Eating In: Shed's heat at home lesson in how to achieve the apparently impossible
467 Ormeau Road,
028 9064 2630
ORDERING from Shed Bistro’s heat at home menu felt like issuing a challenge with a hefty dose of snark thrown in for good measure.
Being presented with a piece of baked cod, or a steak, or a soufflé – a soufflé?! (incredulous snort) – by chef Jonny Taylor in the confines of his south Belfast restaurant is one thing, but bringing it all back from the Ormeau Road premises and expecting things to turn out right after a run in a home oven is another.
And that’s the rub in putting together menus that are close enough to providing the on-plate eating-in experience people have been missing while being able to withstand the moodiness of a domestic oven or the alarmingly low level of practical, technical ability of a restaurant reviewer (naming no names).
It would be easy for every starter to be a salad or a lump of sourdough and some paté, with every main a glorified ready meal, meat in a sauce already long cooked – and a tub of pasta for the vegetarians.
The better places that let their food out into the world and into the hands of amateurs have thought through what can survive the process while still offering something worth splashing out for when you know that fish supper from down the road never lets you down.
But neither does this fish supper.
A piece of baked cod, finished with a 10-minute blast in the oven with little potatoes, cherry tomatoes and capers.
The time in the oven turns the side into something like a warm salad. Some zip and zing next to the fish, which comes swimming in butter, obviously the key to keeping things the way they should be inside the fillet.
The fish does lose a little something in transit, that crisp skin is never going to be restored to its former glory – that’s just impossible – but the flesh collapses, opaque, pearly, just about cooked, perfectly seasoned. It’s a defence splitting pass of the highest quality. You can’t miss.
The steak is another example of how the apparently impossible is achieved thanks to absolute technical precision.
It should be a recipe for disaster. Unless you’re the type who wants your steak cooked well into oblivion, there’s a balancing act in getting things right that you might imagine would be completely toppled over by the meat being partially cooked, essentially rested while it waits to be put in the oven, and reheated after an indeterminate period of time.
But the five minutes at 200C – everything is done at the same temperature, which is a prerequisite for this sort of thing to run smoothly – leaves it perfectly medium rare. It tastes like a well-cooked, quality piece of meat, and once you slice it and pile it on to the charred bread with some rocket, sweet onion jam and bearnaise mayonnaise, you’ve got yourself something worth eating as well as marvelling at for its construction.
The soufflé isn’t the same as if it had just emerged from the restaurant’s oven – that would be physics and chemistry defying – but there’s huge goat’s cheese flavour in it.
The generous portion of chicken wings come out bang on too – and they’re all flats, which as anyone who knows anything about these things knows, is always the best side of a chicken wing.
Sticky toffee pudding and chocolate brownies are a mainstay of takeaway menus – tasty crowd pleasers that travel well. If you get them right in the first place you’re on to a winner. And these are right.
The only non-oven effort required in the entire meal is heating the toffee sauce in a pan before dousing the date-spiked sponge with it. It’s very good, but the brownie is quite the thing. Little bitter, nubbly buttons of chocolate on top are like bursts of seasoning, reining in the sweet, cakey goo of the brownie itself. It’s balanced fantastically well. Both come with a tub of vanilla ice cream from Lisburn dairy Draynes.
The hardest work in that is taking off the lid and eating ice cream. Finally, a chance for my practical, technical expertise to really shine.
Chicken wings £7.50
Goat’s cheese soufflé £7.50
Roasted cod £18.95
Steak sandwich £14.50
Truffle mac and cheese £4.50
Sticky toffee pudding £6.95