Eating Out: Sour Bake, where the best side dish for a pizza is... more pizza
Stock Kitchen and Bar
St George’s Market
0783 597 2338
NOT all takeaways are created equal. Especially not now, when a curry chip can find itself up against a Sunday lunch, a truffle risotto, or a strawberry daiquiri.
Shutdowns have forced the takeaway choice to expand beyond the usual suspects and, within that, a curry chip from the local no-frills Chinese might now find itself up against some version of a curry chip from somewhere a lot fancier.
So not all takeaways that are ostensibly doing the same thing are created equal either.
Of course, they never have been; some are rubbish, some are fantastic – but the contrast is even sharper when the bar is raised the way it has been over the past 10 months.
Lockdown saw Danny Millar, head honcho at Stock above St George’s Market in Belfast, shift to cook-at-home boxes, dishes from his exceptional bistro to be finished off in your own kitchen.
But he also branched out into something a lot closer to traditional takeaway fare. Sour Bake is pizza of the sort you don’t usually get. It went so well it made its way on to the main Stock menu and it feels at home in the surroundings, more than holding its own across the table from duck ragout or a whole roasted turbot.
But how does it feel transported in the classic cardboard boxes back to the sofa? A little like you’ve gotten away with something, a movie heist where the gang don’t quite realise what they’ve got on their hands until they spread their loot across the floor.
Sour Bake is right on brand for lockdown – at least it was when people had the enthusiasm to learn a language or knit a scarf or ruminate over a sourdough starter.
Although now, in the middle of this post-Brexit lockdown, there may be added incentive to hone the skills of self-sufficiency and fill the freezer while you can, especially without the option of a bottle of coconut tequila from Amazon to dull the pain.
The dough is fermented for 72 hours and although I’m not scientifically inclined enough to know what that actually does I can say with the absolute scientific authority of someone with a Twitter account that it does good.
What you get is blister and bubble and crack and chew. That distinctive sourdough tang is there too, but it knows its place and everything is in service of producing a base of rare quality.
One of those bases supports ham, artichoke, roast mushrooms and black olives, the sort of big thumpy flavours, backed by garlic and thyme, that seem appropriate on something that’s taken three days to get to just right. It’s called ‘the Walloper’, which shows they know how to name pizzas at Sour Bake as well as make them.
‘The Melter' – there’s a Norn Iron bantzy quality to the entire menu – is even better, with pepperoni, smoked chilli and honey in harmony like they’re The Mamas and the Papas.
The pizzas are the main event and, while there’s nothing wrong with the fries, whether as they are or slicked with garlic rosemary and Parmesan, or the rocket salad, the best side dish for this pizza is probably just more of this pizza.
Dessert could be the same, but then you’d miss out on great examples of a salted caramel chocolate brownie and piece of baked cheesecake.
Oh yeah, they do cocktails as well. There’s beer and wine too but they really do cocktails, which are portioned for six – but no judgment.
All the options are pretty fruity, except the espresso martini. These aren’t James Bond or Don Draper numbers. But the daiquiri, shimmering, ruby strawberry red with a serious whack of rum and zap of lime, is faultless.
£20 for the drink made for a 60-quid takeaway for two. But it’s not equal. Not this quality. And if that means splitting a bucket of pornstar martini over your Melter, then that’s the way it goes.
Melter pizza £11
Walloper pizza £11
Garlic rosemary Parmesan fries £4
Rocket Parmesan salad £3
Chocolate salted caramel brownie £4
Baked cheesecake £4