Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Watch: What happened when we try terrifyingly hot ghost chilli pizza in Belfast's Parlour bar

Score: Wood 0 Food 3

By Christopher Woodhouse

After a brace of unsuccessful attempts and mounting professional and peer pressure over the past week, an order came down from on high that failure was absolutely not an option.

Given my stomach is the size of a racist's brain, something reasonable in size but with an entertaining aspect was required - and let's face it, pain is the funniest sensation to witness.

One such meal does exist, promising exquisite agony for the participant while teasing them with the prospect of being able to manage it.

Which is how I found myself standing at the door of The Parlour bar on Elmwood Avenue in the shadow of Queen's Students' Union in south Belfast.

I last drank here in those seemingly distant days (it was in fact only eight years ago) when I was briefly an undergraduate at the nearby sobering-up house.

My last memory of The Parlour, apart from the fact it had Bass on tap, was searching for a friend who was found in the gents with the position of his shoes suggesting a packet of Bacon Fries had disagreed with him.

This week, it was my chance to risk a call to Cardinal Chunder with their Wall of Flame pizza.

There's is no time limit to complete it - you can sit until the bell rings for last orders if you wish - but as its name suggests, there is no need for one.

It is prepared with a sauce laced with Ghost chilli, known in its native land of India as the Bhut jolokia, a previous holder of the Guinness World Record at just over one million units on the Scoville scale.

This puts it at 400 times hotter than Tabasco. If it was a burglar, it would steal your car, wallet and kids' piggy bank and take a dump somewhere you wouldn't find it.

Christopher Woodhouse tries The Wall of Fire pizza at the Palour Bar, Belfast.
Christopher Woodhouse tries The Wall of Fire pizza at the Palour Bar, Belfast.

The Parlour cleverly pays on the local student population's youthful bravado by serving up the pizza at a size of just 10 inches.

This has every nylon-clad, over-confident sports science student and their mates queuing up to take it on.

The only accolade available from this is your name on the top 10 board of those who have completed it in the fastest times.

Christopher Woodhouse tries The Wall of Fire pizza at the Palour Bar, Belfast.
Christopher Woodhouse tries The Wall of Fire pizza at the Palour Bar, Belfast.

At the top of the board is an impressive time of three minutes 23 seconds, at which even a Russian Olympic coach with a burning enthusiasm for chemical assistance would raise a quizzical eyebrow.

To get a spot on the coveted board, I would have to do it in eight minutes 29 seconds or less.

A 10-inch pizza in 8m 29secs or less? Sounds easily doable, even for a person who doesn't hate themselves enough to go through this week after week.

However, when I arrived at the venue and met duty manager Ryan McCann, he planted a little seed of doubt in my head, which within a matter of minutes would grow into a towering horse chestnut of apprehension.

He told me staff actively try to discourage the three or four punters a week who think they can finish it, never mind get their name on the leaderboard. The fail rate is somewhere north of 75%.

Rather than disturb the genteel lunchtime patrons refreshing themselves with a few light ales between lectures, we adjourned the challenge to the beer garden.

Not only would it have the benefit of fresh air on a cool afternoon, but its atmosphere of an unfinished Chelsea Flower Show garden with ashtrays had a calming effect.

Like a landfill site, or house fire, you can smell the dish before you see it, as it is heralded with a tear gas-like aroma which starts to pull at the inside of your nostrils.

In deference to my A-list celebrity status, Ryan was happy to let the oven-fresh pizza cool, so I could fill myself as quickly as possible.

An utterly pointless jug of ice water and glass are left beside the table, with Ryan confessing that to drink it would only make the effects of the sauce worse.

So, after a suitable cooling period, the clock started and, not long after, some unseen demon had a pair of bulldog clips clamped on my tongue.

This pizza doesn't knock the door and wait politely to be invited in, but lands on to your palette like the Sweeney busting a crack den.

All I could do was think of a frozen Alpine slope while doing the bare minimum of chewing, before quickly swallowing each bite, no time to savour the flavour.

One slice went down like the rushed cup of morning coffee that you forget to let cool down before drinking it.

But it was only after the third slice that I realised the folly, not only of this tactic, but of even thinking this was a viable prospect in the first place.

While my mouth raged like a fire in a blow-up doll factory, the heat hit my stomach with the pain of every bad break-up, death of a beloved pet and regret from every morning after a heavy session delivered straight to my gut on the tip of a bayonet.

It sat like a hot knot of molten stupidity trying its best to burn its way through to my spine, lay its eggs and use me as a host for its terrible offspring.

I tried, dear reader, honestly I tried, but I couldn't wait it out. Any more and, I swear on the grave of Arthur Guinness, I would have been sick all over the photographers. Even they don't deserve that, so I threw my hands up and begged for a glass of milk.

In total, the experience lasted no more than 11 minutes, but a week of root canal surgeries would have flown by in comparison. Back to the drawing board, as I have a feeling that the next challenge could be one I succeed at. However, I've been thinking that for three weeks.


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