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Eating Out: The Salty Dog in Bangor does a great gin pairing menu

The Salty Dog in Bangor is impressive both outside and in

The Salty Dog

10-12 Seacliff Road

Bangor

028 9127 0696

saltydogbangor.com

 

FIRST impressions count and when it comes to The Salty Dog in Bangor the team have it down pat. The welcome as you walk through the doors is warm and feels genuine.

I’ve ventured twice in recent months – disclaimer: I was a guest of The Salty Dog for a gin and dine experience last month but my first visit for breakfast on a sunny Saturday morning in summer was spontaneous. Both occasions were a delight and the welcome identical.

The hotel runs special dining events from time to time and it’s worth keeping an eye on its website or social media so you can plan your wardrobe (read: invest in a pair of trousers with an elasticated waistband) accordingly.

The gin-tasting evening saw seven courses served with six cocktails made from Northern Ireland gins and was as decadent as it sounds.

Seven courses can be daunting for the diner and there’s a tricky balance to be struck when it comes to portion size but The Salty Dog got it just right.

The provenance of the food is critical to the restaurant team and ingredients are sourced locally. On this particular visit the mackerel was landed at Ardglass via Keenans, quail eggs came from Ballinteer Quail Farm outside Coleraine, the lamb cutlets, which were the cutest little bites of heaven you ever did see, courtesy of local butcher Carnbrooke Meats, the Neary Nog white chocolate from down the road in south Armagh and the Young Buck blue cheese from a few miles away in Newtownards.

Every dish was a treat and, other than Northern Ireland gins, there was a secondary theme running through the meal and that was crisps in all shapes, sizes and tastes.

There were sourdough crisps, pineapple crisps, milk crisps, brandy snap crisps but not a cheese and onion one in sight.

Hands down the best dishes of the night were the pistachio crusted Mourne lamb, served pink, which was accompanied by Parmesan and white truffle gnocchi; the cheese course and the smoked mackerel pate with blowtorched pickled fillet. The fish dish was served with an elderflower martini which sounds offensive but worked brilliantly.

The Carnbrooke beef fillet tartare deserves an honourable mention too. It’s a dish which plenty of people baulk at (‘Raw mince? No thanks’ and all that) but it’s a classic French recipe that is moreish and never more so than when The Salty Dog serves it with a runny Ballinteer quail’s egg yolk. The glossy yellow yolk soaking into the tartare enhanced the dish while the truffled mushrooms packed a punch of flavour.

Gin highlights were the aforementioned martini and the Boatyard Gin Alexander with apple cream. The latter was a gorgeous accompaniment to the cheese and a dessert on its own.

However, if marks were being awarded for visual and olfactory impact then the sacred spirit smoked negroni would have received an A*.

Burnt orange nectar luxuriated at the bottom of a glass sealed on top with a flat slice of orange. Lift the lid and scented smoke rose lazily into the air, conjuring the impression of Mass being celebrated in a library full of leather-bound books.

There is much to like about The Salty Dog, on top of the great food. There’s the beautiful location, a fine red brick building overlooking the Irish Sea and Bangor marina; there’s also a great big sociable outdoor seating area, a dog-friendly ethos and staff who are good at their job.

It’s a restaurant worth going out of your way to visit, whether that’s for Sunday lunch or a midweek treat, and after seeing the Christmas menu my next trip is already planned.

THE BILL - £50 per person for the following:

  • Chamomile haze infused cucumber with orange gel, Fivemiletown goat’s cheese and viola flowers

Gin: Copeland raspberry and mint orange mojito

  • Carnbrooke beef fillet tartare with sous vide Ballinteer quail’s egg yolk, truffled mushrooms and stone baked bread

Gin: Jawbox and sacred spirit smoked negroni

  • Smoked Irish Sea mackerel pate with blowtorched pickled fillet, Papa’s elderflower jelly and sourdough crisps

Gin: Echlinville Elderflower Martini

  • Frozen green tea Clandeboye yoghurt with pineapple and chilli salsa and pineapple crisps
     
  • Pistachio Crusted Mourne Lamb with watercress puree, parmesan and white truffle gnocchi and asparagus

Gin: Shortcross Tarra-Gin

  • Neary Nogs White Chocolate Semifreddo with essencia orange muscat and anise compressed apricot, apricot gel and milk crisps

Gin: Copeland rhuberry apricot passion

  • Young Buck blue cheese with pickled candied apple, Sambuca gel and brandy snap crisp

Gin: Boatyard gin alexander with apple cream

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