Eating Out: Brickwork could do with a bit of building up
Brickwork, 12-14 Castle Street, Derry, Tel 028 7137 2888
LOCATION, location, location. Despite what Phil and Kirstie might tell you, it’s not the only thing that matters. Granted it’s important, but there are plenty of other factors that count towards success, whether you’re talking house, restaurant, factory, or shop.
The premises here on the corner of Derry's Castle Street and Magazine Street are in a prime spot for a restaurant – just inside the walls, in the heart of the city centre, handy for daytime shoppers and evening drinkers alike. And yet, for one reason or another, things just haven’t clicked for previous occupants. Brickwork is the latest to give it a go. The three of us left it a couple of weeks before giving it a go ourselves.
Gosh, you know, I’m struggling with this one. We all did, to be honest, the jury staying out a good while before delivering its positive verdict. In a funny way, the problem wasn’t so much the food, although that left a fair bit to be desired in a number of instances.
The salt and chilli prawns were too small and were smothered by the thick batter they came in. They didn’t really taste much of salt or chilli, either. The ribs were generous and meaty, although maybe a touch overcooked, and the sauce wasn’t sticky enough and was more heat than flavour. The Kimchi chicken was a little dry – lovely crispy coating, mind – and the sauce was rather cloying.
The chips were great, but the little details of the meal – sauces, the salads, the coleslaw – were weak. And, I’ve got to be honest, the puddings were poor, especially the cheesecake, which tasted a bit artificial and was weighed down with a slab of raspberry-coloured sort of jelly.
As disappointing as that might all sound, they’re all things that can be easily sorted. No, the main problem for me is one of identity. Brickwork doesn’t seem to know quite what it is. The menu, for example, looks like it’s on its gap year – Japan, Korea, Italy, the USA, and then, slightly jarringly, Malin Head.
And there’s a list of fantastic-sounding gins, with tasting notes and serving suggestions, hidden away behind four or five pages on the clipboard all the diners are given. It’s too easily missed, just like the menu of cocktails. What’s the point of having all these gins if you’re going to make so little of them?
So why did all three of us give Brickwork, albeit eventually, the thumbs up? Well, a number of reasons. There’s the lovely, warm, friendly service, for a start. Add to that the décor, layout, and furnishings – light, stylish, youthful, vibrant. The careful presentation of the food, too.
And then there are these three things. Exhibit A, the chicken wings. They were lovely! Soft, tender, perfectly cooked meat, crispy skin, seasoned just right. B: the beefburger was great. It was meaty, chunky, and full of flavour.
Finally, the sea bass from Malin Head. This was the fish – and the dish – of the day. Unlike the chicken wings, it lacked a crispy skin, but otherwise, it was brilliant. Fresh, deep, sweet, salty, cooked so all its flavours were left to speak for themselves. And from Malin Head, too, which suggests they have good contacts up there, ones to be cherished, like whoever cooked it.
Right now, Brickwork isn’t that special. But, with just a little tweaking, it could so easily be. If you ask me, and I’m aware no-one has, it wouldn’t take much. Give the menu a clearer identity. Stop cutting corners on things like the coleslaw and puddings. Bang up the music, put the gin menu front and centre, make it a place full of chatter and life. Maybe a big TV or two showing sport. And then let the location do the rest.
Early bird menu – three courses, £18 each
Dragon chicken wings, blue cheese aioli
Sticky bbq back ribs
Salt and chilli prawns, prawn crackers, pickled cucumber, sriracha sauce
Brickwork burger, bacon, cheese, slaw, lettuce, tomato, triple cooked chips
Malin Head sea bass, crushed potatoes
Kimchi crispy chicken, Asian salad, slaw, skinny fries
Raspberry ruffle cheesecake, white chocolate sauce, chocolate sorbet
Chocolate brownie, caramel popcorn, peanut butter ice cream
Two glasses Sauvignon Blanc £3.75 x 2
Four diet Cokes £2 x 2
Gunpowder gin and tonic £6.95