Stix and Stones at Balmoral Hotel

I’ve been to Stix and Stones in Belfast City Centre numerous times since it first opened just over 3 years ago and always loved the “steak on a stone” experience. What better way to get your steak just how you like it by cooking it yourself!

At the start of August I visited the Balmoral Hotel for the Belfast Masterchef Challenge where we told the exclusive news that Stix and Stones Part 2 was opening…in the very place we were sitting! Yes, Balmoral Hotel!

I thought it was a fantastic idea. There are loads of people who want to experience Stix and Stones who don’t necessarily want to go into Belfast city centre, who prefer to eat locally, who want ample parking or who want to have dinner and a few drinks and be able to stay over too!

So, when I was asked if I would like to try the new restaurant last week, of course I couldn’t say no!

We arrived at 6pm so were able to avail of the Pre-theatre menu which is available Monday to Friday from 5pm to 6.30pm. You can get 2 courses for £15.95 or three for £18.95.

The starters include Minestrone Soup with warm bread, or Goats cheese with pickled pears, pear gel and filo pastry.

I went for the Stix and Stones Chicken wings which are served with a creme fraiche salsa, while Barry choose the miso glazed salmon with fennel, blood orange, quinoa and rocket.

I loved the starter- the chicken wings had a slight sweetness to the glaze which worked very well with the tangy sourness of the creme fraiche. Barry said his salmon was beautifully cooked and coated with the simple and delicate miso dressing. He said the hints of fennel were mild but enough to come through on the palette.

Then it was time for the main course. You can choose from the “On the Stone” selection and the “Off the Stone” selection. The “On the stone” menu includes the rump steak and the rump of Lamb, while the “Off the Stone” includes pan roast supreme of chicken, chorizo and three bean stew, or Gnocchi served with wild mushroom ragu, smoked garlic and pea shoots.

We both went for the ‘cook-your-own’ experience and I selected the 7oz matured rump steak which comes with a flat cap mushroom, slow cooked tomato, balsamic glazed beetroot and sauce.

Barry selected the 6oz Yellowfin Tuna steak which was served with roast butternut squash, chilli, soya beans and quinoa.

Soon we heard the loud sizzle of the meat as our waitress brought the hot stone down to our table and explained the best way to cook the meat, from the size of the strips to the time we should each strip for.

I just love doing this- I think it is novel and fun and a different dining experience! My steak was gorgeous- a big juicy bit of meat which I cooked medium-well and devoured every bit. Barry thought his Tuna steak was fresh and delicious, and cooking it quickly over the high heat meant it didn’t dry out. Great!

Finally, we both went for dessert to round off a lovely meal. The desserts include Strawberry semi-freddo, Vanilla rice pudding or Lemon posset.

We went for our firm favourites- cheesecake, which was White chocoloate and Passionfruit- and anything with chocoloate in it, picking the Chocolate Tart served with a salted caramel macaroon and ice cream.

The tart is not the way to finish if you are looking for something light!! It was rich, dark and oh so chocolatey! Right up my street. The cheesecake was much lighter and more to Barry’s taste!

Overall, we had a great night out at Stix and Stones in Balmoral. It has only been open for a few weeks but I am already hearing that it has been very popular with both locals and people traveling from further away.

The atmosphere was lovely and the food was great so perhaps we might hear about Stix and Stones Part 3 in the future!

Starters- Chicken Wings and Miso glazed salmon

Mains- Rump steak and Yellowfin Tuna Steak

Dessert- White chocolate and Passionfruit Cheesecake and Chocolate Tart

Disclaimer: I was invited along to the Balmoral Hotel so the food was complimentary. I paid for all the drinks. All views expressed are my own. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day out at Victoria Square- TGI Friday’s

Once we had explored the pop-up museum at Victoria Square,  we headed to TGI Friday’s for our lunch.

TGI Friday’s is an American diner, well known for its exclusive Jack Daniels range and, of course its cocktails, but as I had my 7 month old daughter with me, we couldn’t indulge in those!

The menu is all about big portions, big flavour – think burgers, wings, fajitas, ribs, steak!

We went straight for mains and it was the Mexican menu which caught my eye. I was torn between the Grilled Sirloin Mexi Bowl and the Blackened Chicken fajita (Cajun-spiced),  but it was the Mexi Bowl which won it for me.

The Mexi Bowl is grilled sirloin, crisp bacon, roasted corn, black beans, cherry tomatoes and pico de gallo on a bed of rice pilaf.  It is garnished with Feta cheese, Sriracha aioli, green onions, coriander and lime wedge.

I’m so glad I went for this. I love coriander (I know it divides opinion!) and it, alongside the lime, really enhanced all the gorgeous Mexican flavours for me. A winner!

My mum wanted to try a dish from the Jack Daniel’s menu I had been telling her about so she went for the Jack Daniels salmon. This is chargrilled salmon fillet served with seasonal vegetables and cheddar mashed potatoes.  Mum said she was impressed by the interesting sweet and smoky glaze.

The other two in our party decided they couldn’t resist a big burger! Go on, it’s Friday!

They both choose the ‘BBQ Burger’ which was a char-grilled burger covered with Colby cheese and Cajun-battered onion rings, and drizzled with Fridays barbecue sauce. Again they both enjoyed their meal with nothing left on the plate.

Just two of us went for dessert (of course one of them was me). I went for the Brownie Obsession while mum went for the Caramel Apple Pie.

The Brownie Obsession is a warm brownie covered in chocolate fudge sauce, vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and chopped nuts. Seriously delicious!

The Caramel Apple Pie is a deep dish apple pie topped with warm caramel and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I tried some of her dessert and it was really good too!

Overall, I was very impressed by my lunch. I maybe had it in my head that it would be another typical American diner but I really loved both my Mexi Bowl and Brownie. A lovely way to end our day out to Victoria Square!

Disclaimer: this meal was complimentary from TGI Friday’s and Victoria Square but all views are my own

Revolución de Cuba launches in Belfast

Last week saw the opening of a new bar and restaurant in Belfast, Revolución de Cuba, a Latin-inspired cantina based at the former Café Vaudeville.

I went along last Wednesday and thought I would sample a few tapas and maybe listen to some Reggaeton tunes…but what I didn’t expect was to have a burrito masterclass, plates of gorgeous Latin American cuisine, rum tasting, cocktail making, even salsa dancing! Wow, what a party!

Located on the site of the original Belfast Savings Bank, this colourful and vibrant Havana-esque party hotspot is set across two floors. So what are the highlights?

CUBAN COCKTAILS

  • Latin favourites such as caipirinhas, piña coladas and cuba libres
  • For budding bartenders, learn from the best cantineros in town by booking a group Cuban cocktail masterclass, ideal for parties or team-building.

LA CANTINA

  • For lunch there’s flavour-packed salads, wraps, tacos, pulled pork sandwiches, or go for a lighter zesty burrito bowl
  • When the sun goes down, choose from a huge selection of tantalising tapas such as gambas pil pil, patatas bravas, pork belly skewers, salmon ceviche and iberico ham croquettas.

FIESTA FRIDAYS

  • Happy hour kicks off at 5pm – 7pm. Enjoy 2-4-1 cocktails, before heading to the dancefloor where a carnival atmosphere is guaranteed with live Latin music and DJs.

PARTY PACKAGES

  • There’s an array of party packages including salsa dance lessons, tapas tastings and giant paellas!
  • Enjoy fruit rum concoctions served in teapots and punch bowls, or opt for spirits by the bottle complete with a choice of complimentary mixers.

Check out my video and pictures to see it for yourself!

 

 

#TweetSeats lunch at Bullitt Belfast

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch…except there is at Bullitt Hotel in Belfast!

A few weeks ago I saw on Twitter that the hotel was giving away 10 free lunches every Tuesday in June and July- and all you had to do was tweet them!

The idea is that before 11am you tell them how many seats you would like and at what time and use the hashtag #tweetseats.

At 11am they will pick 10 seats to enjoy a free three-course meal.

So for example, a table of 6 and 2 tables of 2 would win one week, or a table of 4 and 3 tables of 2 would win the following week…you get the picture!

So I chanced my arm for myself and 3 work colleagues and I was delighted to win four free lunches!

The lunch, at Taylor & Clay restaurant, is from the 3-7-3 menu with all starters costing £3, mains costing £7 and dessert costing £3.

The starters include whipped goat’s cheese with beetroot and pomegranate, or the salt beef Caesar salad. I went for the Smokey chorizo with fennel cream and pickles.

The choice of mains include “Walled Garden Ribollita” (which is an organic vegetable and bean broth) or a flatbread kebab with spiced beef. I went for the Orzo pasta with hot Italian sauage, confit tomatoes and burnt onion cream.

Finally, from the dessert menu, you can pick apple and blueberry frangipane crumble or yoghurt and sesame cream with pink grapefruit. I went for the frangipane.

We had a lovely meal and couldn’t get over the fact we had won a three course meal each. I thought when their Twitter said a free lunch it would be one course!

The food and service was very enjoyable, with my favourite dish being the apple and blueberry frangipane!

There are only two Tuesdays left in July, so get in quick if you want to try and win! All you have to do is #TweetSeats- simple!


 

 

 

 

Musgrave Marketplace Foodservice Brochure

Last week I went to Tedfords Kitchen for the launch of Musgrave Marketplace’s new Foodservice Brochure.

The brochure showcases the extensive range of products available from Musgrave MarketPlace, including meat, diary, fruit & vegetables, delicatessen, fish & shellfish and crisps & snacks.

At Tedfords we were treated to a four course meal, showcasing the type of fantastic dishes which can be created using the Musgrave produce.

The first course was a selection of crostini using La Boulangerie des Gourmets artisan breads.

The selection consisted of:

  •  Tomato and fennel crostini served with seasonal fare courgette marinated in lemon and garlic oil with goats cheese
  • Onion and smoked lardon crostini served with chorizo and seasonal fare roasted red peppers with sour cream
  • Olive crostini served with Wright’s smoked salmon with crème fraiche

This dish was fantastic because of the combination of the flavours in the artisan breads with the fish/meat/cheeses. I particularly loved the chorizo with the roasted red peppers!

For the second course we could either choose between a curry roast monkfish or a duo of beef. Luckily Barry wanted one and I fancied the other, so I got to try both!

The monkfish was served with fragant coconut rice, stir fry seasonal fare bok choi, tiger prawn wontons and curry oil.

The duo of beef was a pan fried Irish beef fillet steak served with a braised beef cheek on a bed of roasted beetroot and root vegetables, fondant potatoes and rich red wine sauce.

What can I say about the fillet steak- the meat was so tender and just fell apart. It was juicy and rich- perfect!

For dessert, again, we were able to choose between two dishes and Barry and I went for one each. (The best way!)

I had the Fusco chocolate ganache pudding, while Barry picked the Paganini Salted Caramel Apple Pie cheesecake.

The pudding was a chocolate lover’s dream- the chocolate oozing out with the touch of a fork! Yum!

And the other dessert? Well, I love salted caramel, I love apple pie, I love cheesecake- who would have thought of putting them all together! Brilliant!

We finished with a selection of Irish and Continental cheeses. These were Baby Gubbeen (Cork), Cashel Blue (Tipperary) and Manchego (Spain), and came served with caramelised onion chutney and crackers.

I had never tried the Baby Gubbeen before and love being introduced to Irish produce. A lovely way to end the meal.

We had a great time with gorgeous food so thank you to Musgrave! Check out my video from the night too! ​​

 

 

Launch of La Taverna at Fratelli

Italian restaurant Fratelli opened in Great Victoria Street in 2015 and has grown from strength to strength.

Two weeks ago saw the launch of an elegant new wine bar on the premises, La Taverna, situated in the transformed upstairs area!

As well as stocking a huge selection of wine, La Taverna will also be offering tapas-style sharing plates known as Cicchetti. These include Piadina (filled flatbreads) and Cicchetti Fritti (a Fried Calamari dish).

The big draw for me is the balcony where guests can watch the world go by under the awning with outdoor heating! We sat out there for ages!

At the launch we sampled the wine and sharing plates on offer and were even treated to performances from fire-breathers and an Opera singer!

La Taverna is fresh and sophisticated, offering a real treat for wine enthusiasts, and I think it will work very well in Belfast!

 

Destination Delicious- Browns Restaurants

At the recent Tourism NI ‘Year of Food and Drink Awards’, Derry /Londonderry was named as ‘Destination Delicious’.  (Another name for the area!)

The Award recognises the city’s reputation for excellent local produce and eateries, and last week I was lucky to join fellow bloggers and media in trying out exactly what the area has to offer.

We left Belfast and made our way to Browns in Town (23 Strand Road) where there was a fantastic showcase of Destination Delicious food and drink producers. I chatted with, and tried samples from, the likes of Brendan Gallagher meats, Donnybrewer Butter, Kee Fruits, Northbound Brewery, Quiet Man Whiskey and Dart Mountain Cheese.

I particularly loved the cheese so I had to find out where I could buy it in Belfast- Sawers Deli in College Street, by the way!

It was then time to head to Browns in Town’s sister restaurant, Browns Restaurant & Champagne Lounge (1 Bond’s Hill) where we were first treated to a live cooking demo by chef Ian Orr.

Ian has created a bespoke menu in celebration of ‘Destination Delicious’ and it was this very menu we were about to tuck in to.

For the first course we shared a selection of homemade breads served with the Donnybrewer butter we had just sampled at Browns in Town. The rich and creamy butter is churned in a traditional batch churn at the company’s Eglinton farm. The breads were  swiftly followed by a fantastic dish consisting of Loughview Farm Egg with Errigal Bay Scallop and Pomegrante.

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Sticking with seafood, it was time for the third course- Donegal Prime Crab with Apple and Cucumber. The crab tasted incredible paired with the apple jelly and was served with Lapostolle Chardonny.

The final course before the dessert was my favourite, Beef Cheek from Brendan Gallagher with Northbound Beer and Kee Fruit Mixed Beetroot. That beef! It just fell apart at the touch- delicious. This was served with Tomero Malbec supplied by R&R Wines and Kolsch style Lager from Northbound Brewery.

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The final course was Rhubarb Parfait with Long Meadow Cider, which looked as beautiful as it tasted! Loved the presentation! This was matched with dessert wine, Sichel Sauternes.

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We then boarded the bus and made our way to Ardtara Country House in Maghera. This boutique hotel is owned by the Browns Group and has previously been named as one of the best places to stay in Northern Ireland. Here we had a nightcap of tea/coffee and dulce de leche shortbread bites.

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We arrived back to Belfast at midnight after what was a fantastic evening celebrating the best of the best food and drink in Destination Delicious!

Browns is a restaurant group which prides itself on using the freshest, local produce. No wonder it was named the ‘Best Restaurant in Co Derry’ for the eighth year running at the Irish Restaurant Awards just days after our visit! Well done guys!