Feeling so Fine: Allison Morris samples Wine & Brine in Moira
Wine & Brine
58 Main Street
028 9261 0500
I LOVE a drop of wine – I'm not so sure about brine. But, none the less, on the recommendation of a pal, a table was booked this week in Moira's newest restaurant, Wine & Brine.
It's owned by Great British Menu chef Chris McGowan, who worked as head chef for Richard Corrigan in London for many years before returning to Northern Ireland and the glitzy lights of Co Armagh.
Right, I know Moira, has no glitzy lights and only one street that for some reason has a lot of fancy soft-furnishing shops.
I get the impression the residents of Moira are a gentle sort who like nice curtains and a tray bake.
I'd no idea what to expect from Wine and Brine as we hammered up the motorway for our 8pm booking.
The middle child, Emma the Dilemma, arrived at my work with her usual tale of woe – she needed to go here and then there and required an ATM, but not the one I stopped at because it didn't dispense tenners.
Anyway, to cut a long story long, by the time we'd changed drivers so the 'good child' could chauffeur us, we were late arriving at the quaint little restaurant with a period white exterior.
Not just a wee bit late but a full half an hour late, at which point they would have been quite within their rights to tell us to 'jog on' – but they didn't.
In fact they were lovely and more understanding than I would have been in the circumstances.
Front of house did explain that had it been a Saturday it might have been a different story, but mid-week and with the bright dining room half full – or half empty if you're a pessimist – we were shown to our table.
The restaurant is open, so celebrity-chef stalkers can see the man himself at work, which is always good.
We ordered drinks, a bottle of La Rieste for me and the Dilemma, orange for the driver.
Starters all sounded fabulous and we debated for quite some time before settling on a shellfish cocktail, chicken liver parfait and a mackerel dish that was on the specials menu.
The presentation was fab: the parfait with glazed top and little cubes of jelly looked a picture, the shellfish a pimped-up prawn cocktail with shrimp and crab and what I think was a little crab claw breaded and deep-fried for texture.
My mackerel was amazing, cured and sharp from vinegar with little jewels of rhubarb and a lemon puree that was zesty times 1,000.
We left not a crumb as we moved on to mains.
Middle daughter is as predictable as she is disorganised and ordered her favourite, pork belly; I had stone bass and the good child ordered trout with a seafood linguine.
I'd no idea what kind of fish stone bass was, but it was meaty and moist with a crisp skin and came with baby squid stuffed with a chorizo mousé.
It needed more salt and I really didn't like the texture of the chorizo, but the fish was stunning.
The pork belly was more meat than fat, which is always good, and came with charred greens and a little black pudding bonbon.
The black pudding was a little big if anything, but it was a great meaty dish.
The trout came with scallops and some pasta with seafood mixed through; it was all well cooked and tasty but, at £20, on the 'upper' side of the menu.
The chips we ordered as a side were top notch and all devoured.
There was a debate over whether we needed dessert but, as the good child rightly pointed out, we had wine so she should have pudding.
She ordered a Rhubarb souffle and we got a cheese board to share and a Rioja to wash it down.
The dessert, when it arrived, was a work of art, a perfect raised souffle which the waitress theatrically placed a large spoon of ice cream in the centre of before pouring on vanilla-rich custard.
It was one of the best desserts I've tasted in a long time and, given how many tables around us ordered the same, it seems to be one of their signature dishes.
The cheese board had a nice mix of hard and soft cheeses and a little quince jam in a pot with some freshly made biscuits and bread.
There was a couple sitting next to us when we arrived who were still there when we were leaving, drinking and chatting away; that's the type of place Wine & Brine is – the type of restaurant you could hang out with friends or, in my case, daughters.
Great service, great food and a wee bit of London elegance in a Co Armagh village.
Pork belly £15.50
Stone Bass £15
Sea trout £20
Cheese board £8
La Rieste £19.50
Rioja 2x glasses £14