Eating Out: Dominic Kearney joins the Supper Club at new Da Vinci's bistro Caterina's
Da Vinci’s Hotel
028 7127 9111
AS IF Christmas wasn’t expensive enough, my nearest and dearest all, rather inconsiderately, decided to have their birthdays in December. Come my little brother’s special day, my wallet empty even of moths, I suggested a retro-style celebration meal featuring a tin of spam and a photograph of a cake and candles.
Tempting though I made this sound – I was going to hide a tanner in the spam – he declined. He had his eye instead on Caterina’s, the new bistro at Da Vinci’s Hotel. It’s named after Leonardo’s mum, who was presumably as handy at the cooker as he was at the easel.
Da Vinci’s isn’t in the heart of the city, but it is on one of Derry’s main arteries. It’s quite a functional setting – behind a parade of shops, next door to the Airporter office – but the restaurant has been stylishly kitted out, so it feels warm and inviting, with a hint of luxury, and you feel snugly detached from your surroundings once you’re inside.
At no prompting whatsoever from me, the three of us all decided to choose from the Supper Club menu, which is great value and offers a wide choice of dishes.
The starters were all decent enough, without being anything to write home about. The paté was probably the best of them – rich and meaty and full of flavour, with a cleverly contrasting sweet apple chutney. I always think you really need a crisp vehicle for paté, but the sourdough toast was maybe a touch soft. Nevertheless, it was from a Scarpello loaf, which is never a bad thing.
There was a lovely caper sharpness to the crab mayonnaise, which gave the dish a real zip, although it did threaten to overpower the gentle flavours of the crab. The Caesar salad was fresh, with generous shavings of salty Parmesan but, while the chicken was moist and well-cooked, it was hard to detect anything Cajun about it.
All the mains were pretty good. The hake, if perhaps just a touch overcooked, was well-seasoned, strong and meaty, with a nicely crisp skin, and the korma mayonnaise gave the dish a sweet, light, mild curry hit. The chicken supreme was excellent.
The meat was juicy and succulent, very well-cooked, and the truffle oil provided a richness that really enhanced things. I wasn’t at all keen on the mushroom fricassee, though, as there was too much emphasis on the mush. The steak burger was hard to fault. The top and bottom of the buttermilk barmcake were just about in hailing distance of each other, separated as they were by an impressive filling.
The burger itself was a serious contender – very meaty, lovely and moist, perfectly seasoned – while the bacon added great flavour and texture and the melted cheese oozed and wrapped itself around the other ingredients.
If the mains were of a pleasing standard, the sides were a mixed bag. We each ordered one, and then added a bowl of onion rings, out of greed as much as anything. I’ve got to say I wish we hadn’t bothered. They were soft and doughy, and simply didn’t taste of onion. The seasonal vegetables – carrots and parsnips – were a little, but not much better. The chips were good, though, and the champ was excellent – smooth and creamy.
We shared a pudding between us, although, as it was his birthday, my brother had the biggest spoon. The apple pie was his choice, and the boy done good. It was packed with apple, sharp and sweet, and came encased in a lovely crisp and buttery pastry.
There are certainly details to be addressed, but all in all, it was a good night in a restaurant that offers great value, so, though I might leave it a while, this won’t be the last supper I have at Caterina’s.
Chicken liver pate, apple chutney
Crab mayonnaise, avocado, capers, sourdough toast
Cajun chicken Caesar salad
Pan-fried chicken supreme, asparagus, fricassee of wild mushrooms, truffle oil
Steak burger, bacon, onion ring, lettuce, buttermilk bamcake, salsa
Pan-fried hake, parsnip puree, roasted shallots, baby potatoes, korma mayonnaise
Sides: Champ; Chunky chips; Seasonal vegetables
Supper Club Menu – two courses for £15 (x3), including side order with main course
Onion rings £3.50
Apple pie and vanilla ice cream £5.95
Diet Coke x 2 £4.40