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TAYLOR & CLAY

@THE BULLITT HOTEL

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40a Church Lane, Belfast Tel: +44 (0)2895 900 600

When the memorably monikered Bullitt Hotel opened its doors in the heart of Belfast late last year, it did so with all guns blazing. Taking inspiratio­n from the stylish Steve McQueen movie, this ultra-modern, slightly quirky hostelry has already captured the imaginatio­ns (and wallets) of many punters, despite being its newcomer status. I recently left the hordes of weary Christmas shoppers to do their thing, while I relaxed in Bullitt's suitably swish restaurant, Taylor & Clay.

Taking up a perch facing their signature Asador Grill – a large, wood-fired open pit, which is hugely popular in high-end eateries in mainland Europe at the moment – I wanted to find out if the restaurant had the substance to back up the considerab­le style.

I chose the Burrata (£6.50) to start, while my friend went for the Smoked Duck & Pomegranat­e (£6.50). Sourced from Toonsbridg­e. Cork, my dish was a mozzarella shell with a cream filling, served with confit cherry tomatoes, dates soused in sherry vinegar and dukkah (a north African blend of crushed nuts and spices). It wass very tasty, the mozarella oozing from its case. My companion’s duck, cured and smoked in-house, came with radicchio, beetroot and orange. It was big on flavour and the colours were impressive. We just wished there was a bit more of it!

There's no hanging around here: our main courses arrived sharpish. I went for the Tomahawk Pork Chop (£16.50) while my friend picked the Hannan’s Salt Aged 8oz Rib-Eye (£26). Cured overnight in a maple and mustard brine and finished on the grill, the Pork was served with greens, roasted roots, peas and a quince and walnut sauce. That fruity touch was a winner. Dry-aged in a Himalayan salt chamber for a minimum of 28 days, the Ribeye was one of the finest I’ve ever sampled. I nicked as much as I could from my companion's plate till I was threatened with being decapitate­d.

Although we were (festively) plump from the first two courses, we had just about enough room for dessert. We shared a Spiced Sticky Toffee Cheesecake, with vanilla ice cream and miso butterscot­ch sauce (£5.50). That put the proverbial cherry on top of a fine evening's repast. Believe the hype. This exciting new restaurant is fast becoming an old friend for the foodies of Belfast.

EDWIN McFEE

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