Eating Out: The Drawing Room, Titanic Hotel Belfast
Titanic Hotel Belfast,
028 9508 2000
GORDON Strachan, former manager of all manner of football teams, once – at least the story goes – responded to a journalist’s request for “a quick word” with “velocity” before heading on his merry way to be a cheeky chappie somewhere else.
So, when asked by the features editor for “a big name” to review to go along with the launch of the slick new Weekend section you’re currently enjoying, I couldn’t resist: “Titanic?” Oh, how we (for which read “I”) laughed.
Anyway: Titanic. In this case the Titanic Hotel in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter right next to Titanic Belfast.
I’ve always found the whole Belfast/Titanic thing a bit off-kilter. Do other places embrace something that ended so badly, leaving no great lesson for humanity behind it, quite so much as Belfast and Titanic? I doubt it.
Maybe a mind-bogglingly popular 15-hour-long film with one brilliant special effect at the end and no discernible script would help. Perhaps.
Mull that over while you sip a “Jack and Rose” cocktail – honey, Jack Daniels, rose liqueur and lime – in the hotel bar, formerly one of the drawing rooms in the restored Harland and Wolff headquarters the hotel now occupies.
Or get the Old Fashioned instead, not as orangey as most you’ll come across but powerful and balanced and not named after Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
The room itself – the whole hotel – looks beautiful. Huge windows and skylights in the barrel-vaulted ceiling flood the place with what’s left of the late afternoon January light. Titbits of information about the history of the place come on plaques in the tables in front of sofas that line the walls around the central bar.
Between the decor and the staff, decked out in suitably early last century gear, you’re not going to forget where you are. Sit at the windows and the hull of the attraction/museum/theme park/memorial looms above you.
There’s upper decks sort of dining at dinner time – starters from £6 to £8 and mains around £20 unless you’re after a steak – in the Wolff Grill, while the Drawing Room is where the all-day menu is served. It’s all standard stuff, and pretty limited, at least much more limited that the website leads you to believe.
Of the 26 dishes listed online, 10 are nowhere to be found. Maybe the few months since opening have taught to kitchen what people want, but they need to pass that along to the IT department.
What there is ranges from good to superb. The “small” offerings would pass as good lunches and did us as very generous starters. The Caesar salad was everything you’d want – big, crisp leaves, well dressed with a rich, salty, slightly sharp dressing and plenty of Parmesan. The croutons were crisp and the bacon wasn’t really necessary but was welcome all the same. One thing, though, and Titanic isn’t the only offender: when did cos lettuce start getting called “romaine”? What’s next? Cilantro? Zucchini? Donald Trump?
The curry chowder was something closer to a fish stew. Salmon, prawn, hake, smoked haddock and mussels all perfectly cooked along with potato carrot and celery in a creamy, warming, deeply flavoured, soothingly spiced soup. The grilled pitta with it was something of an afterthought and wasn’t really needed. The chowder was the best thing ordered by a street.
The £12 classic burger came with a slice of tomato and more unidentified lettuce – iceberg this time, though they’re hardly going to shout about that round here – and a spiky relish of tomato, pepper, onion and capers on the side. The deeply beefy burger itself was excellent and the chips were thin, crisp and hot.
A £14 piece of hake was cooked perfectly, with a crisp skin on top of pearly flesh with everything sitting on a slightly smoky, sweet stew of chickpeas, tomato and chorizo.
A moist Bakewell tart came with really good strawberry ice cream – rich, smooth with real smack of fruit.
The cheeseboard, at £8, would have been plenty for two and, like everything bar that fantastic chowder, was a solid example of the type.
Up there with that chowder was the waitstaff, constantly buzzing around in their period clobber, friendly, helpful, attentive – with most of them looking like they only turned old enough to watch that bloody film the week before last.
Which I wouldn’t recommend, unless you down a couple of Jack and Roses first.
Caesar salad £9
Classic burger £12
Roast Hake £14
Cheese board £8
Bakewell tart £5.50
Ginger ale £1.75
Old Fashioned £9.50