Food & drink

Eating Out: The Flying Clipper is soaring towards greatness

The Flying Clipper can be found in the North West Regional College. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.
Dominic Kearney

The Flying Clipper,

North West Regional College,

Northland Building,

Asylum Road,

Derry

028 7127 6098

lisa.hannigan@nwrc.ac.uk

facebook.com/flyingclippernwrc

OUT of sight, out of mind. That can be the only explanation. I've been to the Flying Clipper before, but years ago, and it's been almost as long since I've given it another thought.

It was only by chance that I saw a mention of it on Facebook, and I remembered how much I liked it and determined to go again.

The restaurant is staffed by the Hospitality students at the North West Regional College here in Derry, the food cooked and served by those on Level 3 of the Supervisory Management and Professional Cookery courses.

Being on campus, with limited opening hours (Wednesdays 12pm-1.15pm, Thursdays 7pm-8.15pm, term times only), it isn't somewhere you immediately think of when you're planning a meal out. But it should be, because it's pretty fantastic.

And in making that judgment I'm making no allowance for the fact that this was all done by students or for the low cost of the meal. Try as you might, you simply won't find many places serving better food than this.

The opening hours for dinner would have meant too late a bedtime for my daughter, so it was just my brother and me for lunch. (The dinner menu looks terrific by the way, a finer dining experience than the daytime offering).

Although we opted for mains and dessert, an amuse bouche of parsnip soup arrived, courtesy of Jenny, our attentive, knowledgeable server for the meal.

I'd be lying if I said this wasn't the best parsnip soup I've ever had - creamy, smooth, sweet, elevated by the subtle curry oil dribbled on the surface. With the soup came two breads, a soft wheaten and a crusty white roll, flecked with porridge oats for added texture.

Both the soup and the bread say a great deal about this place. Not only were they well-made, but there was thought and an attention to detail that made them special. For the most part, this set the trend for the rest of the meal.

My brother had the pork chop. Cooked well, with a caramelised surface both to add flavour and enhance the taste of the meat, this was excellent, tender and juicy, ably accompanied by a creamy sauce liberally sprinkled with chunks of smoky chorizo.

While the mash could have been smoother and more buttery, the vegetables - carrots, cauliflower, mange tout - were well-cooked, preserving bite and flavour.

My stir fry made for a perfect lunch. Everything was properly and carefully cooked, so the crunch of the vegetables played nicely against the softness of the noodles, and the sauce was light and delicate, in complete contrast to the overly sweet, cloying sauce that so often swamps this dish.

And so to pudding. Only the two on the menu (understandably, the menu is relatively brief) and my brother won the toss and bagsied the Bakewell tart. He let me have a taste, though, and I have to say we disagreed about it. He declared it to be lovely, but I wasn't sure. Inoffensive, certainly, but a bit lacking.

While the rest of the menu showed a balance of textures and subtlety when it came to flavours, I felt the tart underplayed its hand. It lacked punch and there was an absence, too, of contrasting textures.

The same certainly couldn't be said for the meringue nest. I'd somewhat reluctantly ordered it, but I couldn't have been happier. Sweet meringue, that cracked delightfully, a gentle, creamy mousse, and tumbling over with red berries, blackcurrants and raspberries, deliciously tart, sharp and full of zing.

When a two course lunch costs £8, it's tempting to focus on how cheap it is. Certainly, the price is worth more than a passing mention, but the real focus should be on the quality of the food, presentation and service, most of which are, or at least close to outstanding.

Given it's not a 'proper' restaurant, the best way to book is by contacting the course leader by email, although she responds to Facebook messages when she gets the chance.

And use the Asylum Road entrance, rather than walk through about five buildings, like we did.

And you should go. The Flying Clipper might be off Asylum Road, but you'd be mad not to.

THE BILL

Mains

Griddled pork chop, chorizo cream

Oriental vegetable stir fry and noodles

Desserts

Bakewell tart

Meringue nest with mixed berry mousse

Two courses - £8.00 each

Total: £16.00

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