Eating Out: Chapel Lane restaurant The Sagart gets my blessing
2-4 Chapel Lane
028 9031 0809
CHAPEL Lane in Belfast is a place of worship, its very beautiful St Mary's Church and grotto having provided a place of sanctuary for many a troubled soul over the years.
Close to Bank Square, the area was once a bit run down, but has lately been undergoing quite extensive regeneration.
Havana Bank SQ has been at the corner site for a fair few years now and on several occasions I've enjoyed a different kind of spiritual comfort in that establishment's welcoming surroundings. More recently they have opened a small sister – or, given the name, should that be 'father'? – restaurant, The Sagart.
What started as an overflow for Havana customers to have a drink on busy night while waiting on their table has evolved into something quite individual. The menu, given the ecclesiastic name, is 'Saints and Sinners' themed.
This sounds gimmiky but I'm at a loss as to why no-one has thought of doing something similar before.
The pricing is also an usual concept in that everything costs the same. Dishes – and there really is an extensive selection – are all £10 during lunch service and £13 in the evening.
On Thirsty Thursdays there are £10 bottles of wine, which is off-licence prices. I like a Thirsty Thursday as it comes right when you need it, just after Wino Wednesday.
Let me whet your appetite by telling you what's available. I'll start with saintly dishes: there's a delicious-sounding, Crispy polenta, Moroccan sweet potato, tomato and chickpea ragu; a 'Miraculous Catch' – pan fried hake, ratatouille and basil pesto; a Carb-Free Feast; and an Angelic Cake, made from sweet potato and goat's cheese with a fresh peppernata.
All quality dishes for tenner or 13 quid depending on what time of day you're eating.
It all sounds wonderfully summery, light and seasonal.
The 'sinners' menu, though, is where I found enlightenment. Given that I'm so good at being bad, I've never seen any reason to behave any other way.
A dirty great big rack of ribs with crispy skin-on fries – yum; a 'Dirty Duck' – a crispy duck breast, fat perfectly rendered, with sweet potato fries and a miso mayo and 'Vengeful Fish Tacos', with crispy fish, sour cream guacamole, Sriracha sauce and a coconut tiger prawn skewer.
But I couldn't go past the 'Fiendish' rump of lamb with couscous and a harissa dressing. It was soft and succulent and perfectly cooked, each mouthful seasoned with the flavours of north Africa. Couscous can be a bit blah – this was full of pomegranate and herbs. There was nothing left but plate by the time I'd finished.
My mucker for the night was feeling saintly and had the superfood salad, marinated chicken breast, avocado rocket, chia seeds and a tahini dressing. The chicken was still moist, it was full of colour, flavour and texture and, of course, you won't go to hell for eating it.
We had a few cocktails – obviously –the barman/mixologist shaking them up looks a bit like that big lad who plays Drogo in Game of Thrones. This is not particularly relevant but I just feel it's the kind of information food reviews are at times lacking in and all the poorer for.
Even if you didn't fancy eating, The Sagart – Irish for priest, in case you didn't get that – is a handy wee spot for a few interesting cocktails after work. Front-of-house staff are friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, everything arrived warm, fresh and perfectly presented.
I cleaned my plate and we shared a mango cheesecake – soft, tangy topping, with a thick, buttery base, with a raspberry sorbet.
I declare myself a believer, and intend to be a regular worshipper. Let the choir sing loud and proud for The Sagart.
Two mains £13 each
Mango cheesecake £5.95
Four cocktails £7.95 each