Posted: 10 February '12 by Kelly
We hadn’t planned to go out for a meal, and we certainly didn’t think we’d be sitting in The Mourne Seafood Bar at 8pm on a mid-week night – but, as is so often the case, the best nights out are often the ones you don’t plan.
With bellies rumbling, we walked through the seafood shop at the front of the Bank Street premises and into a buzzing restaurant – the stream of people coming in didn’t stop all night – full of people clearly enjoying themselves, a sure sign that we’d made a good choice.
The décor is very simple: lots of bare brick-work, potted plants, dark-stained wooden flooring and a huge blackboard to tempt you with the desserts and cocktails. It’s a laidback, unpretentious atmosphere which manages to be relaxed while carrying it off with a bit of class.
Warming ourselves up with a glass of Pinot Noir, we had a look at the menu. It’s pretty small, even with the addition of the Daily Specials, which to my mind is a great thing as it often means they’ve spent time making sure the dishes are just right.
We still had a bit of help from Curt, one of the waiters, previously of Cafe Vaudeville fame. I love it when a waiter knows and is passionate about the food he’s serving inside out, and Curt fits that bill perfectly. Too often when we eat out the waiters/waitresses don’t seem to know the first thing about the food they’re serving or, worse still, don’t seem to care!
There was a bit of an Asian theme running through the dishes, to start I had the Vietnamese dressed mackerel salad with papaya and Niall had the Seafood dumplings with nam jim dressing and napa slaw.
My favourite fish is Mackerel, although it’s such a rich, strongly-flavoured fish that it really needs something zingy to stand up to it’s oilyness. The salad did just that, the sweet Papaya working as a perfect foil to the mackerel.
Niall’s starter of dumplings were also good, crisp and stuffed with plenty of fish, while the nam jim was sharp and citrus and the napa slaw sweet and fresh – another well-balanced dish.
As much as we enjoyed our appetisers, we both had a bit of ‘food envy’ when we saw the big bowl of salt and pepper squid that the guy at the table next to us ordered (note to self: next time we go, order the squid).
I had Pin hake with bacon and clam cream for my main and Niall went with the other fish dish on the Daily Specials, Plaice with mussel and herb butter, both served with herb roast potatoes and fennel salad.
The pin hake was superb, perfectly cooked to make the most out of the amazingly fresh fish. The small sweet clams and salty bacon were the perfect accompaniment.
Niall’s main course was, in his words, ‘fantastic’. The plaice had the tenderness and subtlety of flavour that only the freshest of fish can have – and although the plump mussels and herb sauce played their part they complemented the fish rather than overpowering it.
Both mains came with a fennel side salad which was beautiful. The salad delivered a delicious aniseed kick, a safe bet with most fish dishes, and was really part of the dish – not just an after-thought to bung on the side of the plate! We loved it so much that we made it at home last night.
Admittedly, The Mourne Seafood Bar doesn’t seem to spend too much time worrying about their desserts. There were 5 of them on the blackboard, just enough variety to keep everyone happy without blowing your mind.
As soon as I saw Sticky Toffee Pudding up there my mind was made up, but Niall had a tougher time choosing his, eventually going for the Rhubarb and Apple Crumble.
Now, you’ll probably know by now that I love Sticky Toffee Pudding, and I always judge them against the best I’ve ever had: Cafe Vaudeville’s delicious pud.
Well, just as Curt has moved from one to the other, now the award for Belfast’s Best Sticky Toffee Pudding can be passed to The Mourne Seafood Bar. I don’t say this lightly – I’m very picky when it comes to my dessert – but this was SUPERB. The pudding had lots of ginger and cinnamon spice going on, just enough to make my taste-buds tingle, and it was so moist!
Niall’s dessert, on the other hand, was tasty but not earth-shattering – not in the same league as mine at all.
|Vietnamese dressed mackerel salad with papaya||£5.50|
|Seafood dumplings with nam jim dressing||£6.00|
|Pin hake with bacon and clam cream||£13.00|
|Plaice with mussel and herb butter||£13.00|
|Sticky toffee pudding and vanilla ice-cream||£5.25|
|Rhubarb and apple crumble||£5.25|
|2 Glasses of Cabrials Pinot Noir Pays d’Oc||£9.90|
We were really impressed with ‘The Mourne Seafood Bar’.
It’s a relaxed and comfortable spot, and as soon as we walked in we were casually chatting to the staff and made to feel like we’d been going there for years. We’ve even talked about making this our ‘regular’ once we move closer to Belfast in the coming months.
The dishes were really well thought out and the flavours were well-balanced. As good as the simple, rustic cooking was, it’s the freshness and quality of the fish that makes the dishes here an absolute joy to eat.
Next stop the Oyster Bar…..
Categories: Restaurant Reviews