Eating Out: The already high standard at The Muddlers Club has somehow been elevated
The Muddlers Club
1 Warehouse Lane
028 9031 3199
GIVEN we are so spoilt for new and interesting places to eat, especially if living in Belfast, it’s easy to forget about the more established spots.
The Muddlers Club, named after a secret society that once met in the very building it is situated in, opened to much fanfare four years ago. I tried it several times back then, when the owners managed to create a real buzz about the place within weeks of opening.
So impressed was I that it is still a place I recommend when asked – as I often am – "Where’s the best place to eat?" but it has been a while so I doubled back to give it another try myself.
So, in the interest of quality control, the middle child and I booked a table for one of those rare Friday evenings when we actually get to spend time together. She’s moved to Dublin, in a wise, pre-Brexit manoeuvre and so I don’t see her beautiful face as often as I’d like.
The child’s doing so well I’ve told the other two I’ve decided to live with her when I’m old. They seemed relieved.
The Muddlers is hidden from view, situated in a narrow lane between the busy Waring Street and Exchange Place in the Cathedral Quarter. The location, surrounded by old but mainly empty buildings gives it a kind of urban edge on approach. The interior is beautiful, with atmospheric lighting and lots of restored features, a buzzy open kitchen the focal point, along with a well-stocked bar for drinks on arrival.
The first thing I noticed was a change in how the menus are devised. There is still a fab, not overpriced lunch menu, but once darkness falls, they offer only the tasting menu.
The popularity of a tasting menu means many of the established restaurants are switching to this set up. It also affords the chef freedom to design dishes based on what’s seasonal, on offer from suppliers that day or week and adapt what works and what doesn’t day to day.
Middle child was delighted by this prospect but not so keen on the wine pairing, which you can add for an extra £35 per person. So, we ordered a bottle of Sancerre and settled in for the night, free from the pressure of having to order off the menu, happy that the chef would look after us – and, boy, did he.
We started with a small crisp bite of decadence, covered in rich puree and more shaved truffle than I've seen in one place. It was earthy and delicious and set the tone.
A little slither of crab next, again on a little crisp disc, dressed with Nasturtium leaves, it was two mouthfuls of perfection.
We were on a roll; there was a lamb dish next, the meat blushing pink, served with artichoke, some dark greens rich in iron, a rich puree and a light lamb sauce.
Hake with some grilled courgettes came next, fresh and light. But it was all just building up to the main event – the chateaubriand – dressed with tiny turned root veg and a chard, a sauce so rich it needed its own security – it was a dish fit for the table of any Michelin star restaurant in the world.
The middle child, who is so thin she has to run around in the shower to get wet, was struggling at this stage. I am not ashamed to say I helped finish off her beef. It was just too good to send back to the kitchen, seasoned to perfection.
White chocolate and strawberries made up dessert number one, a tiny little chocolate brownie touched with salted caramel and ice cream number two. A sweet and delicious end to the evening.
We laughed, we ate and didn’t even notice the time go by. Service was slick and friendly but not overpowering.
Eating in Muddlers is an experience, it is a treat, it is one of the best meals you’re likely to have in the city.
You need to book because, four years in, it remains on point and popular – the standard, far from slipping, has been elevated. There is a maturity to Muddlers now, a confidence in cooking simple ingredients in an expert way that only a chef comfortable in his own skin can pull off.
We left full and happy. The wine polished off, we headed into the busy cathedral for a few gins and a laugh. A reminder that while the lure of the new can be irresistible it’s always worth doubling back on the established greats – they survive and thrive for a reason.
Large water £3.80
Paradis Sancerre £49
Tasting menu £55 x 2