Eating Out: Muddlers Club lives up to the hype
The Muddlers Club
1 Warehouse Lane
028 9031 3199
YOU know how it is when somewhere new opens and all the hipsters want to be seen there just to prove that they're fashionably fabulous.
Well currently that's the Muddlers Club, Belfast's newest and most uber-trendy restaurant. Don't just take my word for it – check out the social networking accounts of the beautiful people and you'll see them all pictured raising a glass at the Cathedral Quarter eaterie.
But first in order to prove your creditials as someone who's in the know you have to find the place and that's an experience in itself. It makes sense that it's tucked away as the restaurant is named after a secret society that used to meet in the building.
It's situated in Warehouse Lane – despite having lived in Belfast all my life, not a street I'd ever heard of. Up a side street at the back of the Duke of York pub, it took a few phone calls to find the place but then maybe that adds to the exclusiveness.
Lack of passing trade certainly isn't damaging business as it was booked solid and the only table we could get was early in the evening and had to be vacated again by 8pm.
Even though it was early doors when we finally reached our destination it was already buzzing with well dressed diners.
Head chef and owner Gareth McCaughey is formerly head chef at the critically acclaimed Ox so expectations are always going to be high.
The old building that has been modernised to make it modern but still cosy and welcoming with an open kitchen and a large bar along one wall. We were walked to a table at the window by a very friendly front of house staff member who made pleasant small talk and handed over the menus.
You can see why the Muddlers Club is so popular with just a quick scan down the short but perfectly thought out menu. It's filled with mouth-wateringly delicious sounding dishes. However, the proof is in the tasting and I was still worried that this might be a case of style and hype over substance.
There were scallops with a Jerusalem artichoke crisp, pickled walnut and apple that sounded promising, but it was a cold damp night so I wanted something more substantial and opted for the festive-sounding pumpkin ravioli with chestnut and kale, my fabulously dressed dinning partner going for the seared beef with burnt carrot and tarragon.
There's a lot of emphasis on presentation; portions are small but rich and full of unusual but perfectly thought out tastes and textures.
The seared beef, sliced paper thin, came with a warm egg yolk and charred chicory, succulent and seasoned as you expect food of this standard to be.
My ravioli was delivered a parcel of joyous amber, festive in its flavours, sweet pumpkin, sharp white balsamic dressing and iron-rich kale all joined together in perfect unison.
We were off to a good start.
For mains I kept with the winter theme and ordered a blackened lamb rump, while the other side of the table went for the halibut.
The fish came with a white bean stew, dotted with crispy ham, clams and olives, every mouthful a joy, tasting both of the sea but with salty, earthy tones.
The lamb rump was with squash, and chard and mushrooms again combining, sweet with earthy rich flavours.
The lamb was well seasoned but a little overdone for my taste; it was ordered medium but came a just a minute over that. Delicious all the same.
For dessert we decided to split a delectable-sounding pear, toffee and meringue dish.
It arrived looking like someone who really loves their work had prepared it with love and attention to detail, the plate perfectly dressed with toasted meringue, the little pear stack sweet but not sickly, with a splattering of dark chocolate sauce and dots of salted toffee sauce.
It was a joyous end to the meal.
We'd ordered a very reasonably priced bottle of Long Beach cabernet sauvignon, which went with the meal perfectly and were still finished in time to relinquish our table to the next lot of lucky revellers.
Yes the Muddlers Club is incredibly fashionable but, despite being the new kid on the block, deserves all the accolades being heaped on it. I'll be back. I'll just make sure to book well in advance.
Bottle of red £20
Seared beef £8
Lamb rump £15
Pear dessert £6