Eating Out: Conor's classy food enhanced by great service
SOME of the most precious men in my life are called Conor and therefore I have always felt a warm affinity for the restaurant bearing that name.
Conor, or Café Conor as it used to be known on Stranmillis Road in south Belfast, is a grown-up and fashionable little venue. Small in size but big on reputation, I've had lunch in the restaurant on several occasions over the years.
It's close to Queen's University and facing the Ulster Museum and it's popular with those who work and live in one of Belfast's more picturesque areas.
Named after artist William Conor known for his depictions of the working-class Belfast, it's a place with a touch of history about it.
Having been knocked back from one place that inexplicably stopped serving food at 8pm I was delighted to see an open sign in the door.
And a warm welcome it was; we were greeted at the door by a young guy, sort of studenty looking. If this were west Belfast I'd have clocked him immediately as a Gerry Carroll voter but as we were in south, probably more of a Green.
Anyway, considering it was almost 9pm and we'd no booking he couldn't have been more accommodating, got us a booth straight away, menus pronto and drinks not to far behind those.
Starters in the traditional sense are becoming as rare a sight as Jim Allister at an Easter parade.
It's all about the small plates these days and the two we got were delicious. We ordered a few small plates: some salt and chilli chicken, and crab cakes – hot, crispy chicken with a choppy little salad and two delicious little crab cakes, crispy on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside.
The evening menu was full of tasty-sounding dishes: burgers of all kinds, interesting-sounding salads and then what they call the Artisan's choice, which was a Thai curry, steaks and a few different chicken dishes.
Our lovely waiter brought over a specials board, from which a blackened hake jumped out at me; my famished friend went for the chicken and leek pie.
The hake had a sort of Cajun topping. It was sitting on some fab little oven-roasted potatoes with green veg and spinach in a cream sauce.
The fish was, I'm sorry to say' overcooked – not awfully so but by a good few minutes, which is everything in the world of fish.
The potatoes were delicious, the veg fresh and the spinach – well I love when chefs go to such great lengths to make a healthy food unhealthy: I ate it all.
I stuck a fork in the chicken and leek pie, it was creamy and comforting, and my mate polished off the lot. I'd have seasoned it more but that's just personal taste.
I had a coffee while I talked myself into a pudding – it didn't take long and we went for the sticky toffee pudding between us. A true friend will always share the calories.
It came with honeycomb ice cream and a chocolate sauce. It was a pure diet buster, each calorie totally delicious, rich, sticky, full of fig and caramel. If I'd just injected hard drugs I wouldn't have felt any more guilty,
If you're sad I suggest you go there and eat that dessert. Do it alone if no-one is watching – the calories don't count.
The second waiter, who was as young and enthusiastic as the first, took the bill. Honestly, good service is a rarity these days – how Conor managed to find two grade-A belters is a mystery but credit to them.
Conor has lost none of its appeal over the years. It's a great wee spot, classy, simple food and service you'd expect in a fine dining restaurant.
Salt and chilli chicken £4
Crab cakes £4
Chicken pie £11
Sticky toffee pudding £5
Glass Sauv blanc £4.50
11a Stranmillis Road
028 9066 3266