The menu: Belfast’s Ox ticked everything in my box

Just weeks ago, The Menu remedied a grave ill of his own contrivance and returned to Belfast after an absence of two decades and more. 

The menu: Belfast’s Ox ticked everything in my box

The lure was not the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland, the shrine to the Belfast-built ‘ship that couldn’t be sunk’, but rather the recently opened Ox Cave wine bar immediately adjacent to it’s Lagan-side sibling, Ox restaurant, where he enjoyed one of the finest meals he has ever had on this island. Proprietors, chef Stephen Toman and sommelier Alain Kerloc’h, first met while working in the Michelin three-starred L’Arpege in Paris, where chef Alain Passard stunned the food world by dropping meat entirely from his menus in 2001. It has since returned but its provenance is strictly monitored, its place in the grand scheme of things infinitely more subservient to the mighty vegetable, just as it is in Ox. The Menu was especially entranced by a succulent hay-baked celeriac with onion and black garlic puree, the class of dish to sway even Hannibal Lecter himself into embracing the epicurean merits of total vegetarianism. www.oxbelfast.com

Bites in Bantry

More power to top charcutier Frank Krawczyk’s elbow as his ongoing revival of a previously rather moribund West Cork Slow Food Convivium continues apace with Organico Cooks the Books (Dec 10), in Organico Café, Bantry, where three Irish Dames des Lettres Culinaires, Sally McKenna, Giana Ferguson and Karen Austin, deliver brief talks to an audience wining and dining on bites derived from this Holy Trinity’s respective and very wonderful cookbooks. organicobantry@gmail.com , or tel. 027 55905 ( www.slowfoodireland.ie )

Tidings of tippling

The Menu, most fond of a drop of the craythur, was intrigued to hear tell of Jameson Caskmates whiskey, limited to just 3,500 bottles. Having loaned the Franciscan Well brewery whiskey casks to age a fine ‘Jameson Stout’, the Midleton-based distillers subsequently retrieved the barrels to season a small batch of their own triple-distilled Jameson Original, an exercise in sustainability, if ever there was one. The resulting ‘drop’, with notes of smoky chocolate and coffee, proved an admirable partner to some Extra Mature Coolea Cheddar ( www.jamesonwhiskey.com ). And, in further tidings of tippling, Dublin’s Marker Hotel have teamed up with cider-makers Orpen’s to create a limited edition spiced Winter Cider to be enjoyed hot or cold or as an extremely versatile addition to any cook’s repertoire. www.themarkerhoteldublin.com  or http://www.orpens.ie

TODAY’S SPECIAL

The Menu’s dentures are not without sweet spots and he has been known, on occasion, to unleash his sybaritic self on a plateful of sinful treats but his preference will always be for good food that combines ‘delicious’ and ‘nutritious’ in equal measure. Note, however, the ‘equal’, for he holds little truck with certain ‘healthy’ options, grim and grueling concoctions conceding nothing to taste save a heavy sprinkling of penance. For example, he has encountered more than a few granolas or mueslis very guilty of same, moisture-leeching gobfuls requiring an eternity to force down the gullet. Lucy’s Granola from O’Donnell’s Bakery is a most honourable exception. The astute hand that assembled this excellent and extensive mix of roasted seeds, grains and nuts employs a sublime alchemy when it comes to sweetening, a perfectly judged blend of vanilla, honey, coconut, mixed spice and a smidgeon of brown sugar. www.odonnellsbakerykillorglin.com

BEER OF THE WEEK by Lesile Williams

Blackstairs Brewing Ruby Red IPA, 5% ABV, 500ml - €3.19

Stockists: Bradleys, No. 21, Matsons, Ardkeen, Petitts SuperValu Wexford, Greenacres, Drinkstore.ie, Baggot St. Wines

Blackstairs Brewing are brewing under contract but plan to open their brewery in Wexford, the Model County, in 2015. Ruby Red IPA is their first release and promises very good things to come.

Dark red colour, lively fruity hop aromas and a smoky rich rounded palate with a distinct spicy character on the finish. There is eatin’ and drinkin’ in this and I suspect it would go very well with a winter stew or perhaps a rich lamb curry.

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