06/02/2019

Restaurant Review - The Ivory Belfast

To be in one's 'Ivory Tower' is to dwell in ignorance or want to avoid the ordinary or the unpleasant. Usually this term is a criticism of the escapism or avoidance people crave rather than deal with the mundane or the problems at hand. But, high above the ordinary grey mundane pavements of Belfast, there is a restaurant which exists veiled in the clouds above the Victoria Centre. They are not concerned with what is going on below, not concerned with the mundane menu madness or the unpleasant unconsumable urban offerings served below. But rather, The Ivory Belfast, has created its own fantastic setting for a great night out based on their own vision of what that should be, and it is wonderful.

After dragging my wife through the sales in The House of Fraser we arrived at a terrifically stylish restaurant. The Ivory is a contemporary styled and furnished delight. The setting is wonderfully tasteful an amuse bouche for sight, scent, sound and touch. The ambiance suggests that they are distilling the dining experience to suit the client and not the accounts. It was more about transporting the diner out of the normal into the imagined. As I sat with Miriam, I tried to place The Ivory globally, to see where the inspiration came from. I started to think of all the places across Europe and Asia that I have been and then of places I had only heard of or read of. Then I got it. The Ivory in Belfast removes you not from Belfast but from the routine of life. The Ivory whisks you off to a place where you can forget for the evening. Where you can enjoy the company of friends and loved ones unencumbered with care.

Maggie, our hostess for the evening, met us and helped get us settled in. Her passion for food and knowledge of the menu was invaluable. We both enjoyed her company and conversation the whole evening.
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I just knew this was going to be great. We began by sampling some of the starters on the menu. The first I tried of these, was the whipped Goats cheese, pickled beetroot and apple candied walnuts served with a balsamic reduction and chicory. With special ingredients like these to serve them seemingly so simply, leaves the kitchen with nowhere to hide. This was fresh and earthy beetroot paired with creamy velvet goats cheese and shot through with fantastically candied walnuts. I didn’t want it to end. What an interpretation of what others are serving on the streets below. But as the Ivory is elevated above the streets so was this dish elevated above the usual. I absolutely loved it.

Another starter to look out for is their salmon carpaccio. Served with pickled beetroot, feta cheese, capers and pomegranate seeds in an acidic dressing. This was particularly technical and executed perfectly. The salmon was as thin as gold leaf yet loaded with so much flavour. The balances of all the ingredients was amazing. Each mouthful was filled with each individual taste mixing together in an oral delight yet the star of the dish distinctly the salmon.

We also went with two Lamb starters. Lamb Koftas served with flat breads and grilled courgettes, which was exceptional. And pulled lamb, served in a Bao bun and served with a fantastically fresh salad. Pulled pork yes, pulled lamb yes, yes, yes. The lamb was perfumed and warmed with North West African flavours and spice. Serving this with a South East Asian Bao was inspired. Why this hasn’t been done before I cannot understand. It will get ordered again.

We both went for the same mains. The 10oz aged Ribeye, café de Paris butter, roasted Cherry Tomatoes, watercress and Chips. We also got a side portion of Cous Cous salad.

For me Ribeye steak should be served medium rare, just the way I ordered it and just the way chef presented it. But, Miriam, my wife orders it well done. Sorry but for me that destroys the flavour of the meat. We have this debate every time, how it should be verses how you want it to be. And I am right. When I sank my teeth into the steak, I got all the flavour of the ageing process as it should be, and the Chef seasoned it impeccably to accent this. The chips were great I love chips, but I found myself eating the steak with the incredible Cous Cous salad.

We finished the evening off with a procession of desserts. Lemon sorbet served on a fresh passion fruit. Lemon Meringue and the best vanilla panna cotta I have had in some time. Each of these was exceptional, but the lemon sorbet on passion fruit was stunning, just stunning.

Belfast is full of great restaurants and places to eat out at. But for me with their stylish décor, exceptional food and stunning views over Belfast, The Ivory stands head and shoulders above them all.

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