Monday, 30 May 2011

Countess of Belmont?

A Countess's Coronet, early 20th century, as a gilt metal circlet applied with "jewels", applied with eight strawberry leaves alternating with eight silver plated balls on tall spikes, in-filled with crimson velvet surmounted by a golden tassel, and guarded with ermine, silk lined interior, 13cm high

Are there any females - girls, ladies - out there, who might like to share a drink with me? I know there are, judging by the followers (currently seventy-three).

The Blog is as good a tool as Plenty Of Fish; since presumably, if you are a follower, we must share at least one interest in common.

Get in touch on .

Ormiston Revisited


Ormiston House revisited, or rather the grounds, at least. I met some friends this afternoon and we enjoyed a good stroll round the exterior of the old mansion.

I spent some of my school-days here during the 1970s.

Ormiston is presently (May, 2011) for sale.

I never appreciated its architectural features, including stone cannon, crests, figures and a rampant lion at the apex of the entrance front.

Incidentally, if one enlarges the top image, one shall observe a small spanner placed by a miscreant pupil or work-man atop the right-hand crest! Can you see it?

The grounds are still quite extensive and, together with the House, would be a marvellous opportunity for restoration and change of use to a hotel.

There are stone steps which lead down to the site of the former tennis-court, to the rear of the House.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Liners in Belfast

BBC Northern Ireland has a good story about the number of cruise liners visiting the City of Belfast this summer.

Thirty-three cruise ships are scheduled to bring in more than 58,000 passengers and crew to Belfast over the summer months.

The Crown Princess returned for the first of five visits to Belfast this year, on Friday. More than 950 feet in length, it has nine different restaurants and eateries on board, as well as a spa and fitness centre, three theatres and a film screen.

It brought more than 4,000 visitors and crew with it.

Joe O'Neill, Commercial Director at Belfast Harbour, said the harbour had continued to develop and invest in port facilities, which had "enabled Cruise Belfast to successfully attract an increasing number of cruise liners to the city".

"Belfast has transformed over recent years and Belfast Harbour, as the maritime gateway, continues to play its part in helping the city achieve its full economic potential," he said. "Tourism is a key part of the local economy and Belfast Harbour will do all it can to help the city welcome even more visitors in the future". 

Gerry Lennon from Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau said the 10th visit of the Crown Princess to Belfast since 2008 confirmed investment in tourism over the last decade was "paying dividends in attracting new and repeat cruise ship visits. The cruise market is a global industry and Belfast had to work hard to get recognition in the early days through our Cruise Belfast Initiative in partnership with Belfast Harbour," he said:

"Positive feedback from those first arrivals has seen Belfast quickly establish a reputation as a 'must see' destination. Today we have a highly developed cruise experience and can offer visitors a range of tours and visits around the city and beyond during their stop in Belfast. Last year the cruise sector contributed a significant £15m into the local tourism economy and continues to provide a key role in introducing visitors to Belfast."

Friday, 27 May 2011

Woeful Roads

I cycled into central Belfast this morning, via Mersey Street and the very wide Sydenham Road, which passes the Odyssey complex.

Parking at Fountain Street, I went in to the Linenhall Library in order to undertake a spot of research.

Some - no, many - of Belfast's roads are an utter disgrace: uneven surfaces, pot-holes, sunken trenches; a virtual patch-work quilt of shoddy repairs over decades.

BP (Big Pete) was criticizing Ravenhill Road yesterday.

Mersey Street is a prime example. When one complains to the authority (they call themselves the Roads Service), they often remind you that "inspectors" routinely visit the carriageways. What sort of standards do these people have? I suggest they get on their bikes and try to ride along Mersey Street.

It is spurious and disingenuous to dismiss complaints by claiming that the roads are inspected, to my mind. Quite absurd.

They spent a fortune on paving the city centre and, I noticed today, some utility company has already excavated a big hole at Castle Lane. God help us if the roads disservice sends the same inspector to examine that!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Return Dinner

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were entertained on Wednesday evening at a Dinner given by the President of the United States of America and Mrs Obama at Winfield House, Regent's Park, London.  
Winfield House was built by the famous American socialite Barbara Hutton, dubbed the ‘poor little rich girl’ because of her troubled life, who lived there for a period with her husband Cary Grant.

The 35-room mansion replaced a John Nash building and was named after Hutton’s grandfather Frank Winfield Woolworth, founder of the retail stores.

The guests enjoyed a three-course meal that included:
  • lobster ravioli, 
  • griddled fillet of aged Highland beef, 
  • crushed jersey royals with rosemary, 
  • asparagus and minted broad beans, 
  • pecan pie and brandy ice cream

Dinner at McHugh's

I was in central Belfast tonight, at McHugh's Bar to be precise. I left the Proprietary Belmont Two-Wheeler at Sydenham Halt; took the train to "Central" station; met BP in the lobby; and we walked to McHugh's Bar and Restaurant, at Queen's Square.

We took a pew on the ground floor, where a Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic, and a locally-brewed ale were ordered. Timothy Belmont admired the scenery, viz. the pretty girls adorning the surroundings, most of whom, sadly, were accompanied by their male companions.

Having consumed several rounds, we ascended the stairs to the restaurant upstairs, where the staff were exceedingly attentive and helpful.

We both ordered the "Locally Reared Prime Northern Irish 10 oz Sirloin Steak (£16.95) with slow roasted tomato and a Portabello mushroom", accompanied by side orders of chips and French-fried onions:
 "McHugh's special black rock grilled steaks allow one to finish one's own steak at the table on 430˚ volcanic rock. The volcanic rock intensifies the flavour and provides the most amazing aromas whilst offering a healthier option as no oil or fat is used. Our chefs simply begin the cooking process leaving you to finish your steak at your table exactly to your liking. (Caution: Please do not touch the rock as it is extremely hot.) "

I usually eat fillet steak, though I have to say that the sirloin was tender, lean and flavourful. The three sauces, pepper, Bearnaise and garlic butter, were very good too; as were the home-made onion rings, which were very large.

For pudding, BP had the Apple Crumble Tartlet with Glastry Farm Bramley Apple Ice Cream (£4.25), crisp sweet pastry case filled with spiced stewed apples and buttery crumble; and I had the Dark Chocolate Truffle (£3.95) on a light vanilla sponge, served with Chantilly cream.

On the strength of tonight's meal I'd recommend McHugh's restaurant.

Thence we walked past the Albert Clock, along High Street, up Skipper Street and Hill Street; eventually arriving at the Duke of York, where we had yet another round. This bar was still busy and jolly.

We had to take a taxi home.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Ulster Silversmith

The work of a County Down silversmith will enter the corridors of power when it is given pride of place on the Prime Minister’s desk at Downing Street.

Cara Murphy was commissioned by the Silver Trust to provide the first piece from Northern Ireland in its Downing Street Collection.

The Silver Trust  is a registered charity that promotes the art of British silversmiths.  It was formed in the 1980s with the aim of putting together a collection of the best silver created by local artists, which would be loaned to government houses such as 10 Downing Street.

The desk set, called Contour, has taken three years to manufacture and has already been to the UK mainland eight times to undergo various processes including hallmarking, polishing and engraving.

“I am very honoured and excited at the thought of having a piece that will be used daily by the Prime Minister,” said Cara who is Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.

She presented her creation to Rupert Hambro, chairman of trustees of The Silver Trust, at a reception at Hillsborough Castle on the 23rd of May.

This exquisite work of art uses a combination of sterling silver, Wenge wood and enamel to bring a little bit of the beauty of Northern Ireland to the PM’s desk.

Cara, who is an Associate Lecturer at the University of Ulster, grew up in an artistic household: Her father, Michael McCrory, is also a silversmith; while her mother Deirdre is a print maker and enamel artist.

Her family was instrumental in the making of The Silver Trust piece, with Michael providing his experience and Deirdre working hand in hand with Cara to create the perfect colours for the enamel work.

“The Trust chose Cara because her work is so different. We liked that she uses silver with wood and enamel and this is such a new way to present a piece. We asked her to produce a desk set for the Prime Minister because we felt it would remind him of the work of UK silversmiths on a daily basis,” explained Christopher English OBE, secretary to the Trustees of The Silver Trust.

The Trust specified that the piece needed four elements – a blotter, a space to hold note paper, a pen holder and an area for a clock and little trays to hold paper clips and other small items.

“When I first got the commission, I had to envision what the desk looked like and how the Prime Minister would use the set.  After many drawings, models and sleepless nights I came up with the final design. It is striking but not overpowering and has the ability to be manipulated and changed by the Prime Minister,” she said.

The set features a classic rectangular silver tray with four beautiful pieces of Wenge wood from Hillsborough furniture maker Jeremy Suffern. Each of these blocks of wood can be moved so the Prime Minister can change the structure to suit individual tastes.

Each of the four elements was inspired by nature and the landscape. “I got the idea for the pen holder as I was driving around the countryside and saw all the furrows in the fields covered in plastic sheets. I thought the plastic sheets glistening in the sunshine looked like silver strips and this was the perfect shape for the pen holder,” she said.

The clock features an enamel face with gold plated hands and the little bowls that will be used for paper clips are in different shades of green. The outside of the bowls has been hammered and the inside dented with a special tool so that when the enamel was applied it catches and reflects the light beautifully.

The blotter represents growth featuring seeds springing forth and is an elegant item incorporating silver and enamel seed heads that are functional and easy to hold.

Speaking at the event, the Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “Cara’s desk set is the first piece by a Northern Ireland artist to enter the Silver Trust’s prestigious Downing Street Silver Collection.  This important commission reinforces Cara’s position as one of the UK’s leading contemporary silversmiths and raises her profile at a national and international level.”

Sugar, You're Dismissed!

Has anyone grown tired of the Apprentice, the BBC reality television series? I know I have. I used to enjoy it and viewed the first and second series, when it began on BBC Two.

The Lord Sugar, as he now calls himself, irritates me every time I see him; especially the pomposity and arrogance when he climbs out of that monstrous black Rolls-Royce.

Of course one  must admire the man for his commercial prowess and acumen.

I also miss the excellent Margaret Mountford, originally from Northern Ireland.

State Banquet

I've had a look at the guest list for the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace on the 24th May, in honour of the President of the United States and Mrs Obama.

In the picture above, Her Majesty wears the Garter Star and sash; as does Prince Philip, who also wears the Breast Star of the Thistle, the Neck Badge of the Order of Merit and miniature Decorations.

The only two guests from Northern Ireland - correct me if I'm wrong - were the Viscount and Viscountess Brookeborough, of Colebrooke Park in County Fermanagh.

Lord Brookeborough is a Lord-in-Waiting to Her Majesty.

Despite the hasty change to their planned schedule, Mr and Mrs Obama were still given the formal welcome expected of a state visit when they touched down at Stansted Airport on the 23rd May. They were greeted by Lord Brookeborough, who met them on behalf of the Queen.

I have been subjective and selective, though the List included:
  • The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, 
  • The Duke of York, 
  • The Earl and Countess of Wessex, 
  • The Princess Royal and Vice-Admiral Timothy Laurence, 
  • The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, 
  • The Duke of Kent, 
  • Prince and Princess Michael of Kent 
  • Princess Alexandra, the Hon. Lady Ogilvy
  • The Lady Elton (Lady in Waiting), 
  • the Viscount Brookeborough (Lord in Waiting) and the Viscountess Brookeborough, 
  • Sir Nigel Sheinwald (HM Ambassador) and Lady Sheinwald, 
  • Major Dan Rex (Equerry in Waiting)
  • The Lord Chancellor (the Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke MP) and Mrs. Clarke, 
  • The Prime Minister and Mrs. Cameron, 
  • The Rt. Hon. Nicholas Clegg MP and Ms. Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, 
  • The Leader of the House of Lords (the Lord Strathclyde) and the Lady Strathclyde, 
  • The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Mrs. Hague, 
  • The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Mrs. Cable 
  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mrs. Osborne
  • The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs. Williams, 
  • The Speaker of the House of Commons and Mrs. Bercow, 
  • The Rt. Hon. the Lord Speaker and Mr. Martin Hayman, 
  • The President of the Supreme Court and the Lady Phillips of Worth Matravers, 
  • The Lord Great Chamberlain and the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, 
  • The Earl and Countess of Airlie
  • The Lord Coe and Miss Carole Annett, 
  • The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major and Dame Norma Major 
  • The Rt. Hon. the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress, 
  • General Sir David and Lady Richards, 
  • Sir Augustine and Lady O'Donnell,
  • Sir Paul and Lady Nurse, 
  • Sir Richard and Lady Branson, 
  • Sir Martin and Lady Sorrell, 
  • Sir Christopher and Lady Gent, 
  • Sir David and Lady Brewer, 
  • Sir Ian and Lady McAllister, 
  • Sir Paul and Lady Stephenson, 
  • The Mayor of London (Mr. Boris Johnson) and Mrs. Marina Wheeler, 
  • Mr. Mervyn King and Mrs. Barbara Melander-King, 
  • Mr. Tim Burton and Ms. Helena Bonham-Carter,
  • Mr. Kevin Spacey,

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Presidential Meeting

Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chat with the President of the United States and Mrs Obama at Buckingham Palace.

Incidentally, I'm proud to have a cousin once removed who is a retired rear-admiral and Advocate-General in the US Navy.

The Wolsey Empire

The BBC and the Belfast Telegraph both report that County Down's Wen Inns, a part of MAR Properties, has been put into administration.

Wen Inns controlled fifteen premises, including the Hillside in Hillsborough, the Portaferry Hotel, Lisbarnett House near Comber and The Esplanade in Bangor. The pubs are continuing to trade.

The Belfast Telegraph has reported that Mr Bill Wolsey's Beannchor group is running them on behalf of the administrator with a view to buying some of them.

MAR Properties, set up by Adam Armstrong, Bill Rush and Noel Murphy in 1997 and now heavily indebted to banks including Bank of Scotland (Ireland).

Wolsey’s pub group Beannchor has started running 15 of MAR’s pubs across Co Down on behalf of the administrators and is set to buy them outright.

Six pubs were sold to MAR for £12.5m in 2006 — but it’s understood Beannchor will buy 15 for no more than £10m, leaving it with 50 venues in its portfolio.

The deal has taken place against a backdrop of severe difficulties for the pub trade but Wolsey denied his growing empire demonstrated a ‘Midas touch’:
“We think long and hard about what market we are aiming for and how we can give that market value for money and invest in the properties. When we invest in property most people like the design.”

Beannchor plans to renovate the Portaferry Hotel. Wolsey said: 
“It has the potential to become a great getaway place and Strangford Lough really is one of [Northern] Ireland’s best-kept secrets.
“It looks attractive and I don’t like buying buildings that aren’t attractive and that’s the first thing that’s got to attract me.”

He will also carry out renovations to the Hillside pub and restaurant. “We want to restore it to what it really is — a lovely old historical building.”

It is most gratifying, in Timothy Belmont's opinion, that we have an entrepreneur who values and cherishes heritage and historic buildings; and who wishes to restore them.

Beannchor has built up a chain of four pizzerias, and hopes to open a fifth Little Wing soon — the only area Wolsey expects to grow after the acquisitions.

The jewel in the crown of Beannchor — the Irish Gaelic word for Bangor — is the Merchant Hotel in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. Clearly Wolsey relishes the use of the Irish language.

Beannchor bought the old Ulster Bank in Waring Street for £1.3m, spent £10m on doing it up and opened for business in 2006.

Last year it opened the hotel’s extension at a cost of £16.5m funded by Ulster Bank to be repaid over 10 years.

Beannchor also has plans for a four star, 68-bedroomed hotel in the old National Bank building on High Street in Belfast, and a pub and cultural centre called The Dirty Onion on Waring Street.

Perhaps there is an irony there: Wolsey's hotels are more profitable than their former banking premises!

Read more:

Monday, 23 May 2011

US State Visit

 24-26th MAY, 2011

The President of the United States will pay a State Visit to the United Kingdom at the invitation of Her Majesty The Queen. The President will be accompanied by Mrs Obama and will stay at Buckingham Palace.

Tuesday 24 May

Morning - The President and Mrs. Obama arrive.
Evening – State Banquet at Buckingham Palace. Speeches from The Queen and President Obama.

Wednesday 25 May

Morning and afternoon - President Obama visits 10 Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster.

Evening – The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh attend a dinner given by The President and Mrs Obama at the US Ambassador’s residence in London, Winfield House, Regents Park; Her Majesty and His Royal Highness bid farewell to President and Mrs. Obama.

Thursday 26 May

Morning - The President and Mrs Obama depart Buckingham Palace.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

To Buckingham Palace


I know it sounds old-fashioned and, perhaps, stuffy; and yet I have the honour to remain Her Majesty's most humble and obedient servant.

Many congratulations, Ma'am, on your successful  State Visit to the Republic of Ireland, which Your Majesty handled so graciously and with great generosity of spirit. Clearly the vast majority of the Irish people were cordially delighted to see you.

The support of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, remained steadfast, as ever.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Irish State Visit: IV




The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh this morning visited St. Patrick's Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, and were received by Dr. Eugene Keane (Historian, Office of Public Works).

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness, escorted by Dr. Keane, toured the Cathedral ruins and the Medieval Hall and met members of staff and local residents.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh this afternoon visited the English Market, Cork, County Cork, and were received by the Lord Mayor of Cork (Councillor Michael O'Connell).

Her Majesty, escorted by the Lord Mayor, and His Royal Highness, escorted by Mr. Simon Coveney (Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine), toured the Market, viewing stalls and meeting traders and local residents.

The Queen unveiled a plaque to mark the visit.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh later visited Tyndall National Institute, Lee Maltings, Dyke Parade, Cork, and were received by the Chief Executive Officer (Professor Roger Whatmore) and Mr. Michael Murphy (President of University College Cork).

Her Majesty, escorted by the Chief Executive, and His Royal Highness, escorted by Mr. Murphy, toured the building, viewing scientific research and meeting members of staff and students and representatives from the local community.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh this afternoon departed from Cork Airport for the United Kingdom and were received later on arrival at Royal Air Force Northolt by the Earl Peel (Lord Chamberlain).

Where's Blair?

I wondered when somebody was going to spot that, as Captain Mainwaring used to say.. Keeping you all on your toes!  Sorry, I'm as fallible as God-knows-who.

I have deleted the erroneous article and apologize to any potential buyers who may have been misled (!).

Bushmills Inn Lunch

I've spent the afternoon at the Bushmills Inn hotel, enjoying an extended lunch with some good pals. We had a splendid chin-wag, accompanied by a carafe of white wine and several Tanquerays.

Timothy Belmont finds it astounding that the bar staff had not heard of the classic Brandy Alexander cocktails, which Amanda had requested. They even asked us what the ingredients were and noted them down (heaven knows why). Sack the head bar-man!

I actually think they'll need to pull their socks up.

Mandy had the pate, while Robert and I ate the prawns for hors d'œuvre;  Our main course consisted of a cheese and ham salad for Mandy; Robert had pork (which was untrimmed and had a thick fatty rind thereon; while I once again donned the feed-bag for the venison burger with chutney and chips: A plain burger with a toasted bap roll, chips, and very small garnish and relish.

For pudding Mandy had the rhubarb compote; and I ravished the sticky toffee pudding with whipped cream.

We didn't vacate the premises till four-thirty. Mandy and Richard, if you are reading this, thank you both so much for an occasion I'll always remember.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Encore Ramore!

I forgot that they don't have wi-fi access at Ramore Wine Bar in Portrush, County Antrim. I had the netbook with me and, having attempted to obtain a connection, asked a member of staff: "sorry, no".

Still, I took a photo of the chilli beef fillet with shredded lettuce, mayonnaise and pitta bread.

I was shown Table 30 immediately, though the restaurant was busy, just short of crowded, what with the North West 200 being this weekend.

Service was very swift, too: It arrived before I'd even taken my jumper off! Super-fast.

It was delicious: very tender strips of beef in a chilli sauce. So simple. I could have ordered some vegetable as a side dish. However, I'm indulging sufficiently whilst in the vicinity. I washed it all down with a small 50-50 shandy.

Good old Ramore! Evergreen and invariably fun.

Seaport Stroll

Seaport Lodge, Portballintrae, County Antrim; originally the maritime residence (holiday home!) of the Leslies of Leslie Hill.

The picture shows us its present condition. Work appears to have come to a stand-still, for the time being at least.

Irish State Visit: III




The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh this morning visited Irish National Stud, Tully, Kildare, and were received by the Chairman of the Board (Lady O'Reilly) and Mr. John Osbourne (Chief Executive).
Her Majesty, escorted by the Chairman of the Board, and His Royal Highness, escorted by the Chief Executive, toured the Stud and met students, jockeys and trainers.
The Queen unveiled a statue to mark the visit.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh this evening attended a Reception given by Her Majesty's Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland(His Excellency Mr. Julian King CMG) at the Convention Centre Dublin, Spencer Dock, Dublin, and were received by Her Majesty's Ambassador and Mr. Dermod Dwyer (Chairman, the Convention Centre Dublin).
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness viewed a British Irish fashion display.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh afterwards viewed a variety performance.
The Duke of Edinburgh, Founder and Patron, The Duke of Edinburgh's Award International Association, this afternoon received young people who have achieved the Gold, Silver and Bronze Standards in Gaisce - the President's Award, at Farmleigh.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Good Game


Once again the noble earl has donned the ancient feed-bag. I rather like the new Distiller's Arms Tartine restaurant  in Bushmills, County Antrim. I find the grub good. I was here about a month ago and determined that I'd return for some game.

Having had a Tanqueray snifter, I ordered the guinea fowl, mash, buttered greens and asparagus tips. And I was not disappointed. The guinea fowl is served on the bone. I found it not unlike chicken in flavour and texture.

I had some room for pudding, so Bushmills Cranachan was the order of the day, consisting of crushed meringue, toasted oats, wild berries, honey ice-cream and Bushmills whiskey.

I'm expecting to meet some pals for a boozy lunch at the Bushmills Inn tomorrow.

Irish State Visit: II



the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh this morning visited Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, and were received by Mr. John Kennedy (Managing Director, Diageo Ireland), Mr. Paul Carty (Managing Director, Guinness Storehouse) and the Lord Mayor of Dublin (Councillor Gerry Breen).
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness toured the Storehouse and met members of staff and local residents.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh afterwards visited Government Buildings, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin, and were received by Mr. Enda Kenny, Mr. Eamon Gilmore, Mr. Sean Barrett  and Senator Pat Moylan. 
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness, with The Irish President, later visited Irish National War Memorial Park, Islandbridge, Dublin, and were received by Mr. Michael Noonan (Minister for Finance).
The Queen laid a wreath
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh this afternoon visited Croke Park, Dublin, and were received by the President of Gaelic Athletic Association (Mr. Christy Cooney) and Mr. Jimmy Deenihan (Irish Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht).
Her Majesty, escorted by the Irish President, and The Duke of Edinburgh, escorted by Mr. Páraic Duffy (Director General, Gaelic Athletic Association), toured Croke Park, viewing demonstrations and displays and meeting players and representatives of Gaelic sports, music and dance.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were entertained this evening at a State Dinner given by The Irish President and Dr. Martin McAleese at Dublin Castle.

Irish State Dinner

A state dinner was held at the State Apartments of Dublin Castle on Wednesday, 18th May, in honour of Her Majesty The Queen. Her Excellency the Irish President proposed a Toast and Her Majesty reciprocated.

Guests from Northern Ireland at the banquet included:
  • Matt Baggott Esq CBE QPM, Chief Constable, NI Police
  • His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh
  • Tom Elliott Esq MLA & Mrs Elliott
  • David Ford Esq MLA & Mrs Ford
  • The Most Rev the Lord Archbishop of Armagh & Mrs Harper
  • William Hay Esq MLA & Mrs Hay
  • Mrs Margaret Ritchie MP MLA
  • Mr & Mrs Seamus Heaney
  • The Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA and Mrs Robinson

The menu:

Cured salmon with Burren smoked salmon cream and lemon balm jelly, 
horseradish and wild watercress, 
Kilkenny organic cold pressed rapeseed oil

Rib of Slaney Valley Beef, 
ox cheek and tongue with smoked champ potato 
and fried spring cabbage, 
new season broad beans and 
carrots with pickled and wild garlic leaf

Carrageen set West Cork cream with Meath strawberries,
fresh yoghurt mousse,
soda bread sugar biscuits, 
Irish apple balsamic vinegar meringue

Irish Cheese Plate

Tea and Coffee

Château de Fieuzal, 2005, Graves Pessac-Léognan
Château Lynch-Bages, 1998, Pauillac

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Belmont Cycle Route

Purely for the consumption of those within the exempt jurisdiction of the Earldom (!), Timothy Belmont has just realized that the pavement on Holywood Road, Belfast, from its junction with Station Road, is shared between cyclists and pedestrians, as a number of small, circular, blue signs indicate.

Thus, the Proprietary Belmont Two-Wheeler can be ridden the whole way on the footpath to Tillysburn Roundabout, where the large Tesco Extra store is situated.

Irish State Visit: I




The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh departed from Royal Air Force Northolt this morning for the State Visit to The Republic of Ireland.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness were received at the Airport by the Earl Peel (Lord Chamberlain), Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London (Sir David Brewer), Ms. Barbara Jones (Counsellor, Irish Embassy) and Group Captain Timothy O'Brien (Station Commander).

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh today arrived at Baldonnel Airport, Dublin, and were received by Her Majesty's Ambassador to the Irish Republic (His Excellency Julian King Esq CMG), Mr. Eamonn Gilmore (Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs), Mr. Robert McDonagh (Ambassador from Ireland to the Court of St. James's) and Brigadier General Paul Fry (Chief of Staff of the Air Corps).

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness drove to áras an Uachtaráin [former Viceregal Lodge] and were received by The Irish President and Dr. Martin McAleese and Mr. Enda Kenny, Irish Prime Minister.

The Queen inspected the Guard of Honour.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were entertained to Luncheon by the Irish President.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness, with Irish President and Dr. McAleese, later visited Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square East, Dublin, and were received by Mr. Alan Shatter (Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence).

The Queen laid a wreath.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh afterwards visited Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, College Green, Dublin, and were received by the Provost (Dr. John Hegarty).

Her Majesty, escorted by the Provost, and His Royal Highness, escorted by Mr. Robin Adams (Librarian and College Archivist), toured the College, viewing conservation work and meeting students and staff.

The following are in attendance:
  • The Rt. Hon. William Hague MP (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs),
  • Diana, Lady Farnham, 
  • the Hon. Mary Morrison, 
  • the Rt. Hon. Christopher Geidt CVO OBE,  Private Secretary to The Queen
  • Mr. Edward Young, 
  • Mrs. Ailsa Anderson, 
  • Dr. Edward Perkins, 
  • Ms. Colette Saunders, 
  • Surgeon Captain David Hett RN, 
  • Group Captain Timothy Hewlett, 
  • Commander Patrick Lacey RN, 
  • Major Dan Rex and 
  • Brigadier Archie Miller-Bakewell.

Belfast Pubs & Clubs

I've been making inquiries about the ownership of Chelsea Wine Bar on Lisburn Road, Belfast, solely as a matter of curiosity.

It transpires that it is part of a much larger chain, under the aegis of Wine Inns Limited; and it includes:

  • Bar Twelve & Metro
  • The Elk Bar
  • Egg Bar
  • M Club/V Bar
  • Chelsea Wine Bar
  • Parlour Bar
  • Four Winds
  • Belfast Empire
  • Robinsons Bars
  • Cutters Bar & Grill
  • Wine & Company
Golf Holdings is the parent company of a number of businesses involved in the drinks and hospitality industries in Northern Ireland.

These include Wine Inns, which owns the Winemark chain of off-licences and the Regency Hotel; James E McCabe and City of Belfast warehousing.

James E McCabe is one of the longest established and best known wine companies in Northern Ireland and is the parent company of Property Management Services, a business which has interests in retailing through service stations.

Wine Inns also has an extensive portfolio of some of Belfast’s best known bars and clubs.

    Tuesday, 17 May 2011

    Edward Hardwicke, 1932-2011

    I am saddened to learn of the death of the actor Edward Hardwicke (right), well known for his role as Dr Watson alongside Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes.

    Edward Cedric Hardwicke was born on August 7 1932 in London, the son of the actors Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Helena Pickard.

    He was twice married. He was divorced from his first wife, Anne Iddon, who died in 2000, and is survived by his second wife, Prim Cotton, as well as by the two daughters of his first marriage.

    The Daily Telegraph has published an obituary.

    Robes & Coronets

    Here is a fascinating little film about the preparation of the clothes and jewellery for the 1953 Coronation of ELIZABETH II.

    I have written in detail about peers' coronets here.

    Ede and Ravenscroft is proud to hold  three Royal Warrants, an honour shared by only a small number of other companies. They are currently appointed as robe makers to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

    The film shows racks of boxes containing coronation robes, Men looking at the boxes; opening metal hat box and removing coronets; polishing coronet; robes; tailors working repairing and remodelling robes;  Tailoress working on ermine cape; Woman stitching tassel on coronet.

    Monday, 16 May 2011

    Baronetcy Conclusion

    My series on Ulster Baronetcies is concluded. In approximately twelve months I have covered ninety-six baronets, fifty-five still extant and forty-one extinct.

    I have found the research both enjoyable and rewarding, from the Graham Baronets, being the most recent creation in 1964; to the Gore Baronets of 1622, a gap in excess of three centuries.

    Now I intend to repeat the series with minor refinements.

    Incidentally, I have had 1,200 hits on the blog today, one of the highest figures in its 3½ year history.

    State Visit Schedule

    Buckingham Palace has announced the Outline programme for the Irish State Visit by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, 17 – 20 May 2011:

    The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, will pay a State Visit to the Republic of Ireland at the invitation of the Irish President from Tuesday, 17th to Friday, 20th May 2011.

    Tuesday 17 May

     Ceremonial welcome, meeting with the Irish President and Dr McAleese and tree planting ceremony at the former Viceregal Lodge, now known as áras an Uachtaráin; wreath laying ceremony at Garden of Remembrance; visit to Trinity College including viewing of the Book of Kells and reception in the Long Room.

    Wednesday 18 May

     “Windows” tour of Dublin at the Guinness Storehouse; visit to government buildings greeted by the Irish Prime Minister; wreath-laying ceremony at the Irish War Memorial Garden, Islandbridge; visit to Croke Park stadium and meeting with Gaelic Athletic Association members; State Dinner at Dublin Castle.

    Thursday 19 May

    Visit to National Stud Kildare; reception with members of Gaisce – The President’s Award (The Duke of Edinburgh only); a celebration of the Irish State Visit  hosted by the British Embassy in Dublin.

    Friday 20 May

    Tour of St. Patrick’s Rock, Cashel; visit to English Market, Cork; visit to Tyndall Institute, Cork.

    Lady Bangor's View

    Richard Kay reports:

    As the Queen packs for tomorrow’s state visit to Dublin— the first by a British monarch for 100 years — a shrill objection sounds from her biographer Sarah Bradford [the Viscountess Bangor].

    Lady Bangor, 61, is unhappy about the plan for Her Majesty to lay a wreath at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance, which honours Irish rebels.

    Says Sarah Bradford,  who is married to the 8th Viscount Bangor: 

    ‘I hope there is absolutely no question of her apologising to the Irish. I do not want her to follow in the footsteps of Tony Blair who apologised for the Irish famine. Her Majesty has nothing to apologise for or about.’

    Read more:

    Sunday, 15 May 2011

    Grey Abbey Video

    In this short, three-minute video Flora Montgomery visits her father William Montgomery in 2006 at the family home, Grey Abbey, to establish what happened to the Montgomery territories following Sir Hugh Montgomery’s death in 1636.

    The size of the estate was affected by legislation which granted tenant farmers the right to own their lands. We hear about Hugh Montgomery’s role in restoring Grey Abbey.
    •  Presenter: Flora Montgomery 

    • Author:  David Starkey

    • Author:  Hugh McFarley

    Saturday, 14 May 2011

    Wallace Clark, 1926-2011

    The Daily Telegraph has published an obituary of Wallace Clark MBE, who died on May 8 aged 84, a charismatic and inspiring Ulsterman whose accomplishments as a writer, businessman and public servant were second only to his feats on the sea.

    He usually went by his middle name of Wallace; was educated at Shrewsbury School, Shrewsbury, Shropshire; fought in the Second World War, with bomb and mine disposal; retired from the military in 1947, with the rank of Lieutenant, late of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve; was District Commandant, Ulster Special Constabulary between 1954-70; Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) County Londonderry in 1962; chairman of Everbond Interlinings Ltd in 1969.
    Member, Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.) in 1969; High Sheriff of County Londonderry in 1969.
    He wrote the book Rathlin-Disputed Island; wrote the book Guns in Ulster. Major in 1970 in the service of the Ulster Defence Regiment; was director of William Clark and Sons Ltd in 1973.

    Henry Wallace Stuart Clark was born on November 20 1926 in County Londonderry and educated at Shrewsbury. By the end of his school days he was bored with academic life and keen to play his part in the war.

    He joined the Navy in time for V-E Day, remaining in the Service until 1947. He then spent a year as a merchant seaman on a cattle ship sailing to South Africa before settling down to a lifetime’s work in the family business, a venerable Irish linen firm which had played a significant part in Ulster’s textile boom in the early 20th century.

    Clark saw that his company’s defining feature was not technology but sheer age. Having started in 1736, it was the oldest linen firm in Ireland.

    In large part thanks to Wallace Clark’s efforts, the firm of William Clark & Sons trades on, still using the simple mill-driven process of the 1730s in which cloth is pounded by vertical wooden blocks to make it softer.

    But Clark had always felt an atavistic longing to master the sea. From the early 1950s onwards he was snatching time from looms and shuttles to get on the water. In an age long before automatic anchors and glitzy marinas, he sailed modest wooden craft to Norway and around the Mediterranean, while developing a deep familiarity with the coasts of Ireland and Scotland.

    From 1969, as the Troubles worsened, Clark served for seven years as a company commander in the Ulster Defence Regiment. Spending several nights a week on patrol with his men, he experienced the excitement, the fear and the biting sadness of warfare in a small, divided rural community, where farmers and tradesmen who rubbed shoulders in a village square by day could find themselves trading automatic fire on remote hillsides by night.

    Half a dozen policemen and nine UDR soldiers from Clark’s district were killed on his watch, which he describes in Brave Men and True. Perhaps surprisingly, the book makes a point of noting that some members of the IRA fought honourably, and that they were foes whom Clark could respect.

    But he never ceased to feel pain and anger over certain terrible atrocities in his neighbourhood – such as the enormity of a car-bomb in 1978 that killed a Maghera man and his 12-year-old daughter.

    A commission to write texts for glossy books on the islands off Donegal and Connaught, for example, became a good excuse to visit beloved coastal haunts in Agivey, a fibreglass 7-tonner which was the last boat he owned.

    He relished life while never losing sight of the eternal, a sense rooted in a deep Anglican faith that grew stronger in his final months.

    He married, in 1957, June Deane, who accompanied him on many expeditions. She and one son survive him.

    Chelsea Revisited

    I enjoyed some hearty nosh consisting of braised steak casserole with mash and butter, at the Chelsea Wine Bar on Belfast's Lisburn Road last night, so the old feed-bag was firmly in place.

    It was busier than the previous occasion, mainly, it is thought, due to an Ulster Rugby match being televised at the Bar and the proximity of the Balmoral Show, at the King's Hall complex.

    BP, who had the honey chicken goujons with noodles,  was telling me that it may be a couple of years before they can re-locate to the Maze, or wherever, since they'll require an arena or Hall of some sort.

    The wine-bar quietened down when the rugby match ended and a steady stream of patrons arrived. We like the waitresses here and I flirted a little with the petite brunette one, whose hair was neatly tied back.

    We remained downstairs till eleven, when we left for the last train home.

    Fool, Belmont! I missed the Sydenham halt (I'd had a few gins, it was dark outside, there was nobody else getting off with me and I was frantically pressing the door button at the wrong side!); so I alighted at Holywood and got a taxi back to Sydenham, where I retrieved the Proprietary Belmont Two-Wheeler and rode home.

    Friday, 13 May 2011

    BP Big Screen 2011


    The Blog is up and running again, after a frustrating day of technical glitches throughout the Blogoshere.

    I have re-issued my articles about the Leigh Baronets and Norroy & Ulster King of Arms.

    Welcome news: The BP Summer Big Screen is returning to Belfast this summer, following an absence during 2010. I thought the Botanic Gardens were a good venue, though it is being held in the grounds of City Hall, Donegall Square, Belfast this year.

    Here's the information:

    Come and join us for Madam Butterfly on Monday 4 July, 2011 at 7.30PM
    duration 2 hours 50 minutes
    Join the UK wide Humming Chorus Hum-Along at 7PM
    Performance starts at 7.30pm
    Act I lasts 55 mins
    Interval starts at  8.25pm and lasts 25 mins
    Act II and III begin at 8.50pm and last 85 mins
    Curtain down at 10.15pm
    All timings are approximate

    What I need to know before I attend:

    In the interest of public safety, the following conditions will apply in Donegall Square:

    • Donegall Square is a public space; however organisers reserve the right to limit audience numbers should the square capacity be reached.
    • Alcohol is not permitted.
    • Prohibited items include, but are not restricted to, large parasols, gazebos, awnings and portable barbecues.
    • All litter should be disposed of in the bins provided or taken home.

    Norroy & Ulster King of Arms

    Norroy and Ulster King of Arms is one of the senior Officers of Arms of the College of Arms and the junior of the two provincial Kings of Arms.

    The current office is the combination of two former appointments. The office of Ulster King of Arms was established in 1552 by EDWARD VI to replace the post of Ireland King of Arms, which had lapsed in 1487.

    In 1943, the office of Ulster was combined with that of Norroy, and the Norroy and Ulster King of Arms now has jurisdiction over the the six counties of Northern Ireland as well as England north of the Trent.

    Norroy and Ulster has also acted as Registrar and King of Arms of the Order of St Patrick since 1943, though no knights of that Order have been created since 1934, and the last surviving knight died in 1974.

    The arms of Norroy and Ulster King of Arms date from 1980 and are blazoned Quarterly Argent and Or a Cross Gules on a Chief per pale Azure and Gules a Lion passant guardant Or crowned with an open Crown between a Fleur-de-lis and a Harp Or.

    The current Norroy and Ulster King of Arms is Henry Paston-Bedingfeld, who was appointed in September, 2010.

    Kings of Arms wear ceremonial tabards on State and ceremonial occasions, as worn here by the late Sir Peter Llewellyn Gwynn-Jones KCVO.

    Tuesday, 10 May 2011

    Bravo Aida!

    Here's a hilarious video song from Fascinating Aida, entitled Cheap Flights. Who thinks it should be shown to the Queen during HM's forthcoming Irish State Visit?

    Monday, 9 May 2011

    New Vice Lord-Lieutenant


    The Earl of Caledon, Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh, with the approval of Her Majesty The Queen, has been pleased to appoint Mr Richard Hamilton Stubber DL, Beech Hill, 37 Ahorey Rd, Richhill,  Co Armagh, BT61 9LY,  Vice Lord-Lieutenant for the said County, his Commission bearing date 25 April 2011.

    Regal Entertainment?

    The Irish pop group, Westlife, and the X Factor star, Mary Byrne, are among the headline acts to be confirmed for the Queen's first official visit to the Irish Republic.

    Two thousand guests have been invited to a special ceremony at the event on the 19th May.

    HM Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, Julian King Esq CMG, is to host the so-called "return event" - an evening of fashion, music and theatre at the Dublin Convention Centre in the city's docklands.

    "This is the first State Visit to Ireland, our closest neighbour,"  His Excellency said.

      "We wanted to mark this historic occasion, and to reflect the huge support and interest there has been in this visit."

    His Excellency added:  "We have put together a programme that showcases the best of British and Irish fashion, and brings together on one stage some of the finest performers working in Ireland today.

    It promises to be a memorable occasion, an opportunity to celebrate the Queen's visit, but also the love of music, the spoken word, fashion, and design that people from across our two countries share."

    The Return Event is standard practice during a State tour when the visiting country arranges a special occasion for the host country. The event is expected to be shown live on the Irish state broadcaster, RTE.

    NI Rich List 2011

    The Belfast Telegraph newspaper has published an article about the ten wealthiest people in Northern Ireland:

    1 The Lord Ballyedmond OBE JP: £650m; owner of the veterinary pharmaceuticals company Norbrook, at the top of Northern Ireland’s most prosperous entrepreneurs.

    2 Kevin and Michael Lagan: £300m; owners of Lagan Holdings. The Belfast-based Lagan Group is part of a consortium working on Northern Ireland’s biggest roads programme and builds roads and airport facilities worldwide. The brothers, Kevin, 59, and Michael, 53, took over the operation founded by their father and expanded into property, cement and quarrying.

    3 Sam Morrison: £295m; owner of the Corbo property firm, In October last year, Corbo sold Damolly Retail Park in Newry for £46m.

    4 Gerard O’Hare: £220m; MD, Parker International; manages an extensive portfolio of Irish, UK and International developments. He is a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He is also Chairman of the University of Ulster Foundation and Real Estate Initiative.

    5 Danny Hill: £184m.  Based in Monaco, Belfast-born Hill, 65, built a fortune in mining and property in Australia. He is involved in charitable work through Hill Surgical Workshops in Perth and London, which offer training for doctors.

    6 Michael Herbert: £171m;  Belfast-based Herbel restaurant group is well-known for operating Europe’s largest Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, as well as a Häagen-Dazs franchise. He also owns property development group Lebreh.

    7 John King: £170m. Former university lecturer King, 60, a leading Northern Ireland businessman, made his name with Galen, now Warner Chilcott. He netted £125m for his stake when it was taken over and has shares in the business.

    8 Shamus Jennings CBE: £166; property; Ballyrogan Holdings.

    9 Frank Boyd: £165; property developer; Brunswick and Killultagh Estates. Lives at Rademon in County Down.

    10 Barney and Frances Eastwood: £150m. Barney Eastwood sold his chain of 54 Betting Shops to Ladbrokes for £135 Million.

    Sunday, 8 May 2011

    Dirty Duck Tuck!

    I am steadily recovering from a hearty evening spent at the DD with BP. I rode the Proprietary Belmont Two-Wheeler down to the railway halt and chained it to a lamp-post, as usual.

    Like Holywood, the DD was remarkably quieter than usual when we arrived. we found seats easily. BP supped the customary DD Ale; while Timothy Belmont sipped Bombay Sapphire with tonic-water.

    The grub was as good as ever: I donned the feed-bag for the breast of duck with Parmesan croquettes, French beans and onion chutney; while BP opted for - indeed - scampi, again!

    Incidentally, they seem to have opened a chip shop in the town, called the Ruddy Duck Fish House; has anyone tried it yet?

    While BP left the bar for a few minutes, I began chatting to a lady - a "regular" - on her own. We'd see her most Saturdays and it transpires that she is a lovely person. We bought her a sweet sherry.

    The evening progressed and the DD filled up. A live band began at about ten-thirty. We decided to stay for the duration and get a taxi home.

    Consequently, at about a quarter past one this morning, I made for the halt and retrieved the trusty two-wheeler.

    Saturday, 7 May 2011

    At the Coffee Yard

    Holywood in County Down seems to be quiet this morning. This is my first of two visits to the town today, since I'm meeting BP for a session at the DD tonight.

    I parked the two-seater quite easily, ambled with the netbook to the Coffee Yard, ordered a fruit scone with an Americano coffee; and I am presently seated downstairs awaiting my aunt and Pat. They arrive at eleven or thereafter.

    So far, it is quiet here, too, and I have taken the usual seat without any trouble. The cooked breakfast, coffee and scones are all of a good standard here, though I haven't indulged in the eggs and bacon; I have seen it and it does look most appetizing.

    They have free wi-fi here and they are definitely family-friendly.

    Friday, 6 May 2011

    Late Results

    I thought we had "come into line" in Northern Ireland re vote counting. The counting for yesterday's polls begins this morning: Why didn't the counting commence immediately after the election poll yesterday evening? Is it some kind of stubbornness on the part of the authorities; or some arcane regulation pertaining to the Province which brings us out of line with everyone else?

    Wednesday, 4 May 2011

    The Wiggly Worm!

    The columnist, Richard Kay, has given us an amusing tale this morning about three year-old Eliza, the Duchess of Cornwall's granddaughter, and the Wiggly Worm:

    When Eliza, whose mother Laura Lopes is Camilla’s daughter, looked scared at the roar of the crowd on the carriage ride from Westminster Abbey back to Buckingham Palace, best man Harry quickly pulled it out of his pocket to make the youngster laugh.

    The trick worked so well that Eliza refused to hand the toy back and insisted on hanging on to it for the official wedding photographs, taken by society snapper Hugo Burnand.The photographs were sent around the world — but no one has spotted the toy until now. 

    ‘Did you see the wiggly worm? That was the funniest thing. I can’t believe no one has spotted it,’ Camilla said yesterday. 

    ‘I was so worried about Eliza. She is such a lovely little thing and looked so gorgeous in her dress but it was a very big occasion for a child of her age.'Harry pulled this wiggly worm out of his pocket in the carriage to keep them amused. 

    Eliza loved it so much that she wouldn’t let go and it even made the official photographs. 'Can you believe it? She was holding onto my finger but in her other hand was this worm'.

    Read more:

    Tuesday, 3 May 2011

    Gorse Arsonists

    The young hooligans who start gorse fires are anti-social imbeciles and cretins; probably not much worse than their parents. They ought to be apprehended, brought before magistrates and sent to prison for several months, no matter what their age is. To my mind that is what should be done.

    Guest List

    Who, from Northern Ireland, attended the Royal Wedding? There must have a few guests other than this list of mine:

    • The eight Lord-Lieutenants, representing the six counties of the Province plus the cities of Belfast and Londonderry, viz. Mrs Joan Christie, Lord Caledon, Dame Mary Peters, David Lindsay Esq, Lord Erne, Denis Desmond Esq, Donal Keegan Esq, Robert Scott Esq. Were their spouses invited also? 
    • The two archbishops of Armagh 
    • The First Minister of Northern Ireland; Mrs Robinson declined
    • The Duke of Abercorn, being a Garter Knight and former Lord Steward of the Household; was the Duchess invited?

    Monday, 2 May 2011

    Baronetage Conclusion

    Sadly drawing to a conclusion of my complete Ulster Baronetage series (which will be repeated with minor editorial revisions later), the oldest baronetcies - several still extant - are O'Neill, Stewart, Staples, Acheson, Skeffington, Macdonnell, Leigh and Gore.

    I hope readers have found the series to be of some interest and, of course, if I have inadvertently omitted any NI baronetcies, please do let me know!

    Sunday, 1 May 2011

    Belmont at Chelsea

    I didn't dump the trusty cycle in the bushes this time, having suffered yet another puncture a week ago due to tiny berberis thorns.

    Instead, I simply chained it to a lamp-post along the railway platform. The 18:23 duly arrived, I paid the pretty blonde conductress the £3.50 for a return ticket to Adelaide halt (within striking distance of the Lisburn Road in Belfast).

    I met BP at "Central" station (heaven knows why they gave it that appellation) and we got off at the deserted Adelaide halt on what was really a fine evening.

    The Lisburn Road was sunny and quiet. Less than ten minutes took us to the Chelsea Wine Bar, stated to be "Belfast's original wine-bar ... situated among the fine boutiques, art galleries and beauty salons of south Belfast ... here you mingle with the fashion cognoscenti in an elegant, relaxing environment with fine food and wines".

    I have to say that I did rather like it. It seems fairly modern in its décor to me, with modern art, wooden flooring, banquette seating at the sides and very trendy, leathery armchairs which recline if you press your back against them; very comfy.

    The waitresses are charming here, wearing smart outfits with aprons. They smile a lot; they are engaging; well turned out; attentive, since they were along in a flash when they noticed our glasses depleted.

    The menu is imaginative, too: I had the Hog Roast Sandwich, slow roast shoulder of pork with caramelised onion gravy, served with chips and salad at £8.95. BP enjoyed the fiery Crispy Honey Chilli Chicken, served on stir fry vegetables, egg noodles in a honey chilli sauce, also £8.95.

    No complaints about the standard of cuisine at all: My pork was lean and tender with, as stated, an onion gravy, a generous salad and very good little chips served in a deep bowl. I tasted BP's chilli chicken and liked it, too. The chilli was certainly discernible.

    Despite the wine-list having over 100 wines to choose from, including Krug at £150, I stuck to Plymouth gin throughout the evening.

    It was quiet when we arrived, though patrons, many of them ladies, began arriving and the bar was "buzzing" by ten o'clock. Most of them went upstairs, where live music had begun; and we, too, ventured upstairs after our food.

    Unfortunately we didn't meet anybody on this occasion, the last train being at 23:10; though we both agreed that, had we met anybody, we could have got a taxi home.

    I think it's a good place and we both agreed that we shall pay a return visit soon.