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Eating Out: Curated Kitchen hip, friendly but cover version a bit Robson & Jerome

Curated Kitchen, Belfast – the little loaf cakes were excellent, as was the coffee, the staff and the atmosphere. Picture by Mal McCann
Seamus Maloney

Curated Kitchen

60 Donegall Street

Belfast

BT1 2GT

028 9032 6396

curatedkitchen.co.uk

PLACE your order at Curated Kitchen, across the road from St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast city centre, and the friendly, smiley server will swipe it into an iPad, take your money (probably cry inside a little when you give them old fashioned cash), then hand you a receipt before telling you your food will join you at your table shortly.

On that receipt you’ll find all the usual info, including that friendly server’s name (thank you, Juliet) but you’ll also see, right there in the middle, the address of Curated Kitchen’s Instagram account. Your food will barely be on the table before everyone you know will be able to see what you’re about have for your lunch. Who could ask for anything more?

Curated Kitchen is a very modern place, not just for its iPads and staff born after Google was a thing but for it’s bare brick and industrial decor. It roars “hipster!” so loud you’re worried someone in a beard and a flatcap might be startled as they park their unicycle outside.

It’s also got a very modern philosophy. Outside and on its website it declares itself a place for the “social and curious”. Online it really goes to town: “We search at home and abroad for cookbooks, produce and ingredients that are remarkable not just for their taste but also for their story, something that we then aim to celebrate and share with our guests.”

“Our values,” it says, are: "Discovery: We search for remarkable recipes, ingredients and coffees worldwide;

“Storytelling: We curate global food culture and use social media to share the story of the food and coffee, the people behind it and our guests who enjoy it;

“Welcome: We welcome our customers as guests to enjoy the food, coffee and stories.”

If every restaurant was held to account for the guff on its website you might be limited to eating in places without an internet presence, but Curated Kitchen really leans into theirs. The menu, which changes weekly, is culled from cookbooks by all the heavy hitters you’d expect. Fancy brunch by the Hairy Bikers? OK. A Nigel Slater salad? No problem. A lunch Jamie Oliver tells you will take 15 minutes to make? Give me three quarters of an hour.

On a visit just before Christmas they had rolled out their greatest hits, the most popular dishes from the past year, and it read like the hardback equivalent of Christmas Top of the Pops from 1995: Bill Granger, Yotam Ottolenghi, Nigella Lawson and, flying the fleg for our wee country, Diana Henry.

Cookbooks, for recipes and for rent (proceeds to charity), Curated Kitchen, Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

There were also a couple of choices on the all-day menu – it’s a morning until afternoon place – without provenance, staples which feature no matter who they’re paying homage to that week.

One of those, calling itself a ‘Melbourne brunch’ on the receipt, was just listed as what it was on the menu: poached eggs, avocado, bacon and sourdough for £5.90. The bacon and eggs were good bacon and eggs, and the sourdough was perfectly fine, although it might have been worth mentioning on the menu that the avocado came sprinkled with a selection of seeds.

You can add any of the constituent bits of the brunch to any dish for a cost, as well as mushrooms, which would have been an extra £1.50 if the idiot doing the ordering (me) had remembered the other side of the table’s request for them. If the rest of the plate is anything to go by they would have been absolutely fine.

Being a sucker for the big names, I went for a black pudding hash straight outta At My Table by Nigella Lawson but the potatoes had no crunch, the pudding had no edge, there was none of the chilli from the original recipe that lifts the whole thing. The original also sports a fried egg, which beats a poached one every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Releasing the soft yolk all over proceedings obviously helped but not enough to take away the feeling you’d just discovered that the biggest sellers on Christmas Top of the Pops from 1995 were actually Robson & Jerome.

Little loaf cakes, one lemon and one salted caramel and banana, were excellent, as was the coffee, as were the staff and the atmosphere and what they’re trying to do. There’s nothing wrong with being social and curious – you can rent one of the various cookbooks recipes are culled from for the week – or with encouraging people to take pictures of their lunch to display to the world and trying to make yourself a little different as you give people something to eat.

But if you’re going to bandy the word “remarkable” about on your website you better make sure that what you give people is a little better than this.

THE BILL

Melbourne brunch £5.90

Black pudding hash £6.90

Sourdough £1

Lemon cake £2.80

Salted caramel and banana cake £2.80

Americano £2.70

Total £22.10

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