Ja­mon down to a lit­tle bit of Spain in the heart of Belfast

City cen­tre eatery had rep­u­ta­tion for com­bin­ing Ibe­rian clas­sics with higher-end din­ing even be­fore ar­rival of Miche­lin-starred Danni Barry

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - FOOD - Joris Minne

The pop­u­lar­ity of Span­ish food can be mea­sured by the vast num­bers of food pic­tures posted by hol­i­day­mak­ers on so­cial me­dia. How many more pael­las, tor­tillas, bowls of patatas bravas and gaz­pa­cho, tiny tapas of glis­ten­ing an­chovies, shards of bur­gundy-coloured Iberico ham, creme Cata­lan and chur­ros be­side pots of thick hot choco­late can we take? Loads more! It seems our ap­petite for th­ese is never go­ing to be sated.

Keep them com­ing, be­cause, in fact, Belfast is Span­ish-poor.

When Edo opened in Up­per Queen Street last year, I wasn’t sure if it was in­tend­ing to be a Span­ish restau­rant, or some­thing more broadly Mediter­ranean. Two re­cent re­turn trips this week on the back of chef Danni Barry’s im­pend­ing ar­rival in Edo’s kitchen re­veal that Spain is, in­deed, the main theme and that ad­her­ence to au­then­tic­ity is as strong as the will to make some­thing more of the Ibe­rian reper­toire.

This means that the menu is com­posed of some of the best bits from Span­ish bars, cafes and the higher-end, more for­mal, res­tau­rants.

There are small dishes para picar (tapas to pick at), which fea­ture a range of low-cost to ex­pen­sive mouth­fuls, in­clud­ing sternly rus­tic oven-baked padron pep­pers and juicy, salty man­zanilla olives, ja­mon Iberico, the crown­ing achieve­ment of Span­ish cur­ing skills, and var­i­ous frit­uras such as ham cro­que­tas, soft­shell crab and monk­fish scampi. There is even an am­ple tor­tilla with proper mor­cilla (black pud­ding) and red pep­per.

Th­ese are de­light­ful, par­tic­u­larly as the wines, sourced from Di­rect Wine Ship­ments, are more of­ten than not avail­able by the glass. And we all know that noth­ing beats a plate of thin Iberico ham cuts with a glass of tinto.

But if the lit­tle tapas dishes and small plates are not your thing, you can em­bark on a more tra­di­tional route and en­gage in a starter, main and dessert ap­proach in­stead. Three of us, un­able to de­cide what to do, mixed it up last week­end on a Satur­day lunchtime when the place was jump­ing. Up­per Queen Street has a great buzz at the best of times, thanks to the bus stops and con­stant move­ment of peo­ple. I al­ways en­joy find­ing a place to sit down and re­lax to watch the word go by and Edo pro­vides this. Bet­ter still, the in­te­rior is a plush blue vel­vet sanc­tu­ary, which ap­pears both for­mal and com­fort­able. The kitchen oc­cu­pies an en­tire fourth wall, pro­vid­ing a sec­ond fo­cal point. Ser­vice is quick and city cen­tre slick. It’s also smi­ley and warm. The down­town feel and plush­ness is very ur­ban and Eu­ro­pean, which means there is a too-strong linger fac­tor for peo­ple like me with no self-dis­ci­pline. This win­ter, which prom­ises to be very cold, will be best spent in the likes of Edo.

And the main cour­ses will help you build that in­ner warmth, too. From the Bertha oven (they use turf as well as pear and ap­ple wood) are var­i­ous rus­tic favourites, in­clud­ing chicken thighs (with romesco), BBQ ribs with sweet potato and roasted corn, roast salmon and crushed herb po­ta­toes, beef cheeks, ham hock and lamb ke­babs. The last are out­stand­ing, kofte-like shish, bet­ter than any we had in some very fancy places in Is­tan­bul ear­lier this sum­mer.

The ad­viser has asked for a prawn lin­guini mi­nus the promised chorizo. This is an ex­cel­lent call, be­cause the bal­ance of flavours be­tween the prawns, le­mon and gar­lic and well-judged pasta is un­tar­nished by the heat and noise of chorizo. There is a place for it, but not here.

The teen vege­tar­ian says the burger is top­class, on a par with Sozo’s amaz­ing chick­peaand-bean pat­tie.

There is a choice of sides, in­clud­ing musthave patatas bravas, the best this side of Madrid, and qual­ity skinny fries.

My per­fect meal in Edo on a diet day would fea­ture the Iberico ham, the glass of tinto and then a sec­ond glass of tinto to ac­com­pany the po­lenta cake. This crum­bling yel­low ed­i­fice has an or­ange kick and is joined by a thyme cream, which is frankly as­ton­ish­ing.

What chef Danni Barry is go­ing to bring to the party is some­thing to look for­ward to.

PLUSH: Edo’s in­te­rior is warm and wel­com­ing

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