Eating Out: Shipquay Hotel a nice touch of posh for a special night out
Shipquay Hotel Restaurant, Shipquay Street, Derry, 028 7126 7266
I THINK it was in Antony and Cleopatra, or possibly one of the sonnets, that Shakespeare said, You had me at black pudding, and it was of this deathless phrase that I was reminded when looking at the menu at the Shipquay Hotel restaurant.
Those two delightful words were all I could see, and they were there among both the starters and the mains. Waiter, I’m ready to order!
My two companions aren’t such big fans of the stuff, and so took a bit more time considering what was on offer. A bit more time was needed, too. The menu isn’t extensive, but it’s enticing and interesting, featuring lovely ingredients such as samphire, which is shamefully hard to find.
While the sweet potato and seafood chowder was probably too filling for a starter, it was undeniably delicious, thick and creamy, with rich flavours to spare. My scallops were beautifully cooked – delicately caramelised, sweet and soft, perfectly enhanced by taste and textures of the peppery black pudding and the salty bacon. The apple jam didn’t work, though. It was too bold for the scallops and not needed by the bacon or black pudding.
The best starter, and possibly the dish of the night, was the beef cheeks (funnily enough, that was my nickname at school). While the pear was an unnecessary addition, I thought, the meat was tender, juicy, melting – absolutely gorgeous, cooked perfectly, an absolute blinder!
I was really tempted by the surf and turf for my main – and not just because of the black pudding – but plumped, literally, for the pork fillet. This was mainly very good, with excellent cabbage, flavoursome jus, and that crunchy black pudding croquette. The supreme of chicken was of a very high standard. The meat was moist and tender and the chicken skin was crisp and well-seasoned.
The pick of the mains was the salmon – well-cooked, soft and subtle, with a powerful broth and a beautiful fondant potato which absorbed all the flavours of the dish.
The sides were uniformly terrific. The fat chips (another school nickname; teachers can be so cruel) were coated in a spicy dry rub, the steamed vegetables retained a good bite, the mash was smooth as you like, and the salad was fresh and light, although, oddly, there was half a boiled egg in it, so there was a touch of 1970s Sunday tea about the bowl.
There was a real sense that the dessert menu had been chosen with the idea of cleansing the palate and providing an uplifting end to the meal, which possibly explains why it was the only section without black pudding. Overcoming my disappointment, I chose the mango and passion fruit pannacotta.
There was no wobble to it, unfortunately, and it wasn’t as light as it could have been. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The texture was creamy and it sat on a good, crunchy biscuit. While the mango was pleasantly delicate, the passion fruit really zapped and tingled the taste buds.
Now, I have no idea what constitutes an artisan ice cream, but I do know that the ones you can get here are excellent. Three scoops you get, one each of coconut, rhubarb, and vanilla, each with its own biscuit. And then there was the affogato – more beautifully creamy, sweet vanilla ice cream, with teeth-challenging honeycomb chunks, and a kick of hot, strong coffee. A bit of fun, a bit of sophistication.
Which could be said for the whole place, to be honest. A converted bank, the Shipquay Hotel is not yet two months old. For some reason – idiocy, more than likely – I was under the impression that I’d read it was going to be a budget hotel or hostel. Well, how wrong can you be?
Very, as it turns out. It’s a light, classy, stylish, imaginative, upmarket joint, with commanding views down Shipquay Street and a very tempting bar downstairs, a nice touch of posh for a special night out.
Beef cheeks £8
Pan-fried scallops £8.50
Sweet potato and seafood chowder £5
Supreme of chicken £16
Pork fillet £16
Pan-fried salmon £18
Sides, £3 each: fat chips; steamed greens;
buttered mash; house salad
Puddings, £5 each: affogato; pannacotta;
artisan ice cream selection
Diet Coke x 2 £4.20
Pinot Grigio £6