Life

Eating Out: Chandlers Seafood is a place with sole – and bread fit for Bono

Chandlers Seafood, Donegall Quay, Belfast. Picture by Mark Marlow
Seamus Maloney

Chandlers Seafood

5 Donegall Quay,

Belfast,

BT1 3EA

028 9043 4000

COME gather round children and let granda tell you just what you’ve been missing out on.

Ehhhhhhhhh...

Nostalgia’s all well and good but, when you start thinking about it, things that were the last word in fantasicness years ago can’t be all that fantastic if they’re not around any more.

Things change, they evolve, they’re improved on. They might make a hipster-driven comeback but most of the stuff that used to be great wasn’t as great as you remember it.

Except taping stuff off the radio. Taping stuff off the radio was brilliant, and is something the Spotify generation are worse of for never knowing the joy of it.

Waiting with you finger hovered over the REC button as the charts counted down from 40.

Furiously rewinding and getting ready to do it all again when, fully expecting Wind of Change by the Scorpions, you got Saltwater by Julian Lennon.

Taping stuff off the radio also meant you could immortalise live performances before the world of the iPlayer and YouTube, forever available for your Walkman, with the tabs broken off for preservation.

That’s how I ended up taking custody of U2’s New Year’s Eve 1989 concert at the Point Depot. Recorded off RTE Radio and left in our house when my big brother went off to London to dig for gold in the streets.

Stuck in a rut, Bono told the crowd the band were off to “dream it all up again”. So, off they trotted to Berlin to come back with distorted guitars, a pair of wraparound shades and Achtung Baby.

They played a lot of Achtung Baby at their Belfast concert last month, and a lot of the people in Chandlers Seafood, on Donegall Quay just across from the SSE Arena, were clearly headed for the show – not just the old-enough-to-know-better fella in the obviously intentional Adam Clayton haircut. I don’t think it was Adam Clayton.

The place, formerly home to Tedford’s, has undergone a reinvention of its own recently.

It’s back in the premises it occupied for nearly 18 years, having skipped across the road in February to Tedford’s Kitchen, which owners Sharon and Alan Foster opened in 2015, next to the Waterfront Hall.

The return comes with a new name and a new concentration on seafood which the old Tedford’s may had a reputation for, but was actually something more in the eye of the beholder rather than the menu, which was never particularly fish-focussed.

It feels like a nightclub Darryl Hannah would take Tom Hanks to after the credits rolled on Splash. Sleek black surfaces, with shimmering blue lighting belies the warmth in the place, both in atmosphere and in welcome from the friendly, efficient staff.

In a starter of potted shrimps, the ratio of shrimps to butter, especially for £7.50, could have been a lot more generous, but what was there was delicious. And the bread. Holy Bono in heaven above, let me tell you about the bread.

Crackling, crusty, soft, toothsome, tangy sourdough baguettes, made on the premises. The best bread I’ve had in any restaurant anywhere.

The whitebait made for a generous portion, hot and crisp, with a sesame-heavy mayonnaise that made a pleasant change from the inevitable aioli the little fish normally come with.

From little fish to great big hulking ones – a megrim sole, cooked whole on the bone, which it promptly fell off with a little coaxing.

Any half-decently cooked fish covered in butter, herbs, garlic, capers and lemon will be a success, but this was much better than that, helped along with some plump, sweet prawns.

It came with crushed new potatoes, spinach and herbs and was £21, but provided more than enough fish for two civilised diners. Civility is over-rated.

A fillet of salmon came with gremolata and a garlic cream sauce. The fish brought real, deep, salmon flavour – not always a given – which stood up to the herbs, sauce, spinach, kale and courgettes. The mash was faultless.

There wasn’t much in the way of dessert – a really good sticky toffee pudding with fine ice cream and custard and a mango cheesecake, which was just all right, and played a dull second fiddle to a pretty good mango sorbet.

It’s a shame that as a show closer, the desserts disappointed because up until then Chandlers hit all the right notes.

THE BILL

Potted shrimp £7.50

Whitebait £4.50

Salmon fillet £17.50

Megrim sole £21

Sticky toffee pudding £6.50

Cheesecake £6.50

Pimms £3.75

Blue Moon x2 £9

Espresso martini £8

Total £84.25

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