Eating Out: Derry's Guildhall Taphouse a good bar for drink and a good bar for food
5 Guildhall Street
028 7136 4888
THE biggest disappointment I’ve experienced over the past couple of years and bit doing this came with a visit to a craft beer bar. Not that it was the worst meal I’ve had – far from it – it’s that, on paper, it all looked so promising.
A nice bar, with a humongous selection of beers, within staggering distance from home and offering stuff to eat like chicken, both fried and as wings, and chips and scotch eggs and chips. Right, we’re moving in.
But everything was just a bit off – flabby chicken wings, a hard scotch egg, woefully under-seasoned fried chicken. Things may have gotten better since but when I’ve been back it’s only been for the beer.
The Guildhall Taphouse in Derry, one street away from the eponymous seat of civic government and housed in a 19th century merchant’s building, is a good bar. It’s a good bar for the beer – it does its own Dopey Dick ale and lager, its cocktails – Martinis and brambles that will steal the afternoon from under your nose, and its general good bar vibe.
Spacious, under a beamed ceiling and around steel columns, or on the benches outside as the buzz of the city drifts by, it’s a good bar for a drink.
It’s a good bar for food too. During the week they have a Mexican night and a curry night, at which you can get a ‘Derry Girls curry’, whatever that is. Presumably its quality varies immensely depending what night you get it.
On this Sunday afternoon, with roast dinners as the centrepiece, one course was a tenner with two for £13 and three for £15.
It’s difficult to get across what sort of value this represents. By either quantitative or qualitative analysis, you get serious bang for your buck.
The chilli beef pasta was perfectly good – a slightly spicy Bolognese that wasn’t packed with flavour but was still better than most pubs will manage when they try something like it.
The selection of roasts – by far the most popular choice in an ever-filling-up pub as the afternoon went on, ran to beef, chicken and pork. All came with impeccable roast potatoes and selection of the usual veg – carrots, cabbage and cauliflower.
The beef was fall apart tender with a proud, pillowy Yorkshire pudding and a solid gravy. The pork shoulder was bordering on the spectacular. Sweet, deeply flavoured meat, you could have eaten it with a spoon. It was also massive, which was welcome.
A bit more apple sauce than the smear on the plate would have been nice, but the mustard and cider sauce was punchy, rich, slightly sweet – this one a gravy to weep with joy over. And dip chips into – lots of chips. Lots of these chips. Hot, craggy, salty, chunky chips perfection.
That previous craft beer bar trip involved the ignominy of a basket of cold chips. These were from a different planet.
Afters were straight from Planet Pub Desserts: banoffee, a cheesecake, apple crumble and custard and ice cream and chocolate sauce. They were also excellent.
The banoffee was every bit as sweet and gooey and unnecessary as you would want, with plenty of banana to kid you into thinking you’re contributing to your five-a-day and a healthy snowdrift of coconut on top.
The cheesecake – Baileys and Nutella – was also a bit of a sugar bomb, but it was smooth and not too heavy with a good crunch to the base.
Fussy eaters are well served too. Although he found the bap a little dry, the youngest member of the party was still more than happy with his burger – “nothing on it, just meat in a bap please” – and thin, crispy fries, followed by vanilla ice cream.
More chips for his starter went down well too.
But then this is his favourite bar. What’s that? How old is he? Thirty three next birthday.
I think I need a drink.
Three course Sunday lunch x3 £45
One course Sunday lunch x2 £20
Pepsi x2 £3.80
Pepsi Max x2 £3.80
Sparkling water £2.10