Life

Eating Out: The Doyen is a welcome new take on an old Lisburn Road favourite

The new-look interior of The Doyen, formerly The King's Head, on the Lisburn Road in south Belfast Picture: Mal McCann

The Doyen, 829 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7GY  Tel: 028 9050 9950

BELFAST'S Lisburn Road has pretty much always been a great place to eat, shop and socialise. In my case that shopping is usually in the window-watching form, given my lifelong inability to correctly manage my finances.

I live the first week of every month like a skinhead who's just won the lottery and the other three counting down the days until the first week again.

I visited The Doyen, what used to the King's Head, on a good week. I'd been in the bar for a drink a few times since it underwent a huge investment and refurbishment under a new ownership but had yet to eat there.

New propietors Wine Inns already own the Albani and The Chelsea Bar, so that's pretty much most of the Lisburn Road.

A lot of the renovation money seems to have been spent revamping the outside space, which is seriously impressive. Come the summer when we get those two and half days of sunshine I expect the place to be packed to the rafters. There are very few good outside spaces in the city – many of the city centre bars and hotels have taken to building up.

The Doyen have made the most of what was a car park to build lots of little outside alcoves, a fire pit and even a small doggy beer garden with little hooks to keep pets safe and dog bowls so you can have a drink with your pooch in tow.

What I do have to wonder is why they changed the name. The King's Head was a perfectly good name for a bar, even one considerably fancier than it was before.

The Doyen just sounds a bit, sort of, meh.

Anyway we were there to eat, so choices needed to be made. There is an upstairs Italian-themed restaurant called Morso. We had spent that afternoon making homemade pizza for small children, wrecking my kitchen and nerves, so me and the big lad passed on Italian and settled for some pub grub in the downstairs bar.

The layout hasn't changed much at all since it was the King's Head. I assume it's a listed building, which restricts major structural change, but the décor is much more luxurious and polished.

The bar menu was really comprehensive, with lots of choice and variety, – always a good sign. We ordered a few beers and had a look at the menu, deciding on some crispy whitebait with chipotle mayo. I love the tiny, little deep-fried whole fish – they remind me of sunshine holidays and happy times.

Himself had the tiger prawn skewers with a smoked chickpea puree.

The portion of whitebait was huge – I struggled – but the dip was delicious and they were hot crispy and really well seasoned. Some might find them a little salty but that's to my taste; under-seasoned food is my pet hate.

I bagged a prawn skewer. They were well tasty and the smoked chickpea was AMAZING – I want it with every meal from here on in.

The mains were traditional bar food – burgers steaks, fish and chips. We ordered the haddock fish cake with a poached egg and velouté and the Massaman curry. With hindsight we should have got the honey and cider glazed ham hock, but it sounded like enough food to feed a family, albeit delicious, and I'd already eaten a shoal of whitebait.

The poached egg on the fishcake was perfect, with a runny, bright orange sunshine yolk that enriched the sauce, loads of smoked fish and packed with flavour.

My curry was a bit insipid – I'd have preferred a slightly richer sauce. Massaman curry isn't overly hot but should still have a bit of a kick, but there was lots of moist chicken and lovely fresh veg. The truffle and Parmesan fries were delicious.

All this was washed down with a decent bottle of Sauvignon Blanc at a very reasonable £20 a bottle.

The end result was a delicious meal and a very reasonable bill, one I might even be able to afford in the middle of the month instead of waiting until pay day comes around again.

THE BILL

Coors £3.85

Heverlee £4.40

Prawn skewer £8

Whitebait £6

Fishcake £13

Curry £13

Parmesan fries £5

Sauvignon blanc £20

Total 75.45

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