Drudging through a cold, rainy Belfast on a Monday evening in late January, I could be forgiven for turning on my heels and heading for the warmth of my fire at home. But no, this was a restaurant I simply had to visit. I had heard so many great things from friends and colleagues. So I braved the sideways rain and pushed on through. I walk past The John Hewitt and I soon arrive at my destination. The frontage is an industrial dark grey with burnt orange angular window awnings jutting out, is if to say “come on in, we are open!”
Slap bang in the heart of Belfast’s ‘Temple Bar-like’ Cathedral quarter, on a corner site at the top of a cobbled entry, leading to probably this area’s most famous bar, “the Duke”. The restaurant is long and narrow, with the open bar/kitchen in the middle, splitting the restaurant into two parts. The minimal design appeals to me, and simple table ‘accoutrements’ and unfussy menus, made me feel at ease right away.
I was there to try out Hadski’s new fortnightly ‘Wine Mondays’ concept, where at each event, diners will be treated to a 3 course meal, accompanied by 3 specially chosen wines, that both compliment the food and represented the chosen theme. My theme was South America. To quote their website “ South America – What’s sizzling about South America? The menu was very understated, which I like.
Whilst understated, staff were on hand to give more information on the dishes. William (manager) was very keen to point out though that he didn’t want to overdo the chat with the customers, and was careful to give enough information to satisfy the detail-hungry diners like me, while at the same time not invading on diner’s private time. He explained that their whole ‘raison d’etre’ was to bring a high quality, innovative and casual dining experience to the masses.
The menu on the night read as follows:
Starter – Sea bass & Crab Ceviche
Wine – Santa Ana Eco Torrontes Mendoza, Argentina
Main – Beef & Fried Green Peppers
Wine – El Delirio Reserva Syrah/Malbec, Maule Valley,. Chile
Dessert – Milk Pudding & Passion Fruit
Wine – Luigi Bosca Gewurtztraminer ‘Granos Nobles’ Mendoza, Argentina
I am sure there was a veggie option… But I didn’t need it.
Upon entering, I am immediately greeted by William, a familiar face (and fellow Arsenal fan), sporting a mint green jumper. I’m sorry William but “No, no and no!”. Mint green should only be reserved for ice cream. I am not a fashion critic, but I can safely say that it was not his best look. I knew, however, in respect of service, I was now in very safe hands.
I was immediately given a simple paper menu, and a brief description of the origin of the dishes and wines. I was ready to go, so they sent the first course-a pan roasted fillet of sea bass with a crab meat quenelle and ceviche sauce dressing (red bell pepper based sauce originating from Mexico) along with the accompanying wine - Santa Ana Eco Torrontes Mendoza, Argentina. The wine was pleasant with typical floral bouquet with lemon zest and a dry, lemony palate. The alcohol was a touch over dominant on the finish. While was not overly unpleasant, it just was a little strong for such a delicate wine. Torrontes is a very pleasant grape that typically gives a light, refreshing wine with Muscat-like qualities and can be lovely alternative to other lighter wines such as Pinot Grigio.
The second course arrived – Char-grilled pieces of Rib Eye steak sautéed with green bell peppers, mushrooms, potatoes and onion. The dish did not look that appetising at first to be perfectly honest, but I can happily say that once I cut into my first chunk of Rib-eye, I was in juicy, sweet, textured, beefy heaven. YES! This was how to perfectly handle a piece of beef. Nice charring on the skin, perfect ‘cuisson’, and just the right amount of seasoning. The rest of the dish was sadly left in its wake.
The other accompaniments were well cooked and seasoned, but the meat just wanted to left alone. I am definitely returning for my next beef fix! The wine was the El Delirio Reserva Syrah/Malbec, Maule Valley, Chile. A great depth of colour to this wine and bright as a button. My glass glinted like one of those ’70s black hi-gloss coffee tables. The wines bouquet was very fruit forward with bags of yummy bramble fruit flavours and some nice sweet and savoury spice notes. Good start! The palate, well…, was a little “meh”. Lots of fruit, and similar spice notes as anticipated, but it lacked a backbone.
The wines flavours swashed agreeably around my tongue, but without ever hitting the middle of the tongue. The part that I like to call ‘the sweet spot’. This is what I always look for in a wine, as it shows balance. It doesn’t mean the wine is not good but it just left me wanting more. The steak needed a bit of tannin and structure to balance its soft, sweetness, that’s all. Still a very nice wine that would easily be enjoyed without food.
The dessert then arrived, and at first glance I thought I was looking at a bread and butter pudding with custard, apart from the curiously placed ball of Passion fruit sorbet? I immediately thought of my dad, who makes an amazing Bread & Butter pudding. Speaking later with the owner Niall McKenna, he explained that the presentation style was meant to evoke those memories of home cooked puddings and feelings of comfort. Well it worked on me alright. In fact it was something else completely. A milk pudding with its origins in Peru. A sort of baked soufflé with a crispy crust. The ingredients list read like a ‘Do Not Eat’ list in a Slimming World booklet – condensed milk, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs.
The key thing about the dessert was the dense texture, balanced by the crunchy outer layer. Really clever! Now, back to the intruder i.e. passion fruit sorbet. At first, I was like “Creamy, milky SWEET dessert, with tart sorbet?” “No thank you very much!” However I have to admit that it kinda worked? I liked it, even though I wasn’t meant to in my eyes. The whole thing was a triumph. The wine was a Luigi Bosca Gewurtztraminer ‘Granos Nobles’ Mendoza, Argentina. Now it is always very hard to pair a sticky, sweet dessert with an equally sticky, sweet dessert wine, but this definitely worked. This late harvest Gewurtztraminer (pronounced ‘gee-vurts-traminer’) was sweet yet delicate and ‘bizarrely’ helped the passion fruit sorbet blend into the dish. The fragrant bouquet of the Gewurtz’ just matched that sorbet perfectly. Very good.
Overall, I was very impressed by the restaurant and its ideology – Casual, quality, simple.
The Wine Monday concept is admirable and shows at least that these guys are trying to mix things up. I would like to see them put a little more emphasis on the wines though. After all it is ‘Wine Mondays’ Rather than doing something every 2 weeks, perhaps do it once a month and really make a thing of it. Try and better get that information across about all things wine. Maybe a little take away wine info sheet on the wines as well as general wine and food matching tips for the home? Just a thought? I strongly urge you to check out Hadskis and in particular Wine Mondays for a relaxed, enjoyable and informative evening.
The Wine Guy dined as a guest of Hadski’s.Hadski’s
33 Donegal Street, Belfast
Tel: (028) 9032 5444