Food & Drink

There’s not a bad seat in the house - Eating Out at Idyll on Belfast’s Ormeau Road

Small plates, big plates... they’re all great plates at this excellent restaurant

Idyll on the Ormeau Road Belfast for Eating out.
Idyll on the Ormeau Road, Belfast (Colm Lenaghan)
438 Ormeau Road,
BT7 3HY,
079 5162 1379

When you’re booking a table at Idyll you can, if the mood takes you, specify a window seat.

While not wishing to denigrate arguably the least buzzing bit of Belfast’s Ormeau Road, where Idyll sits amid a pretty good Chinese takeaway, an excellent barber and a gas appliance shop whose quality I can’t attest to, it’s not like you’ll be getting to people watch on a bustling Parisienne boulevard or anything.

To be fair, you do get a bus stop but there’s not much else adding to the atmosphere, made up mainly of traffic heading into or out of the city, possibly stopping at the nearby Forestside shopping centre along the way.

No, if you do end up at the window, as pleasant a spot as that may be, all the real action is behind you in Idyll’s little dining room, all bare metal and wood under a suspended ceiling without a ceiling – and on the small and not-so-small plates that will come your way.

Idyll on the Ormeau Road Belfast for Eating out.
There mightn't be a great view from the window but Idyll makes up for it with the quality of its food (Colm Lenaghan)

Chef Michael Fuller runs the kitchen and his history of vegan and vegetarian ventures is evident. Partner Esme Greenall runs the room, which mainly seems to involve answering the ‘how many plates?’ questions it sounds like every table is posing. ‘Four or five between two depending on how hungry you are’ seems to be the consensus. We order six. Just to be sure.

The prices, keen for the quality and the quantity, are probably a better guide than the two menu categories of ‘snacks’ and ‘small plates’, which in a few cases seriously undersell what arrives.

The parsnip crisps, sweet little curls dusted in a seasoning that creeps up with its heat, is certainly a snack. But there’s plenty of them, like a bowl of shavings planed off a piece of mahogany. Mahogany you can’t stop eating.

Another ‘snack’ is much closer to a generous starter with squat barrels of braised leeks coaxed into being their absolute leekiest with the judicious addition of bacon, whipped ricotta, walnuts and the light tang of ravigote sauce.

The hefty wedge of hispi cabbage screams even more of itself than the leeks as it sits between a puree of more cabbage and shreds of even more crisp cabbage, with some wild garlic thrown in, on top.

The early evening sun happens to be streaming in the windows – it was a couple of weeks ago – and the menu which changes every month is taking full advantage with spring freshness hitting the table from all directions.

Idyll on the Ormeau Road Belfast for Eating out.
Idyll serves a seasonal menu of small and big plates (Colm Lenaghan)

Charred asparagus is another generous plateful, lined up on a great puddle of buttermilk sauce, flecked with bright herbs and slicked with dill oil.

There’s not much meat on the menu but when it does arrive it doesn’t mess about, either as the duck ‘prosciutto’ or the hunks of blush-pink lamb.

The duck is thickly sliced and cured to the point of becoming ham, its generous roof of fat all salty and melting, with the deep, dark flavour set off by spiky aioli, a tartly dressed salad and spear of pickled cucumber. And a doorstop of sourdough that mops up good stuff all over the table.

Idyll on the Ormeau Road Belfast for Eating out.
Idyll on the Ormeau Road, Belfast (Colm Lenaghan)

There’s an awful lot of that lamb on the anything-but-small plate, that comes carpeted with golden polenta shot through with grassy herbs and topped with a mint-forward salsa verde.

While everything is meant to be shared, the size of this feels particularly suited to offering to the table – if you can bring yourself.

It’s bring your own, but the drinks they do put together are typical of the attention to detail, with the refreshment of a blood orange cordial and the indulgence of a ruby hot chocolate, which would have done as a fine dessert itself were it not for the excellent Basque cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding.

Whether at the window or elsewhere, get yourself a seat at Idyll. There’s not a bad one in the house.

The bill
Parsnip crisps £4.50
Braised leeks £6.50
Hispi cabbage £7.50
Asparagus £10
Cured duck £13.50
Lamb £16
Basque cheesecake £6.50
Sticky toffee pudding £6.50
Blood orange cordial x2 £7
Earl Grey tea £2.20
Ruby hot chocolate £4.50
Total £84.70