Eating Out: Bullitt hotel as super-hot as Steve McQueen
40a Church Lane
028 9590 0600
BULLITT is a painfully stylish movie from 1968, the kind you'd watch on a Sunday afternoon with a hangover. It stars a super-hot Steve McQueen, the sight of whom always makes me feel better.
I always loved Steve McQueen. Who doesn't? He was a proper movie star – style, cool, class – although I don't love him enough to struggle through town with a 6ft high picture of him I'd just stolen off the wall of a hotel.
The Bullitt Hotel in Belfast was the scene of such a theft: Ireland's poshest criminals dumped the picture after failing to fit it into a two-door car and so it is now back in its rightful position and has already become quite the tourist attraction.
The hotel, in Belfast's Church Lane, is as stylish as the film. Owned by Bill and Petra Wolsey, proprietors of the Merchant, among other places, you'd expect nothing less.
I've been a few times since it opened, the first on a Friday night for drinks, which included the hotel's own specially commissioned Bullitt beer. There was music, a trendy crowd of actual grown-ups and a brilliantly chilled-out atmosphere.
We also had a few small plates with drinks which were delicious and so I vowed to come back for dinner. Dinner was an early-doors midweek supper in the hotel's Taylor and Clay restaurant. It was so early there was no-one else there when we arrived and they'd just wiped the lunchtime specials from the board.
We were taken to a table just facing the restaurant's signature Asador Grill, which is a big wood-fired open pit, the type of which I've seen used in high-end places in mainland Europe.
Everything about the Bullitt screams style – the leather seating, the expensive fittings, the good-looking hipster staff and the range of innovative drinks and delicious food.
I was hungry, having skipped both breakfast and lunch, so we ordered two starters, the pickled sausage and the goats cheese. Our waitress was a delight. friendly, professional, informed about the wine and food menu, the kind of person that elevates any dining experience.
She brought us a lovely bottle of The Jumper, sauvignon blanc that was easy to drink – too easy in fact – with starters following not far behind. The pickled sausage with a burnt onion cream was a treat, meaty and sharp with pickle, each slice a dance on the tongue.
The whipped goats cheese was bright pink, flavoured and coloured with beetroot, laced with pomegranate and a sticky sauce, served with wafer thin flat bread. It was rich and tasty, each pop of a little pomegranate seed in your mouth cut through the richness, but there was just too much of it.
I've no restraint – give me a plate of food and I'll just keep on eating. In our house you cleared your plate or someone else would for you. It's a hard habit to lose.
For mains there's Wagu beef cooked on the grill for a treat as well as a smoked lamb rump, but we went for the corn fed chicken and a seafood skillet. A side of firepit vegetables were recommended by our waitress and so ordered obediently.
The chicken, organic with that lovely mellow yellow-coloured flesh from the corn it once snacked on, was moist and deliciously charred but the seafood stole the show. I had a piece of salmon, a little slice of salt cod, prawns, a large langoustine and a few other little bits of squid dotted around – for £16 it was a steal given the quality and freshness of the ingredients.
The firepit veg was delicious – little burnt crispy edges warm and juicy onion, pepper and courgette, cooked on the open fire.
I should add that all the food came served on a variety of plates that looked as though they'd been carved from volcanic rock or shaped by master potters, each tiny detail adding to the experience.
I love that the owners have taken an empty building in a pretty dire part of Belfast and turned it into a stylish, well-laid-out, desirable destination, the kind of place you'd visit once and want to come back again and again and always receive a warm welcome, as long as you don't try to leave with the fixtures and fittings, that is.
Sauv Blanc £25
Pickled sausage £5
Goats cheese £5
Seafood skillet £16
Corn fed chicken £14
Firepit Veg £4