Harry's opens highly anticipated third restaurant in Derry
The Craft Village
(Off Shipquay Street)
THERE’S been talk of this place opening for months. It was to open at the beginning of last September, and then every fortnight after that, but, although it’s looked ready for a while, it wasn’t until the start of February that it finally did.
The anticipation was great because Harry’s in Bridgend and, especially, Harry’s Shack in Portstewart are such terrific restaurants. And it wasn’t just from Derry’s diners, either.
There’s been a gaping hole in the Craft Village ever since Café Del Mondo closed. The other traders in this characterful secret location in the heart of the city were also looking to a flagship name like Harry’s to draw customers who might consequently call in to the other shops.
When Harry’s finally opened, they were rushed off their feet, diners drawn by the reputation of the other restaurants in the Harry’s stable. We left it a while before trying it, but even then, on a cold nothing of a Thursday evening, we did well to get a table.
They’ve done well with the décor, making it brighter and lighter, putting in clean and simple furniture, and leaving the kitchen open to the view of the restaurant. While the Shack is cosy and snug and homely, this is cooler, more urban, slicker. The staff remain amiable and warm, but they’re sharp, too, and have been in the game long enough to make running a smooth operation look easy.
We couldn’t decide on the starters, so followed the waiter’s recommendations. The onion tart was light and sweet, the thin and perfectly crumbling pastry providing just the right casing for the delicate filling. The scallops were beautiful, the best I’ve tasted. Cooked with precision and expertise, they were fresh and tender, their sweetness complemented by the peppery, rich black pudding, and sharp piccalilli.
I’m not the biggest fan of dishes where mushroom is the main event, but I couldn’t have been happier with my mushroom tart. A mushroom duxelle sitting in a crisp filo shell, topped with a lovely, runny egg – oozingly rich and earthy flavours and a smashing combination of textures.
My brother chose the fish and chips for his main course. Wow. Firstly, it was an enormous serving. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d taken away his knife and fork and given him a harpoon.
And it was brilliant. The batter was light and crisp and held its crispness throughout. The flakes of fish were gleaming white, soft, and meaty.
I went for the megrim sole. Apparently, the megrim sole is seriously undervalued. Not by me it isn’t. The fish eased off the bone with the slightest touch of the knife. It melted in the mouth and its subtle taste was enhanced by the crunchy, salty, sweet, and bitter flavours of the accompanying capers, bacon, fennel, and cockles. The hake was a bigger flavour altogether, and went toe to toe with the spicy chorizo, tomato, and the earthy black olives that came with it.
It’s clear from the dessert menu that they’ve tried to make the puddings a touch more grown-up, if you like, than in Bridgend or the Shack. The dishes are cleverer, more complex, not as sturdy or traditional, more stylishly presented.
The cylinders of lemon curd were sharp and cleansing, blending well with soft sponge squares, tart blackberries, and shards of toasted meringue. The crème caramel was airy, not too sweet, and sat in a syrup the richness of which gave way to the crunch and flavour of the hazelnuts. The chocolate, whiskey, and mandarin cake was a mature, dark dessert, surprisingly light, with a beautiful milk ice cream.
High expectations can be crippling (or so I’ve been told; they’re not something I’ve ever been troubled by). Harry’s Shack is a fantastic restaurant and people were expecting Derry Harry’s to be as good. Except if it was only that good, they’d have been disappointed. It had to be better. It’s faultless.
Warm mushroom tart £7
Scallops and black pudding tart £9
Onion tart £5
Megrim sole (on the bone) £18
Fish and chips £12
Vanilla crème caramel £5
Lemon curd £5.50
Chocolate, mandarin, and whiskey cake £6
Diet Coke £1.80 x 2
Kinnegar Pale Ale £4.80
Glass of Pecorino £4.50