Eating Out: The Angler's Rest doesn't look like much of a catch but the food's fab
The Angler’s Rest
660 Seacoast Road
Benone, Co Derry
I WONDER if there’s a pub somewhere called the Snooker Player’s Rod. Well, I thought it was funny.
Anyway, the Angler’s Rest lies on the board-flat plain between Binevenagh and the sea. I’ve got to say, it looks hideous from the outside, like someone has glued a load of tortoises to the walls and then spray-painted them airforce blue.
Inside, though, is a different matter. The restaurant section, open Friday to Sunday, is clean, fresh, and bright, with good views across the surrounding fields. The bar, however, where the three of us ate, is the best bit. It’s beautifully cosy and warm, the kind of place where you feel right at home the moment you step through the door.
There are two televisions on the walls, which is good in one way, but threatens the atmosphere in another. This was especially the case as they were showing different sports – the darts on one and the footy on the other, with the commentary on the darts playing over the speaker. At one point during the first course, I was convinced Raymond van Barneveld had pulled one back for CSKA against Arsenal.
But, whatever you think about tortoise-shell cladding and TVs in pubs, I can’t imagine anyone quibbling about the food. It was simply fantastic – hearty, refined, imaginative, elegant all at the same time, which is quite a trick to pull off.
The starters set the high standard. The goats cheese croquettes were wonderfully crisp cases of soft, salty cheese, perfectly complemented by the sharp beetroot chutney and deeply sweet dots of onion puree. The fish cakes were delicious, while the duck sausage roll was bold and meaty, elevated to something special by the powerful duck sauce.
The first main to arrive was the ham hock, and it should have come with a fanfare. A big chunk of meat sitting next to a dish of hash shouldn’t look so classy. And it was just as good as it looked – the salty meat wrapped in a thin layer of sweet fat, with two nicely runny eggs and crisp potatoes served with beautiful Corndale chorizo.
The only thing I’d say is that the chorizo and the ham didn’t quite hit it off together, the spicy chorizo being a bit too much for the hock. I’d be inclined to serve one or the other, but not both (although I ate both).
Two brilliant pies quickly followed the ham. The cheddar and onion pie – open, and topped with leaves – was creamy, subtle, deep, and sweet, absolutely wonderful. The chicken, bacon, and mushroom bettered it, though.
Like the ham, it was a big portion, and full of properly cooked meat. The crust itself was excellent – a nice marriage of crisp top and then soft pastry. I think the champ, lying beneath the pie, got a bit lost, but the bone marrow gravy was undeniably great – big and rich and not to be trifled with.
Not having room for puddings, we ordered them anyway. The sticky toffee pudding was soft and welcoming, with a real grown-up kick from the Bushmills sauce. The crème brulee topping cracked open invitingly, to reveal a sweet, creamy custard.
The panna cotta was smooth and had just the right amount of wobble, and the coconut flavour just stayed at the right distance. The granola lacked crunch, however, and was too soft and oaty, with not enough pistachio. The mango sorbet woke everyone up!
We drove back to Derry in satisfied silence, everyone full, everyone happy. The mist was starting to take over the land, and the spring darkness left Binevenagh a looming silhouette. It felt like the Angler’s Rest was in the middle of nowhere. Wherever you are, though, make the journey. It is a lovely pub, with friendly staff, and a homely atmosphere. And fantastic food.
Orange and chilli duck sausage roll £6.50
Smoked haddock and seafood fishcakes £5
Crispy goats cheese croquettes £6
Ham hock, chorizo hash, fried egg £12.95
Cheddar and onion pie, sweet potato fries £11.50
Chicken, bacon, and mushroom pie, champ, bone marrow gravy £11
Puddings £5.50 x 3
(Coconut panna cotta, pistachio granola, mango sorbet;
Sticky toffee pudding, toffee and Bushmills sauce, caramel ice cream;
White chocolate crème brulee, berry compote, shortbread)
Diet Coke x 2 £3.80