Eating Out: Horatio Todd's – go for the bottomless brunch, stay for the sarnies
406 Upper Newtownards Road
028 9065 3090
IN THIS crazy, fractured, scary world, all Trump and Twitter trolls, all Brexit and bus stop binlids, it makes sense that sitcoms not on the TV anymore can provide us with the wisdom sadly lacking elsewhere.
And so we turn to Liz Lemon in 30 Rock.
“Can I share with you my worldview?” she asks her boss, without giving him the chance to decline.
“All of humankind has one thing on common: The sandwich. I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.”
Sounds fair enough to me. Though if you swapped 'sandwich' for 'curry chip' or 'whole packet of Tunnock’s caramel wafers with a big, ignorant cup of tea,' I wouldn’t argue.
Still, back to the sandwich. I couple of weeks ago I reviewed Bao, an excellent, Taiwanese street food place in Belfast that insists on their website they serve “The Ultimate Sandwich!”
Them’s fightin’ words, and obviously impossible to verify, but there’s nothing wrong with being enthusiastic. Especially when you also do curry chips.
The multitude of variations of something bready with stuff inside mean as many sandwich eaters as you can find will likely give just as many opinions on what’s the best one. But whatever your favourite may be, sometimes all you really want in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.
There’s a lot more than that on offer at Horatio Todd’s in east Belfast. It was one of the trailblazers in turning the Ballyhackamore area of the city into an eating-out hotspot and with its spacious, cool interior, all leather seats and dark wood and a gleaming, central bar, it still evidently pulls in the crowds.
One of the attractions is the bottomless brunch, which allows punters to knock back their fill of prosecco, mimosas or bloody Marys over a two-hour period along with something to soak it all up.
Plenty were in for that this Saturday afternoon, but sometimes, all anyone really wants... well, you know.
Sandwiches weren’t the reason for going to Horatio Todd's, they just happened to end up getting ordered. For lunch the efficient, friendly staff serve the ubiquitous selection of small plates – £3.50 each or three for a tenner – with Korean chicken wings, truffled mac and cheese and crispy chicken chimichangas among the globe-spanning selections.
The main meal selections, ranging from £8.50 to £11.95, were equally eclectic and well-travelled, from Mexico and Asia to Italy and Greece, as well as closer to home.
Sandwich number one was all the way from Cuba.
The classic Cubano is one of the world’s great sandwiches. A cheese and ham toastie touched by an angel. The Cuban Sandwich Factory in Belfast city centre does a flawless one – as they kind of need to – but the Horatio Todd’s version has plenty to recommend it too.
The creation of Cuban immigrants in Florida combines crusty bread with roast pork, ham, cheese, gherkins and American mustard into a crispy, gooey mess of deliciousness.
All the above are present and correct here, though the pork has a strong smoky flavour to it, closer to American barbecue pulled pork. Still, it’s good stuff and the cucumber they’ve obviously pickled themselves added welcome crunch to a tasty effort.
It came with thin chips, which were fine, as were the thicker numbers with the steak sandwich.
Sorry, ‘open sandwich’ which, whatever way you slice it – which you have to – isn’t really a sandwich. That aside, everything was as it should be. A nice piece of meat, cooked perfectly and giving up some of its juices to its bread mattress, while the roasted onion jam on top had a nice, sharp bite to it rather than the overwhelming sweetness you often get.
The blue cheese sauce lacked a bit of flavour, but the steak didn’t really need it.
We didn’t really need dessert but thank God that’s never a consideration, because afters were the stars of the show.
The salted caramel cheesecake was rich and sweet, piled high with seriously good honeycomb that added bite and chew. The peaches and cream semi-freddo was as smooth as a Roger Federer backhand, fragrant and summery, helped by bursts of strawberry and lemon sauce dotted across the plate. Find two better desserts for £5.50 apiece and you’ll be doing well.
Maybe not as well as the folks on to their fifth bloody Mary of the very early afternoon, but I suppose you can’t have everything.
Steak sandwich £11.95
Cuban sandwich £8.95
Peach semi freddo £5.50
Diet Coke £2.15
Americano x2 £2.20