Eating Out: Sixteen22 Gastro Pub at Beech Hill Country House Hotel a tasty new number
Sixteen22 Gastro Pub
Beech Hill Country House Hotel
THERE are few more attractive places in Derry than the Beech Hill Country House Hotel. On the Ardmore Road, where houses abruptly give way to gently undulating green fields, it is inviting and elegant, modest but assured, a home to a blend of quality and comfort that you rarely come across.
The house dates back to the 1700s, and has hosted GIs and generals, presidents and popstars, becoming more and more of an institution with each passing year.
The latest development at Beech Hill is the recently-opened Sixteen22 gastro pub. Down a flight of stairs from the main entrance, the pub cleverly takes advantage of the house's architecture and opens out onto a terrace looking down a banked lawn to the lake and water wheel.
Inside, the designers have used what was already there – iron pillars and a cool, stone-flagged floor – and sensitively added modern wooden beams to the ceiling, and booths in leather and wood, with stylish glass panels and a lovely use of colour. It achieves the trick of being bright and contemporary while giving the impression of being there for years.
When a place looks this good, the food has to match the standard set. Although we had a couple of reservations, I'd say it certainly did.
The four of us, including a toddler on a quest to eat sausage and mash in every restaurant in the country, came for Sunday lunch. Tempting though the starters looked, we went straight for the mains.
The menu stays the same throughout the week, with the addition of a couple of specials, one of this day's being roast beef, which we ordered. Three thick slabs of beautifully cooked, tender, melting beef were served, with smooth, buttery mash and fantastic roast potatoes, sweet and soft beneath crisp and crunchy.
And a Yorkshire pudding as big as a baby's head. The only fault was it came with the gravy already poured, whereas we'd asked for it on the side.
My brother had the General Tso's chicken, which was gorgeous. The generous cuts of succulent fried chicken in a subtly sweet sauce were really delicious and the broccoli was cooked with care. The egg-fried rice lacked much in the way of egg, though, and had a smokiness which I wasn't sure about. Mind you, the plate was returned empty.
I couldn't find fault with my harissa lamb. The meat was tender and full of flavour, while the cabbage gave the dish vibrancy and sharpness. The buckwheat added body and texture and the tzatziki freshened up the entire dish. Great potatoes again, with a lovely heat from the sriracha sauce.
Two of us shared the tasting dessert, which provides a sample of all the puddings on offer. I'd give it a miss next time, as it didn't quite work for me, the samples being just too small to be successfully carried off. The meringue on the baked Alaska, for instance, was too soft, and there was no room in the miniature fondant for any runny centre.
As far as taste was concerned, though, there was no problem. That was almost the case with the sticky banana pudding (it wasn't really banoffee in any way). This was deep and nicely stodgy, but the banana ice cream was probably a banana too far – vanilla would have worked better.
One other general issue was, while the service was warm and friendly, the food took too long to come out of the kitchen. That, and the other little faults aside, this was a delicious meal in a stylish bar in a beautiful setting, and we are already looking for an excuse to go back.
:: THE BILL
Slow-braised harissa lamb £14.50
Roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, mash £13.95
General Tso's chicken, tenderstem broccoli, egg-fried rice £14.50
Children's sausage and mash £6.50
Garden vegetables £3
Onion rings £3
Tasting plate £13.50
Sticky banoffee pudding £7.00
Children's Tickety Moo ice cream £3.95
Diet Coke £2.40
Glass, Jumper Sauvignon Blanc £6.50