Eating Out: On Cloud 9 and bringing home the bacon
Cloud 9 and Velvet,
18 Main Street,
028 7181 1682,
WHAT would you say is the most beautiful word in the language? Hope? Love? Hard to argue against either of them. Family? Yes, but also no. Money? One for the cynics, but definitely a contender.
But what about this? Bacon. Good, eh? And now try this: bacon-bacon. The competition's starting to warm up, isn't it? And now for the coup de grace: bacon-bacon fries...
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner: bacon-bacon fries. Say it soft, and it sounds just like praying. I doubt Heaney ever wrote anything more evocative, anything that better captured the mighty synthesis of pig and potato.
The reason I mention it is because I saw it a couple of weeks ago on the Cloud 9 menu, tucked away with the other sides as if it was something you could take or leave. On that occasion, I didn't order it, perhaps scared it would disappoint.
But I couldn't shake the thought of them from my head. I'm not saying it kept me awake, but it did give me fitful sleep. I needed those fries. I had to know. So when my wife suggested we pop out for lunch, there was only one place I was willing to go.
And now I know. And they're absolutely delicious - beautiful little chunks of bacon in a thick sea of bacon jam (whatever that is) sitting on top of a smoky paprika mayonnaise and then sitting on top of crisp and soft skin-on fries.
To be honest, the fries here don't need anything else, so the bacon topping is something of an indulgence, but it's a brilliant one that you won't regret.
Oh, yes, I remember now. We ate more than just the fries. My wife had the katsu chicken burger. This was very good. The chicken was moist and full of flavour, the coating was nicely crunchy, and the curry mayonnaise subtle and effective, elevating the meat, not overwhelming it.
I ordered the falafel, and this was really good: bags of flavour and terrific texture. The falafel dish tells you an awful lot about the quality of the food here. The flatbread carried a mild taste of fennel, the beetroot hummus added an earthy sweetness, the aioli was enriched with saffron, and the tzatziki, with mint and cucumber, gave the dish a summery lightness. It was a beautifully balanced plate of food, showing real thought and expertise. It's not all about the bacon.
I was disappointed by the desserts. Or rather, I was disappointed by my family, who ate the desserts without letting me try any of them. We bought some traybakes to take home for later. As is my wont, rather than get anything for myself, I chose something I like for each of the others - my wife, my daughter and my brother.
I then have a bit of each of theirs, allowing me to imagine I don't have a sweet tooth. It's also something in the way of a tithe - a tribute, if you will, to the head of Clan Kearney.
Well, the peasants are revolting. When I came to collect my taxes, I found nothing but crumbs. Well, crumbs and three happy faces, merrily striking a blow to the heart of the patriarchy.
So I returned a second time: on this occasion, however, to the neighbouring bakery, Velvet, part of the Cloud 9 empire. I wanted an ice cream, one flavour in particular.
Some months back, when Velvet opened, it declared itself the north's only stockist of charcoal ice cream. Pretty impressive, eh? Until you think about it, anyway, at which point you aren't at all surprised only one outlet stocks charcoal ice cream.
Still, I wanted some. It's lovely, actually, once you get past the look of it, when your eyes can easily convince your stomach it's about to receive wet, whipped concrete. It tastes just like very good vanilla.
The charcoal is good for your gut, apparently, and my gut needs all the help it can get, especially if I indulge in more of those bacon-bacon fries. And try stopping me.
Katsu chicken burger, fries, curry mayonnaise, onion ring - £11.00
Falafel. fennel flatbread. Beetroot hummus, saffron aioli, mint and cucumber tzatziki - £8.00
Bacon-bacon fries - £5.00
Biscoff doughnut - £2.00
Victoria sandwich - £2.00
Caramel square - £2.50
Charcoal ice cream - £2.95
Coffee – £2.10
Sparkling water - £1.75