Eating out: Meaty treats at The Bull & Ram in Belfast
Bull & Ram, 44 University Road, BT7 1NJ 028 9031 2229
THE Bull & Ram has already made quite the name for itself since its birth in the market town of Ballynahinch, helped along by a Jay Rayner review in the Guardian newspaper – so good, people actually caught a plane to eat the 55-day-aged sirloins that would make even the most evangelical vegetarian question their life choices.
This made getting a weekend table at the Co Down restaurant something of a quest.
In my world, the location also meant convincing someone not to drink in order to transport me to and from this altar to meat: given that almost all my friends are absolute reprobates, this was not an easy task.
Thus, I greeted the news of an imminent expansion to Belfast with much joy, watching the refurbishment of the old Beatrice Kennedy restaurant on University Road with growing interest as the clock ticked down to opening day.
I even managed to get a table for two on the first weekend. Despite opting for a 'soft opening' without the usual fanfare, the restaurant is already proving popular simply through word of mouth and so I was delighted to get a Sunday lunch table for two.
The mothership in Co Down was an old butcher's shop and the decor was kept authentic to that 'theme'. As the new Belfast restaurant was an already established eaterie, I was curious to see what they had done with the place.
Incorporating hints of the Bull & Ram brand, the new location is now like a high-end country pub with fabulous lighting and panelling.
We got a cute little table at the window and had a look at the menu, a homage to 'well hung meat', three words I never thought I'd get to use in sequence on the pages of The Irish News.
The menu in the Belfast restaurant is different from Ballynahinch, less futering about with fancy starters, more getting down and dirty with a steak knife.
To begin, there were oysters prepared in a variety of ways in batches of three, six, nine or 12. I'd easily eat a dozen oysters and don't even care what anyone would think of such gluttony.
Given my guest looked at me like I'd asked them to eat a live alien, I went for a solo run of three, served Rockefeller. They came on a bed of sea salt with a brioche crumb, salty with dry aged ham and wilted spinach, the oyster a delicious little gem hiding beneath all that yum.
We also ordered Pat Whelan's beef dripping candle and bread. I'm going to be honest: I've no idea who Pat Whelan is, but if he eats this a lot he must have a pretty short life expectancy.
So here's the deal: a burning candle in a holder you would expect a Dickensian scrooge to carry up the stairs to bed arrived with a side of warm toasted bread.
I enquired, as you would, as to what the bejesus this actually was or what was I meant to do with it – and was told it is a candle they make on site from pure beef dripping. As it melts, you dip your bread in the delicious warm fat.
It'll kill you, it honestly will, but it is also immense – like, so delicious, even when your head is screaming for you to stop your hand will be automatically racing to your mouth with a fat-laden piece of bread.
Eat it at least once in your life, just don't declare it on your life insurance policy.
As it was opening weekend we got a little additional – and complimentary – French onion soup, topped with cheesy crouton and bags of beef stock flavour.
The Glenarm shorthorn beef is the talk of the town, a 10oz ribeye or sirloin will set you back £31.95 but it's as fine a piece of meat as you're ever likely to eat.
An equally delicious steak from the farm of Peter Hannon in Co Down is a more financially friendly at £22.95, but that's with all the sides and therefore really competitively priced for what is a seriously good steak.
As it was a Sunday, we had the Toast to the Roast, the finest Himalayan salt aged beef or lamb, all the trimmings and a glass of house wine at £17.95.
The beef and lamb were both cooked perfectly medium, served with huge Yorkshire pudding and an array of delicious sides and the Bull & Ram's famous marrowbone gravy.
Oh mummy, it was amazing, I wish I could have finished it all but it beat me half way through. I did try, but they are 'hungry adult' style portions.
Perfectly seasoned, perfectly delicious, and the wine wasn't half bad either – in fact, it was so good we had another glass.
For delicious, quality food, this is one perfect addition to Belfast. I for one will be back again for that Sunday roast.
Oysters Rockefeller x 3 £6.50
Bread and candle £5
Toast to the roast £17.95 x 2
Two white wine £5 x 2