Food & drink

Eating Out: Bishop's Gate opens to heavenly dining in out-of-this-world Derry

Dominic Kearney

Bishop's Gate Hotel,

24 Bishop Street,

Derry,

BT48 6PP.

028 7144 0300

bishopsgatehotelderry.com

WE were out to celebrate. After all, it's not every day you break a world record, is it? Not that I broke it, mind. But my wife and daughter did (along with 714 other people), and that's pretty much the same as me doing so, wouldn't you say?

Okay, so you wouldn't say. But, regardless of that, we were celebrating. My wife and daughter only that very Saturday morning had been part of the triumphant attempt to break - nay, smash - the world record for the most people dressed as astronauts in one place.

Fair enough, maybe not the most hotly-contested crown in the Guinness collection, but, still, it must be coveted to some extent, else why would there be a record for it in the first place?

As it turned out, booking a table at short notice for 716 people, plus me and my brother, proved tricky, so there were just the four of us for dinner at the Bishop's Gate Hotel.

This was the first time we had been here since it opened a few years back, when the place was just getting used to the way things worked. Now, it feels like somewhere that has grown into itself, that feels, rightly, that it belongs – sophisticated, elegant, relaxed, and assured. Special but unfussy; a treat but familiar and easy.

We made our way through the bar, full of people enjoying pre-dinner cocktails. The menu is concise, but full of temptations and difficult choices, our first being to opt for mains and dessert.

A metaphorical arm wrestle saw my wife choosing the lamb, while I had the sea bream. The lamb was beautifully pink and melted in the mouth, the spices subtle and delicate, allowing the meat to shine. Neither the tomatoes nor the spinach added much to the dish, but the sweet potatoes gave a depth and the courgette fritters provided a pleasing texture.

 Bishop's Gate Hotel, Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.

While I'd certainly say my wife backed the winner with the lamb, I was pretty pleased with my sea bream. The fish was perfectly cooked. Beneath the lovely, crisp skin, the fish flaked away easily and was full of flavour.

I enjoyed the risotto, but the bacon didn't add the saltiness I was hoping for, and a touch more seasoning would have lifted the dish. And I couldn't find much evidence of the crab. I wouldn't hesitate to order the same again, however.

Having said that, I would certainly be tempted to go for the supreme of chicken. I thought this was top to bottom delicious. First off, the chicken was flavoursome, moist, and tender. The sauce it sat in was beautifully creamy, and carried just the right amount of uplifting coriander. The potatoes were soft and deliciously spiced, and the fritter was crisp and sweet.

We were unanimous in our praise for the sides - great chips, lovely green beans with sweet shallots, and fabulous courgettes, which were sweet and sharp with balsamic, salty with parmesan, and lovely and crisp, all while still letting the flavour of the vegetable to come through.

It was a close thing, but the pudding race was won by the tarte tatin, by a short spoon. Soft, sharp apples, sweet toffee sauce, crisp pastry - my goodness. In second place, the brownie. Controversial, perhaps, but I prefer my brownies just a touch dry and crisp, and not too gooey, to maintain a respectful distance between my tongue and my palate, so this one was perfect for me. My brother, having chosen the baked Alaska a little reluctantly, kept digging away at it until we took away his spoon before the bottom of the bowl broke.

I'm not sure what constitutes a meal fit for astronauts - a satellite dish maybe, some rocket lettuce - but this certainly was worthy of record breakers, even without a Guinness.

THE BILL

Two courses and side - £25.50

Main courses

Supreme of chicken, Bombay potatoes, coriander cream, spicy onion fritter

Moroccan spiced rump of lamb, spinach, sweet potatoes, courgette fritters, sunblush tomatoes

Pan-seared sea bream fillets, Donegal crabmeat, bacon and spinach risotto

Sides

Skinny fries

Peppered green beans and shallots

Balsamic and parmesan courgette fritters

Desserts

Apple tarte tatin, vanilla ice cream, toffee sauce

Chocolate orange brownie, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce

Baked Alaska, berry compote

Child's chicken burger and mashed potato - £6.00

Child's ice cream - £3.00

Drinks

Diet Coke x 2 - £6.90

Pinot Grigio, glass - £5.25

Americano - £2.65

Total: £100.30

 Bishop's Gate Hotel, Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin. 

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Food & drink