Life

Eating Out: The Poacher's Pocket has gone back to pizza but here's something to look forward to

Like its sister places Balloo House and The Parson’s Nose, The Poacher's Pocket is the most gastro of pubs. Picture by Emma Kenny Photography
Seamus Maloney

The Poacher’s Pocket

Lisbane

Co Down

BT23 5NE

028 97541589

ballooinns.com/the-poachers-pocket

THE Poacher’s Pocket had always planned to bring back its blistered, bubbling sourdough takeaway pizza on Saturday October 19. It had sustained them when hospitality was shut down through the spring and early summer.

Now it would return, emerging from a purpose-built oven out the back, to complement the regular service, what they have always done best here in Lisbane: generous, well-executed food handled just enough to show off the embarrassment of riches on their doorstep.

That was until the executive announced that as of the evening before that shiny new oven was due to be fired up, bars and restaurants would have to close again.

As in March, if you can operate a takeaway you can keep trading. So, Poacher’s Pocket pizza changed from offshoot to lifeline, our meal out there became one of the last for a while, and this review became a glimpse of – hopefully – what you can look forward to.

It was busy that Monday but it felt absolutely safe: plenty of space, screens between tables, masked staff, hand sanitiser everywhere. And a few weeks later, all clear on the Stop Covid tracing app front.

Taking one personal experience as the basis for the strongest of opinions about what schools or shops or sports or restaurants should be doing has become quite the pastime, and this review isn’t doing that. But it is raising the entirely reasonable question of what more somewhere like The Poacher’s Pocket can do.

As for the food, it’s equally difficult to work out how The Poacher’s Pocket can do what they do much better.

Like its sister places Balloo House down the road and The Parson’s Nose in Hillsborough, it’s the most gastro of pubs, welcoming and comforting, boasting a menu to go with a howling autumn night. Outside it’s mild and still. Seriously, Mother Nature, read the room.

There’s braised beef, ham’s hock with a fried egg, fish and chips, venison shank, a whole roast plaice. The outlier is a pristine piece of cod sitting on delicate baby gem lettuce and little onions with pillows of chorizo and potato fritter. I was warned by one of the coterie of impeccable staff that most people who order it follow up with a supplementary request for chips. I do the same and am glad I did because the craggy, crunchy chips are perfect, but I didn’t really need to, especially after the starter.

A sharing platter, £18 and listed for two, though easily enough for three, maybe four if you have chips with your cod afterwards – scoops up most of the starters and drops them in front of you.

So, chicken wings with a cornbread muffin; chicken liver parfait and gooseberry chutney; smoked salmon and potato tart; a deep fried doorstop of brie; two perfectly scorched pieces of next level sourdough.

Everything was beyond reproach – big flavours, handled just right, but the parfait, on that bread, was something else entirely. They should put it on their pizzas.

While the cod was a gentle reminder of summer, the duck ragu, tangled around Parmesan and herb gnocchi, felt like Outside Right Now. It’s a bowl of autumn, deepest, darkest woodland-floor mahogany under a burst of verdant, crisp kale, salted and vinegared against the richness.

If you’ve been paying attention, crumble and sticky toffee pudding for afters won’t surprise you in the slightest. The crumble was apple and raspberry and everything a crumble should be, properly sharp with fruit under a sweet top shot through with hazelnuts.

A brick of pudding was lighter than it should be, with a butterscotch sauce missing only a straw.

The latest restaurant lockdown is supposed to end the week after next. Given about all you can be sure of at the minute is the weather, the pudding, the crumble, the extra chips, all of it, will be the perfect accompaniment, or antidote, when that day comes around.

In the meantime, there’s always the pizza.

THE BILL

Starter platter £18

Cod £18

Duck gnocchi £17

Chips £3.75

Crumble £6

Sticky toffee pudding £6

Apple pie cocktail £7.95

Jam smash non-alcoholic cocktail £4.95

Total £81.65

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