Eating Out: The Chelsea's stood the test of time – does it pass the Morris taste test?
The Chelsea, 346 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 6GH
I LOVE a good Sunday lunch. It is arguably the most healing and comforting of meals.
It’ll cure hangovers, bring together families, round off the most stressful of weeks and make the darkest of days seem bearable.
Roast chicken, lamb or beef, a side of salmon, a beautifully seared steak, a honey roasted gammon. It matters not what your choice of meat or fish because it’s all about the sides, the roast potatoes the cauliflower cheese, the creamy mash.
Your mouth is watering, right?
For many years I have been on a mission to find the perfect Sunday lunch. Given I’m known for making a pretty fabulous Sunday feed when called upon to do so, my standards are high.
When I’m paying cold hard cash for my dinner it has to be better than something I can make myself and given I fancy myself as a bit of masterchef the bar is set at a height.
And so I threw it out to my friends on Facebook, tell me where in Belfast does a good Sunday lunch – and yes, I know there are a hundred and one fabulous places outside the city but we wanted to have a few drinks as well.
It was a week to end all weeks. I’ll not bore you all with the details but I was ready for some good food, a few drinks and conversation that did not include debating the current political impasse.
The Chelsea bar got a good recommendation from a knowledgeable friend and so it won the day.
The Chelsea used to be a ‘wine bar’. Remember those, yuppy establishments full of men wearing suit jackets and stone-washed jeans with their wedding ring in their pocket?
Thankfully that is no longer the case.
Now it styles itself as a more of a ‘gastro pub’. There is no restaurant as such but the bar is decorated in bright cream and gold shades, classy and welcoming for both hungry and thirsty punters.
The Sunday lunch menu is simply laid out with a small selection of choices, as it should be. And at £19.95 for two courses and a glass of prosecco, it’s not going to hurt the pocket.
We started with the salt and chilli squid and the Fivemiletown goats cheese fritters.
The fritters came with a gingerbread crumb and with a little beetroot. It was delicious and a reasonable enough portion to not spoil the main event.
The squid was crispy and well-seasoned but there was a poor ratio of squid to the dips, literally pools of the stuff for four small pieces of seafood. Tasty all the same.
We sipped prosecco and waited on the arrival of the mains.
Roast beef and the butcher’s cut – on this occasion that was roast chicken but it varies from week to week.
The beef was of good quality, well roasted, with mash so creamy you could moisturise your face with it, a duck-fat roastie and some broccoli and cauliflower mournay.
As I said earlier, it’s all about the sides and the roast potatoes could easily rival my own. The cauliflower was cheesy and decadent and the gravy rich, but could have had more seasoning for my taste.
The chicken looked delicious, with crispy skin, but was 10 minutes too long in the oven for me. My mate loved it, though, and scoffed the lot.
We had the white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake to share afterwards; it was very, very sweet. One between two was more than enough.
The mood was sedate on a Sunday afternoon, mainly couples chilling out, so we moved on to somewhere else for drinks.
However, had we been patient with our time there’s a live music session after 7pm each Sunday which I have on my to-do list. I’ve also called in for lunch during the week since and the menu choices include lots of salads, steaks, burgers and a lovely Asian noodle crispy beef dish.
There’s also a vegan menu for people who don’t deserve nice things.
No longer a wine bar, the Chelsea now has an extensive gin menu with 26 premium gins; I know because I counted them.
It’s stood the test of time and now passed the Morris taste test. If a Sunday lunch in chilled-out surroundings is what you’re after, look no more: the Chelsea is your man.
Two courses with glass of prosecco £19.95 x 2.