Sunday, 2 March 2014
My swimming pal, NCS, picked me up from Belmont GHQ and we motored the short distance to this thriving area of east Belfast.
We hadn't reserved any restaurant table in advance, because this was not pre-planned; though we've been attempting to dine at Graze for ages. It's interminably filled to the rafters every weekend, judging by the "bums-on-seats".
Nevertheless, I ventured in to this buzzing little establishment and enquired if they had a table.
It transpired that, predictably, Graze was full; moreover, they had a waiting-list for three weeks on Saturdays, according to the waiter.
Undaunted, we crossed the Newtownards Road Upper and darkened the threshold of Il Parata.
It was heaving, too. No joy there.
Onwards, then, to an old favourite, viz. Acapulco, where the amicable staff greeted us, though advised that they, too, were fully booked.
It was about eight o'clock.
Our fourth attempt was Neill's Hill, close to the corner of Sandown road. In its former existence, this was the celebrated Alden's restaurant.
Indeed, they had a table. It's probably the largest restaurant in "the village".
When we entered, I immediately recognized an old colonel in his distinctive chalk-stripe, who also happens to be a "DL".
So we finally sat down and attached the nose-bags at about eight-twenty.
Neill's Hill was busy, too, by the way.
We ordered the mixed breads with various dips as a starter. This was good enough, though I still have a preference for good old butter with my bread, even with the dips ~ a personal preference, it must be said.
We both had the sea bass with little potatoes, crab-meat and mange tout. As a side order, we chose button mushrooms.
NCS was not keen on this course at all. He asked a waitress about what transpired to be the crab-meat and, I admit, I laughed and couldn't exactly identify it myself.
I found it perfectly acceptable, though perhaps not exceptionally flavoursome.
For pudding I selected the Pear & Almond Pannacotta with hot Pear Fritters. NC had the Cinnamon on Scented White Chocolate brûlée .
We liked our desserts.
Neill's Hill is a different restaurant altogether from the elegant, stylish and modern Alden's which preceded it.
It takes its name, incidentally, from the old railway station which used to be at Sandown Road.
The senior staff, however, remain the same. I recognized the former owner of Alden's, and the head waiter.
The bill came to about £60, including two Tanquerays.