Life

Eating Out: There are good things cooking at The Kitchen in Omagh

The Kitchen seemed to glow with a brightness missing from the rest of Omagh on a grimy, grey-brown day Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

The Kitchen, 37 Castle Street, Omagh, BT78 1DD  Tel 028 8225 0905

THE sharp skies and thick frosts of the week’s start had given way to midweek’s murk. The fields that line the route from Derry to Omagh lay deadened and shrouded beneath a fog that quietened chatter and stilled the mood.

The three of us, plus baby, go down to Omagh pretty regularly, to meet up with family and friends and have a bite to eat. It’s by no means a chore – although it might be for the family and friends – but finding somewhere interesting and different for lunch is a struggle. While there are plenty of nice enough places to choose from, they’re all pretty run of the mill – cafes in department store chains and the like.

When I mentioned this to a friend, he suggested we give The Kitchen a go. I owe him a pint. While I didn’t like everything, I have to say I really like the place and am full of admiration for what they’re doing there.

It was a grimy, grey-brown day, but from the outside, The Kitchen seemed to glow with a brightness missing from the rest of town. Inside, where we met up with an old friend, there was a sense of bustle and friendliness, and you could tell from just a glance at the pastry counter and the display of balsamic vinegars that this was a place run by people with high standards, pushing for quality, and wanting to do things their way.

The other thing that struck us was the aroma of beautiful, warm, rich spices drifting through the air.

The décor leans towards the bare – there’s lots of light wood on the walls and floor – but it’s softened by cheery artwork and by the glowing fire in the corner.

While the menu items themselves were not particularly out of the ordinary, you could tell there were good things going on the moment the orders arrived. The presentation of the food was immaculate, showing real care and attention to detail. And that impression just deepened as we tucked in.

The chilli beef was nicely hot, with plenty of depth and flavour. The Thai chicken curry was good too, made with a lightness of touch, and plenty of subtle notes. I’d have said a touch more salt was needed, but then I put salt on my salt, so perhaps the fault was mine.

The beef stir fry was delicious. The noodles had just the right bite to them, the beef strips were properly tender and melting and the sauce was sweet without being cloying. The pear and goats cheese tart was lovely, although possibly the pear to cheese ratio was a little bit out of whack. In fact, there was almost too much cheese on it, but the salad that accompanied the dish was so sweet and sharp, and the pastry was so beautifully thin and crisp that the textures and tastes balanced out right.

I was very taken with the Kid’s Nibbles Plate, although the name makes it sound like you’re getting served with the family pet. Freshly grated cheese, sweet strawberries, crusty and soft bread, cubes of gammon – all for a terrific price – it all went to show, again, how much care The Kitchen goes to for all the customers.

Now, when it comes to the pastries, I’m afraid I have to say that, on the whole, I thought they looked better than they tasted. Made without flour and with maple syrup rather than refined sugar, I wasn’t too sure of the texture or the flavours. Mind you, the raspberry ripple cake was the business – sweet, sharp, wonderfully moist.

Do you know what? This place is really good. When we reached the town, it felt muffled and grey. The air was freezing damp, and the fog was smearing the lights and blurring the spires of Sacred Heart. It seemed to all the world like a day we should have spent at home. Yet, as so often happens with such days, we ended up delighted to have come out. Lunch at The Kitchen is the reason why.

THE BILL

(Prices for five)

Rump steak stir fry £9.95

Thai green chicken curry £7.95

Chilli Beef £7.95

Goats cheese and pear tartlet £7.50

Kids Nibbles Plate £3.50

Sweet potato fries with honey and feta cheese £3

Assorted traybakes £9.50

Total: £49.35

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