Food & Drink

It’s not just the chips that are special, it’s everything - Eating Out at The Bucks Head in Dundrum

Seamus Maloney visits top chef Alex Greene’s latest culinary venture

The Bucks Head In Dundrum Co Down.PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
The Bucks Head in Dundrum, Co Down is the new venture by Deanes alumni Alex Greene and Bronagh McCormick (Mal McCann)
The Buck’s Head,
77-79 Main Street,
Co Down,
BT33 0LU
028 4375 1868

In retrospect they probably weren’t necessary – the ‘special chips’ ordered to go along with the main courses at The Bucks Head in Dundrum. But I’m a simple soul, easily swayed by the least sophisticated of marketing ploys, like calling chips ‘special’ on a menu. Although, to be honest, just calling them chips has me about 90% of the way there already.

And when they arrive, they’re skin-on, rustling, seemingly – though sadly not actually – endless, hot, thin, crunchy things, covered in parmesan and a truffle emulsion. Properly salted. Properly brilliant. So while you may not actually need these chips, trust me, you need these chips.

It doesn’t hurt that right before they hit the table that final duvet of parmesan was applied by Alex Greene, the Great British Menu hall of famer and Michelin Star holder at Deanes Eipic in Belfast, where he left his job as head chef at the end of last year when owner Michael Deane decided to pivot away from fine dining tasting menus.

Greene has done the same and has taken over The Bucks Head, where he started in the kitchens aged 12, washing dishes and scrubbing spuds, along with Bronagh McCormick, formerly the general manager of the Deanes Restaurant Group and every bit as elemental to that Star, and every other accolade that came their way, as the food.

They give you a steak knife but you could cut this thing with a sideways glance it’s so tender

The pair have overseen a huge refurbishment project of the 18th century listed building. And they’ve done a bloody good job of it. The bar looks like an absurdly comfy place to settle in for lunch or dinner, while the restaurant is a proper looker, as an open kitchen services a wide open space bathed by the early evening spring sunshine streaming through the huge windows.

They’re putting the finishing touches on rooms if you want to stay. Although the real question is: Why would you ever want to leave?

The bitterballen aren’t so much an echo but an explicit callback to Eipic, where they featured on the final tasting menu served there before the curtain came down in December.

The little breaded Dutch balls of what’s essentially deep fried stew are loaded with melting short rib, all sitting on a pool of spiky garlic mayonnaise. Another snack of golden oblongs of polenta, under a snowdrift of parmesan are hot then crisp then soft. We’re up and running and the pace doesn’t drop for a second.

Flavour-wise, that is. Everything else trots along at a pleasing speed. It’s just a lovely place to take your time over your dinner, never feeling rushed nor ignored. We’re the first ones in on a Friday evening and as the space fills up the buzz builds. There’s room to feel you’re not bothered by anyone while also being able to enjoy the hum of contentedness from tables full of people very happy with their current life decisions.

The Bucks Head In Dundrum Co Down.PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
You can't go wrong at The Bucks Head... (Mal McCann)

Speaking of filling up, a special starter of scallops, black pudding and cauliflower, a modern classic, could pass for a main course, such is the generosity of the plate. The weighty scallops are pert and sweet, the half moon of black pudding a coarse, deep savouriness against the silky smooth cauliflower puree and bursts of golden raisin.

The beetroot in a salad with fresh, lactic goat’s curd, tomato, and linseed crackers, was cooked over coal and while any wafts of smoke are negligible the actual veg tastes taste more like itself than any you’ve ever had before.

Being smack bang where the mountains and the sea are sweeping into each other means the John Dory and the Mourne lamb feel like the right mains to go with but there’s a feeling you can’t really go wrong here.

The blobs of black garlic puree and golf balls of gnocchi – shatteringly crisp outside, a cloud inside - remind you things are on another level altogether here

There’s nothing particularly showy about either of them. Just the best ingredients able to show themselves at their best thanks to the sort of restraint it takes immense skill to pull off.

The fish is as on point as you’d expect, with broccoli in both tender lengths and a full-on puree. There’s dollops of pomme puree in there too – those chips really were going overboard – with smoked leeks and pretty little wild garlic flowers adding style and substance with a fresh bite.

The lamb rump is sliced thickly and shimmers pink under a good layer of fat tinged with smoke. They give you a steak knife but you could cut this thing with a sideways glance it’s so tender.

The batons of carrots steer it towards the a perfect Sunday lunch. The blobs of black garlic puree and golf balls of gnocchi – shatteringly crisp outside, a cloud inside - remind you things are on another level altogether here.

The sort of level where you don’t need superlatives on the menu to tell how good a smooth miso caramel tart, with its thin, crisp pastry and burst of orange zest, or the cardamom creme brulee, wobbly creaminess under its burnished top, with little bites of pineapple and coconut biscuits will be.

It’s not just the chips that are special at The Bucks Head. It’s everything.

The bill

Polenta £3.50

Bitterballen £3.95

Scallops £12.50

Beets £8.50

Lamb rump £24.50

John Dory £27.50

Special chips £5.95

Caramel tart £7.50

Creme brulee £7.50

White Lady cocktail £11.95

Elderflower tonic £3.50

Total £116.85