Eating Out: Shipquay Hotel delivers a lively score draw
The Shipquay Hotel
15-17 Shipquay Street,
028 7126 7266
IT was good to be out. The last time I left the house was Saturday November 19, to get in World Cup supplies. The following fortnight was spent in solitary confinement – just me, the TV, my wallchart, and 14 boxes of Tayto variety packs. Fixtures at 10 o’clock, one o’clock, four o’clock, seven o’clock, as a demented Bill Haley might have sung.
With the group stages finally finishing, it was time to rejoin society, although I made sure to book the table at the Shipquay at such a time that I could get back home for the second half of Serbia v Switzerland.
My daughter and I were in town too early to meet my wife, who was coming straight from work, so we took the opportunity to walk the deserted walls. The air was cold, and the moon cloud-smudged, and it felt like winter had at last arrived. From Bishop’s Gate we could see the river of Christmas lights flowing down Shipquay Street.
When we finally arrived at the hotel, the muted tones spoke of sophistication and elegance, a sense reinforced by the reserved decorations and the soft white festive lights placed stylishly around the restaurant. Even though we were dining early, the place was bubbling with Christmas excitement.
We decided against the Christmas menu – there’ll be plenty of time for turkey later in the month – and decided, too, not to have a starter. Nevertheless, we were treated to a dainty cup of the loveliest soup I’ve had in a long time – sweet potato and broccoli – rich, deep, and warming.
Our daughter ordered the cheeseburger and chips. This was good quality beef, nicely seasoned, and was eaten with relish. I had the pork roulade. The prosciutto in which it was wrapped was verging on the crisp, and was nicely salty. The pork itself was a touch on the dry side, but was full of flavour.
The black pudding gave a peppery lift to the dish, cleverly softened by the apple at the heart of the roulade. The port jus gave a rich sweetness, while the apple purée provided sharpness. It’s just a shame there wasn’t enough of either.
Quantity wasn’t an issue where the tempura monkfish was concerned. There was a lot of it, and there was a lot of it to like. The monkfish was meaty and powerful, while the prawn was nicely cooked – a bit of resistance followed by soft and sweet.
The crab cake was full of flavour, beneath a lovely, crisp coating. The dish was by no means perfect, however. The crab cake was too big, for one thing, and the batter on the prawns and monkfish was far too thick to be called tempura.
The sauces – sriracha, lime aioli, and an orange glaze – didn’t work particularly well together. Just the sriracha would have sufficed, especially as fruit and fish is an acquired taste. A lighter touch all round would have made this a better dish.
As the World Cup is on, the sides are worth a mention. The vegetables were okay, but the mash was great, and it was a case of two extremes as far as the puddings were concerned, too.
I was disappointed with my autumn mess. There was nowhere near enough apple, although what there was gave a pleasing combination of sharp and sweet. Nor was there enough meringue: just a few little chunks among far too much cream.
The sticky toffee pudding couldn’t have been more different. It was delicious. The banana flavour was subtle and the sponge was beautifully moist. The sauce was decadently but not overpoweringly sweet, and the whole pudding was perfectly offset by a delightful ice cream.
We enjoyed ourselves, and liked the meal. The staff were friendly and attentive and the atmosphere was brilliant. It wasn’t quite the overwhelming win we’d been hoping for and expecting, though, given how much we’ve liked previous visits. I’d call it a draw, but definitely worth going back for a replay.
Pork fillet roulade - £19.00
Tempura monkfish and king prawns - £23.00
Child’s cheeseburger and chips - £5.00
Buttered mash - £4.00
Seasonal vegetables - £4.00
Banana sticky toffee pudding - £6.00
Autumn Mess - £6.00
Diet Coke x 2 - £5.40