Food & drink

Eating Out: Spending morning, noon and night at Martha's

Morning Martha on Belfast's Belmont Road. Picture by Hugh Russell.

Morning Martha,

45 Belmont Road,

Belfast,

BT4 2AA

028 9557 5101

morningmartha.co.uk

IS brunch really brunch if you're having it at three in the afternoon?

It's the laziest of meals, one whose name immediately conjures up thoughts of weekend lie-ins and nothing to do once the last bit of egg yolk has been mopped from the plate.

Most definitions of the part-breakfast, part-lunch will peg it to 'late morning', though as someone who believes the best collection of words in the English language is 'all-day breakfast', this still feels early.

But brunch isn't just about when you have it, but what you're having.

The ultimate brunch dish, both in spirit and in timing, is a fry on a Saturday or Sunday, and Morning Martha, a self-styled brunch restaurant in east Belfast, acknowledges this with its gussied up version, while also ticking all the 21st century boxes as well, with avocado on toast, fried chicken eggs Benedict and porridge with sea salt chocolate and orange gel, thank you very much.

The place itself is cosy, because it really is, but also because it's small.

We're here late on a Friday afternoon and things are quiet but aren't long getting busy with a few people coming in for coffee filling the place.

For prime weekend brunch hours, you'd be well advised to grab a spot early.

They open for actual breakfast, though it's difficult to imagine them shifting many tandoori chicken flatbreads at nine in the morning.

And so, after 3pm on a Saturday, we brunch.

Misnomers are a theme. The duck hash isn't really a hash at all, with the duck itself an entirely intact confit leg.

In the same vein, the kimchi is missing the required salty funk that defines the Korean fermented veg dish. It tastes like pickled cabbage, which is what it appears to be.

It's hard to escape the idea an actual hash would have been better, but what it is - crisply fried halves of potatoes, the crunchy, sharp cabbage, a light sweet Korean-inflected barbecue sauce and a perfectly produced piece of confit duck under a fried egg - is good.

If you're looking to soak up something from the night before, this is a fine way to do it.

If you're looking to keep going, there are cocktails too.

Morning Martha is cosy - and ideal for brunch, whatever time of day it is... Picture by Hugh Russell.

Both the name and the contents of an espresso Martini seems to get some people exercised. The problem is calling it a Martini just because of the glass it comes in, and that it's considered a bit naff - too sweet, too uncool, probably too popular.

These people really need to worry about something more important. Like kimchi.

Done well, an espresso Martini is a tasty cocktail - though more than one you may as well be skulling vodka and Red Bull and hoping your heart slows down.

This one - just the one - is possibly the least sweet one I've ever had and, as a result, possibly the best.

Calling the chickpea stew a dahl suggests south Asian flavours but that's not what's going on. Again, that's not a bad thing. Deep, sweet smokiness is the theme, with artichoke, aubergine and broccoli making for a substantial, moreish Veganuary option any month, while the vegetable-packed grilled cheese sandwich more than holds its own too.

But where Morning Martha really shines is on the sweeter side of brunch, specifically French toast.

Though French toast isn't actually French... OK, I'll stop.

The strawberries and cream version puts brioche exactly where brioche should be - ie, nowhere near a burger - eggs it, fries it and douses it in sweet-sharp strawberry and sweet-sweet white chocolate.

As good as that is, it pales next to banana bread, fried and smothered in a bourbon maple sauce, a brulee-topped banana and utterly addictive biscuit crumb.

It's the sort of plate fever dreams are made of. Oh, and there's a pile of bacon on there too.

It's the best £8 I can imagine spending anywhere on anything. Whatever you want to call it.

THE BILL

Duck hash £9

Banana bread French toast £8

Chickpea dahl £7

Strawberries and cream French toast £7

Veggie grilled cheese £7.50

Mojo potatoes £3.50

Hot chocolate £2.80

Espresso Martini £7.50

San Pellegrino blood orange £2

San Pellegrino lemon £2

Total £56.30

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