Life

Eating Out: Ah, The Everglades Hotel takes me back to having whiskey for breakfast

The Everglades Hotel in Derry – it had unbuttoned its waistcoat and things were relaxed. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Dominic Kearney

The Everglades Hotel

Prehen Road

Derry

028 7132 1066

hastingshotels.com/everglades-hotel/

THIS restaurant was the first place I went to on my first visit to Derry, my flight from Liverpool being early enough for me to catch breakfast here. As soon as I saw that the porridge came with a whiskey chaser – or the whiskey with a porridge chaser – I knew I'd like the place.

I've eaten here once since, a midweek dinner where we were the only diners in the restaurant. It was library-quiet, and we were so frightened to speak we passed notes to each other instead. The atmosphere was rather prim and oppressive, in need, perhaps, of a porridge special to loosen things up. It certainly made it hard to enjoy the meal.

On this third visit, though, with my wife, daughter, and brother, things were very different. We were there for an early dinner. There were a number of people in the bar and scattered around the lounge, and things felt altogether more convivial. The Everglades had unbuttoned its waistcoat, and things were relaxed, while there was still that air of something special that a good hotel can offer.

Matters were definitely helped by the warm and friendly staff, and by the cherry blossom tree in full dress uniform just outside the window. Things only got better when the food came. First up was the child's meal, which came, as requested, as soon as it was ready.

While some places take less bother over food for younger customers, this definitely wasn't the case here. The vegetable soup – maybe a touch too salty – was deep, satisfying, and full of flavour, while her chicken was beautifully moist and tender, and the mashed potato was creamy and smooth as you'd like.

The chicken curry was excellent. The thick sauce packed just the right amount of punch, the rice was lovely and fluffy, and the chicken plentiful and succulent. The pie, well. Now there was a lovely thing. Neat, petite, wholly encased in crisp and buttery pastry – none of your pastry top only nonsense – and filled with rich, succulent beef and earthy mushrooms. Hard to beat.

But, beaten it was, in my opinion, anyway, by the lovely pork belly. Beneath a thoroughly gratifying crisp crackling top was a good slab of delicious, juicy meat with bags of flavour. The redcurrant reduction gave a welcome fruity sweetness, while the black pudding croquettes provided great texture and a nice, peppery jab to proceedings.

Things went a little downhill with the puddings, however – not quite to the bottom, for sure, but they weren't quite the pleasing end to the meal that the main course deserved, beautifully presented though they definitely were.

First off, the cheesecake. The actual cheesy bit was just too light and airy, and didn't taste of vanilla in the slightest. Topped with cream, with a soft biscuit base, there was no variation in the texture, and the ice cream that came with it was strangely lacking in flavour, too.

The sticky toffee pudding looked the business, with the sponge dark and decadent, and the sauce a good-looking caramel. But, while the flavours were good, and the sponge moist, it was practically cold, which took a great deal of the pleasure out of things, especially so in the case of the sauce, which was static where it should have been oozing into the pudding.

That being said, there was absolutely no doubting the quality of the brownie. This was deeply, delightfully, richly chocolatey, and the gooeyness was balanced by the lovely chunks of hazelnut, so the resulting combination of textures really hit the spot.

Although the puddings left something to be desired, this was still a very good meal in a spacious, relaxed, and refined setting. While it was maybe a touch on the dear side, and not the first place you'd think of given the number of restaurants in Derry, it's somewhere that makes a nice change, and is definitely worth a shot.

THE BILL

(For four)

Chicken curry, rice, flatbread, coriander yoghurt £15

Pork belly, black pudding croquette, redcurrant reduction £16

Beef and mushroom pie, mash, vegetables, pan gravy £14

Potato gratin £3; Chips £3

Child's vegetable soup £3

Child's chicken and mash £5

Chocolate and hazelnut brownie £6

Vanilla cheesecake £6 (with ice cream £1)

Sticky toffee pudding £6

Child's ice cream £3

Diet Coke x 2 £6.60

Sparkling water £2.70

Coffee £3.50

Total: £94.80

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