Thursday, 14 May 2009

Mourne Seafood Bar

I am not very keen on Bank Street in Belfast. To my mind, it appears shady and insalubrious; the sort of street you'd give a wide berth to, if you happened to be in central Belfast at night.

Nevertheless, I braved it fortuitously today and lunched at the Belfast branch of the Mourne Seafood Bar (MSB). They have an intriguing fishmonger's shop at the window, as you enter.

The MSB has no pretensions to being the Ritz or the Savoy hotel restaurants. The d├ęcor is mainly black; even the waiting staff are dressed in black. Although the MSB is tucked away in Bank Street, it seems popular; especially for those of us who enjoy our mussels and oysters, self excluded.

The staff are friendly and welcoming. I could be seated anywhere I pleased. Without any further ado, I ordered Walter's Smoked Salmon and a glass of sparkling water. It arrived within five minutes.

This meal is technically a starter; though I found it rather substantial. It consisted of smoked salmon; dressed, sliced lettuce; a generous portion of cream cheese with chives; a ramekin of sliced gherkins and capers; two slices of buttered wheaten bread; and a lemon wedge.

I enjoyed it. Like the sea-food bar, it was plain and unpretentious. The wheaten bread was reminiscent of the kind they sell in supermarkets though, thinly sliced and solid (as opposed to crumbly). They ought to take a leaf out of Beatrice Kennedy's book (BK pride themselves - quite rightly - on their home-made wheaten bread which is, incidentally, truly delicious). The calibre of the wheaten bread marred an otherwise good meal.

Had the Mourne Seafood Bar cared to ask, they'd have learned that I enjoyed my meal. The bill was £6.50 for the salmon; and £1.55 for a glass of fizzy water (there was no ice or lemon). I left a 50p tip.


Anonymous said...

As a former restaurant critic for an NI newspaper you definitely have a penchant for this Tim. I've always enjoyed your food reviews, you should go deeper in the topic and and do more! Its thanks to you by the way I enjoy the cinnamon scones at the Bay Tree of a Saturday!


Timothy Belmont said...


I am truly flattered. Thank you. When you suggest going deeper, would that be simply writing more about the experience, providing even more detail; becoming, possibly more observant?

Timothy Belmont said...

Meant to say, Roger, the grub is good at the Bay Tree too!
I did a review of a dinner we had there in January I think.


Anonymous said...

I think so Tim, let the reader absorb the experience through you. What did you think as you entered? What impressed you, what didnt, presentation, service etc..

Good luck!


Unknown said...

Having lived in Boston for a decade before arriving here 15 years ago, I pretty much gave up any hope of finding decent seafood here, after so many disappointing dining experiences. I'm astonished by the fact that so much good catch here is exported to the Continent.

Somehow, Mourne Seafood Bar passed me by, partially because of its peculiar location, as you've pointed out. But one evening Madame Oui invited me out with a couple of her workmates.

This former New Englander can attest that the cuisine at the Mourne Seafood Bar is the best you can get this side of the Atlantic!

My meal started with a bowl of clam chowder. NI cooks have some aversion to one of its main ingredients, potatoes! Not MSB. And good and creamy too.

Main course was fish of some type (memory fails). But it was cooked and served to high standard.

Yet another test for this Yank is cheesecake. I'd love to pass some law here that forbids calling it cheesecake if there's no cream cheese in it! Almost always "cheesecake" is nothing more than mousse on a graham pie base thrown in the fridge. Sorry, but cheesecake contains cream cheese (and sour cream if you're being truly authentic), is BAKED in an oven, then set to cool.

So imagine my delight when the lemon cheesecake I ordered at MSB was just perfect. I really didn't think anyone in NI could pull this off, because lemon and cream cheese is even a little trickier. But it was superb.

I had to pay compliments to our waitress, who had some obvious experience. She explained that the owner was inspired by Legal Sea Foods in Boston (yes, my favourite seafood restaurant in the world), and authenticity is a point of theirs.

You're making me realise it's been too long since we've dined there!

Timothy Belmont said...

Hi Mr Ulster!

Good to hear from you. That was a fine tribute the the MSB. You seem to appreciate seafood a bit more than me; I'm afraid I merely extend to well-known fish, no bones or shells, and the taste of the fish has to be mild!