Eating Out: Veda treacle tart at Frae in Holywood is a slice of heaven

Veda treacle tart at Frae
Veda treacle tart at Frae
Frae, 93 High Street, Holywood, Co Down. Picture by Hugh Russell
Frae, 93 High Street, Holywood, Co Down. Picture by Hugh Russell


93 High Street,


Co Down,

BT18 9AQ.

Tel: 028 9578 8143

fraedining.comOpens in new window ]

SO THEN, the coffee cups at Frae: What’s the craic there? No handles, so even a splash of milk will take the liquid level up to the point that they’re a bit too hot to handle. For a few minutes. A sip or two and a couple of hundred seconds and they’re grand.

But still, come on.

Sorry, but it had to be said, and right up the top felt like the place to say it because that’s it: fiddly cups, the only thing even remotely wrong with Frae on Holywood’s High Street.

It’s almost reassuring that right at the end of the meal there came a sign that this place is mortal.

Particularly as a Veda treacle tart had not long hit the table. Three words to knock you clean off your feet: Veda. Treacle. Tart.

If it had been rubbish, the idea alone would have got it off the hook. It wasn’t.

It was the final act in a fantastic meal. Fantastic both as a superlative and a description of something out of the ordinary, that you’d need to dream up.

We are in the small ‘bar’ area downstairs for a later lunch, which is all Frae was when chef and owner Shaun Tinman opened the place. A couple of tables and a few stools, but big ideas. Since then the upstairs has become a handsome, no-frills dining room with a fixed price evening menu.

Inside Frae
Inside Frae

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That menu will return in the autumn. Until then, there’s an all-day offering on both levels that will itself return when Frae reopens after a brief mid-summer hiatus next week.

Whenever you go, whatever you order, the chances of disappointment are remote. At best.

To start, there’s the Gilda, perhaps the quintessential pintxo, the skewered Basque bar snack, this one with wallop after wallop of green chilli, anchovy and olives stuffed with imperious Young Buck blue cheese.

These sharp, salty, but balanced hits of flavour recur through the meal.

A beautifully-mixed Ferrari cocktail, half-Campari, half-Fernet Branca, all you need, stands up to the Gilda – named for Rita Hayworth’s equally spicy, salty character in the 1946 film of the same name – while there’s a considered wine list put together by front-of-house whiz Eimear Drummond.

Sourdough soldiers come with a slightly sweet, lightly curried egg salad, under an elegant anchovy fillet. It’s really a fancy egg mayonnaise sandwich, but it’s so precisely put together it leaves you wondering why all egg mayonnaise sandwiches can’t be like this.

So, while we’re on the subject... Imagine a jambon, that lunchtime, or maybe even breakfast after the night before, favourite. Already hard to beat: Bit of pastry, salty ham, melty cheese. Lovely.

Now imagine a jambon with the lightest pastry that manages to transform from 'all crunch' to 'not even there in less than a bite'. And when the pastry does disappear, all that’s left is Collea, the gloriously sweet, rich Gouda-esque cheese from west Cork, shot through with fall-apart ham hock, and a duvet of more cheese on top for good measure.

Frae boasts a kitchen of rare skill, and that skill is most evident in turning a petrol station staple into something you’d sell your car for.

That skill and precision, but always in the service of unmistakable flavours, is there in a toastie, spilling out over the edges with Boyne Valley Blue cheese – nothing but cheese bangers here – and packed with sweet-sharp pickled walnuts.

It’s there in the lamb rump salad, with thick blush-pink slices of meat counterweighted by the spikiness of fiery horseradish, sprightly greens, peppery radish and beautifully bitter crisp discs of white turnip.

In retrospect, the fried potatoes were probably unnecessary, but equally worth the visit by themselves with their ragged, golden edges, bronzed skin and caramelised garlic.

Given what came before, the cheese selection was unsurprisingly on point and set off by prunes, pickled onion and burnt apple butter.

And then there was that treacle tart. That Veda treacle tart. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream it managed to be the most familiar dessert I’ve never tasted anything like before. Fantastic indeed. And even the coffee in those temporarily awkward cups was good.


  • Gilda x2 £6
  • Jambons £6.50
  • Egg and anchovy soldiers £8.50
  • Toastie £10
  • Lamb rump salad £14
  • Fried potatoes £5
  • Veda treacle tart £7.50
  • Small cheese plate £8
  • Low tide 1% beer £4
  • Ferrari cocktail £10
  • Coffee x2 £5.20

TOTAL: £84.70