Life

Eating Out: Entering a whole different world

Cafe del Mondo in Derry's Craft Village. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Dominic Kearney

Café del Mondo

Craft Village

Shipquay Street

Derry

028 7136 6877

FRIDAY night is always something to celebrate. Work is over for the week, two empty, carefree days stretch ahead, and Everton haven’t yet lost. It feels good.

Of course, we weren’t to know that come Saturday we’d run out of oil and then the boiler would pack in, and that Everton would lose (OK, we pretty much guessed that), so on Friday night we happy three headed out full of the joy, laughter, and camaraderie that only the prospect of a slap-up nosh at the start of the weekend can bring.

And we had something extra to celebrate – my brother’s new job as a meeter and greeter at the Guildhall in Derry, the civic centre of the city that has welcomed presidents and Nobel Prize winners.

He’ll be brilliant, naturally, although I’m not sure how Bill Clinton will react the next time he pops in when he’s meeted and greeted with, Orright there, Bill. Ow’s ‘ilary, mate?

It’s not easy to choose where to go in Derry these days, because so many places are so good. In the end, we plumped (deliberate choice of vocabulary) for Café del Mondo, in the Craft Village, realising, without knowing why, that it was ages since we’d been there.

The restaurant is inside the Craft Village, about halfway up Shipquay Street, the steepest road in the world (think of Shipquay Gate as base camp). The Village is a place of real charm. It’s like stepping out of the city while remaining at its centre.

The courtyard is looked down on by the first storey of colourful doors and secret apartments. There’s a craft shop, a second-hand book dealer, a shop selling vintage clothes and furniture, and, of course, Café del Mondo.

It’s a cool, chic, and stylish little restaurant, one of those places that never seems to be trying too hard while, of course, giving everything. It looks out onto the quadrangle of the Craft Village, dark and empty at this time, so it feels like you’re eating in a cosy haven, known only to a select few.

I’ll start with the puddings. Not because I have an eating disorder but because these were the least good things about the meal.

Besides, while every good story should have a beginning, middle, and end, they don’t have to be in that order.

The cheesecake had a lovely, lemony sharpness, but I thought the strawberry topping was too thick and slabby, and I’d prefer a biscuit rather than a pastry base, for contrasting texture.

The tarte tatin also lacked texture, and the pears weren’t caramelised enough. Mind you, having said that, the plates were scraped clean.

And now back to the start. The soup was lovely, just the right balance of creaminess and lightness, autumnal but still with a memory of summer. It was maybe a touch too peppery, mind, but the accompanying bread was soft and rich.

And on the subject of soft and rich, my mushrooms on toast certainly was! A variety of mushrooms, cooked just right, in a light sauce, on a bread bed which absorbed and released the lovely flavours, with an aioli that lifted the whole dish.

To finish in the middle – the chicken supreme was cooked beautifully, so the meat was tender and full of flavour. The cod was perfect. The flesh was soft and moist, with just the right texture to the skin, complemented and developed by the salty bacon.

My steak was a big feller, a good pink on the inside, and I loved the prawns that came with it, not to mention the delicious crabmeat which was an added bonus. The side orders deserve special mention, too, especially the carrots and parsnips, beautifully crisp and sweet.

I don’t know why it took us so long to come back here, but the next visit will come a lot quicker.

THE BILL

Starters

Vegetable soup with homemade bread – £4.95 x 2

Wild mushrooms on toast with truffle aioli £5.95

Mains:

Surf and Turf – 28 day-aged rib eye with king prawns and crab bisque – £22.95

Irish chicken supreme with crushed new potatoes and pancetta cream – £13.95

Greencastle cod, pan-fried with potatoes and bacon – £15.95

Pudding:

Spiced pear tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce – £5

Lemon and strawberry cheesecake with fresh cream – £5

All mains served with choice of side dishes – chunky chips, seasonal buttered vegetables, baby leaf and Parmesan salad, garlic new potatoes

Total – £78.70

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