Dusted with sugar, these sweet and delicious little bombs were simply amazing. Going into this I was a sceptic on deep-fried sweets but now I'm fully repentant.

The Oreo retains most of its consistency and just takes on a warmed, slightly melted texture and is beautifully complimented by the forcefield of batter surrounding it. Absolutely incredible.

Mikey's is a no-nonsense eatery with a cavalier attitude to calories, exactly my kind of place, and its festive offerings this year are exactly what you want at Christmas - outrageously lavish food and to hell with arteries and waistlines. Superb.

The Bridge House, Bedford Street, Belfast

MY WHISTLE-stop tour of weird Christmas made its final stop at The Bridge House in Belfast city centre where I had arrived to take on not one, but two festive pizzas.

Everyone enjoys the festive feast in their own way but I doubt many have ever thought of putting it on a pizza base.

Every year JD Wetherspoon's, who own and run The Bridge House, release a hotly anticipated Christmas menu offering affordable merry munch for those enjoying the festivities on a budget.

This year, alongside the usual deli deals including a drink, small plates, children's meals and desserts, the chain is offering two festive pizzas.

Launched in November and served at all of their pubs up to and including Christmas Eve, customers can order either an 11-inch chicken, stuffing, bacon and brie pizza or an 11-inch brie and smoky chilli jam pizza (suitable for veggies), both with a drink.

In my opinion, the brie makes both of these pizzas. In the meat-eater option it, along with the stuffing, elevates the pizza from being just like any other into something a bit more whimsical.

With the veggie pizza the brie alongside the smoky chili jam makes the pizza feel sweet, special and indulgent which is how we all want to feel on Christmas morning.

There are a number of preconceptions about Wetherspoon's food - some fair, some not - and I was a little sceptical about the quality of the pizzas. Despite my reservations these were both delicious, and extremely good value for money at just £8.79 including a drink.

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