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Review: Michelin Takeover at The Barking Dog (Belfast Restaurant Week)

Not one but TWO reader reviews today for all our lovely Forkers. The delightful (and now dreadfully hungover) Mr James Elliott took on all 7 courses of deliciousness at Michelin Monday. Barking Mad. Dog’s Dinner. Here are his hazily recollected memories…

“It was only a couple of weeks ago that the 2014 Michelin guide launched, confirming culinary Belfast as a star-free zone yet again.

Now, whether you find this a cause for concern or not depends mostly on your preference for art over the artisan.

Me? Not so much. I’m a fan of the great ingredient, simply cooked, no faffing.

But – when a Michelin-starred chef rocks up to yer friendly local neighbourhood bistro for the evening to show off his skills, well, you’re gonna give it a go, aren’t you?

Richard Allen was the chef in question, from Tassili in Jersey (home of the royal spud. And Bergerac, the detective whose name sounds like an under-used seasoning. Jersey is clearly a foodie paradise).

The Barking Dog was the just-around-the-corner restaurant.

Belfast Restaurant Week was the reason.

And anyway, what else are you going to do on Monday night? Monday is the new Saturday after all, or so I’m told by Twitter.

(Disclaimer: It’s really not kids. I’m writing this the morning after and it’s not pretty. Monday is not as big and clever as it likes to think it is…)

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Anyway, here we all were, forty lucky school-night refuseniks, prepared to take on a seven course tasting menu with matching wines. Seated at communal tables, with champagne in hand, convivial, excited chatter soon spread as to what we could expect.

The menu read temptingly, with promise of 100% chocolate pine nut butter, vinegar jelly and pork popcorn. This was certainly going to be a cut above.

A ‘BLT’ was first up, the L in this case standing for lobster. I can assure you that all BLTs should henceforth be required to replace their limp leaf of lettuce with a hefty hunk of crustacean. Tremendous.

Following on swiftly was a beautiful sea bass dish, presented as fillet, tempura and sashimi, although no one at our table was quite sure where the sashimi was…

A finger of foie gras parfait was next, with smoked duck, chamomile and ximénez vinegar jelly and a fantastic gingerbready crisp. Luscious.

The least successful course of the night for me was the lemon sole with crab and saffron. Wittily presented, with the sole resembling a scallop, but just too delicately flavoured to succeed.

Between each course generous glasses of matching wines were poured. And poured again. And topped up, just in case.

What I’m saying is; there was a lot of wine. Very, very good wine.

My recollections from here on in, are, therefore, based more on conjecture and guesswork, than actual memory.

There was pig. I’m sure there was pig. Belly, cheek and ‘popcorn’. Meat and fat melting deliciously into apple tapioca and chorizo puree.

There were desserts. At least two of them. I hazily remember doughnuts, gingerbread, rhubarb and blackberries… Coffee, acres of chat, topped up glasses, high spirits all round… And then upstairs to check out the Barking Dog’s seductive new bar and frankly dangerous cocktail list. Phew!

So, what to make of this Michelin Monday malarky? Well, it was smashing.

Even someone like me who prefers their food rustic and simply prepared, couldn’t fail to be wowed by the art and ingenuity that went into the creation and execution of this menu. That it was carried out so well, in an unfamiliar kitchen, with unfamiliar staff, only adds to the achievement.

As for the Takeover – this is an utterly splendid idea, one that begs to be rolled out more regularly, like some kinda Noel Edmonds’ Multi-Coloured Chef Swap.

We could have Heston in Harlem, Coppi versus l’Enclume or even Sat Bains in Boojum! Who’s up for it?”

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