Food & drink

Eating Out: Urban Scullery, Newtownards Road, Belfast

Urban Scullery on Belfast’s Newtownards Road. Picture by Hugh Russell
Seamus Maloney

Urban Scullery,
City East,
68-72 Newtownards Road,
Belfast,BT4 1GW
facebook.com/UrbanScullery
073 9863 5483

WHEN Jonny Stevenson opened Urban Scullery in east Belfast last year he made a bold statement.

“Don’t expect to find a traditional Ulster fry or chips on my menus,” he said.

“While I enjoy a good fry, there are many other cafés in the city offering it for breakfast. We’ve set out to provide very different and tastier breakfast and lunch options.

“Anyone asking for a fry is offered an alternative to experience. And if a customer doesn’t enjoy our recommendation we’ll not charge them.”

And true to his word, there wasn’t a fry on the menu in October 2020 when the doors opened.

In November 2021 there still isn’t one. But there is a ‘grill’ – with sausage, bacon, egg, tomato, soda and potato bread. Which sounds awfully like a fry, which it turns out it used to be called. But how it’s cooked isn’t really the point.

It just shows that whatever your intentions, customer demands will often take them in a different direction, and opening somewhere like Urban Scullery for breakfast and lunch means customers will probably demand a fry.

But even if there is a fry or a grill or a breakfast bap on the menu, that doesn’t mean the aspiration to offer something “very different”, as the former MasterChef runner-up said last year, hasn’t been achieved.

The menu outside that fry is where Urban Scullery’s true character can be found. There are breakfast/brunch options with avocado and spice or thick doorsteps of French toast with nuts or fruit, and bistro-leaning lunches like a haddock fishcake with leek korma and a poached egg or their own cured salmon, treacle bread and lemon butter.

The generous tacos that are regulars on the otherwise regularly changing menu quickly established themselves as a customer favourite. So it would have been rude not to order them.

Urban Scullery on Belfast’s Newtownards Road. Picture by Hugh Russell

Housed in the City East complex where traffic departing the motorway meets the Newtownards Road, Urban Scullery looks every bit the modern, well, urban, coffee shop. There are exposed pipes and brightly painted ironwork, a couple of bookshelves and bare wooden tables.

We arrive on a Wednesday afternoon, just before the lunch rush which fills the place in remarkably short order.

Today the tacos consist of three tortillas crammed with venison shoulder, falling apart after it’s time slowly cooking in a deeply rich coffee and chocolate rub. The wintry depth is lifted by the crunch of pickled veg and a zappy chilli and redcurrant mayonnaise.

Someone at the table next door packs up the third of their three for later.

Greed and personality make that impossible, but I can see their point. It’s £9 from a generous lunch. The crisp fries in a slick of sweet chilli sauce and sour cream were both completely unnecessary and entirely moreish.

It being this time of year there’s a nod to the season and a Christmas toastie that’s every bit as generous as the tacos. Everything is present and correct and as it should be – turkey, ham, stuffing – with some cranberry and oozing mozzarella there too, as well as a little pot of those fries, this time in turkey gravy.

Stevenson flexes his MasterChef muscles a bit more in the monthly supper club, with the most recent menu featuring savoury granolas, piccalilli purees and lemon and black pepper emulsions. But all the attention to detail you need for producing stuff like that shines through just as much in your toasted sandwich.

It’s also there in the tray bakes at the till, taunting you into sugary submission. So, while a mashmallow-topped fudgy square and a Nanaimo – a Canadian nut, custard, coconut and chocolate confection that makes a fifteen feel like a piece of celery – are serious sugar rushes, they’re also seriously well crafted pieces of work.

And given the quality coming through in everything, it’s impossible to imagine their fry being anything else.

THE BILL

Tacos £9
Christmas toastie £8
Sweet chilli and
sour cream fries £3
Nanaimo bar £2
Fudge and mallow bar £2
Fanta lemon £1.65
Ballygowan
sparkling water £1.50

Total £27.15

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