Fullerton Arms, Ballintoy 02-2019

After watching the sun setting around (unfortunately it isn't over) Giant's Causeway, the last dinner was tossed up between Fullerton Arms and Tartine at the Distillers Arms. Both menus sounds nice, but Fullerton won because it had local mussels, a fireplace and a local pub feel to it.

It was a quiet evening and the roaring fireplace set a lovely scenery (although maybe too hot to sit at that table). The TV above distracted a little by showing The Simpsons and then wacky YouTube video TV. But it's only minor. There's a Game of Thrones door in homage to the mother of dragons, and an Iron Throne to sit on in the next room also. An older couple from near Belfast engaged us in next-table conversation and were very friendly.

In true Irish pub meal style, the meal sizes were very large. I was disappointed they didn't have any local cider. They told me all were local, and the one I got was from Cork. Sorry, that's not local. The staff also weren't ones to give out smiles at all.

- Strangford mussels Jawbox (Jawbox Belfast gin, ginger, coconut cream) £8.95 for small - the mussels themselves weren't special. The flavour was ok but they were just too small in terms of meat. However the sauce was delectable almost curry-like and worked nicely with the surprisingly sweet wheaten bread it was served with (cooked with sugar or honey probably);
- Steak & stout casserole (puff pastry lid, french style peas) £10.95 - the puff pastry was ok, soft underneath and crisp on top, adequate without being great. But underneath the chunky steak pieces (with variable tenderness) soaked in a warming stew with the dark beer flavour coming through. Really excellent traditional cuisine I was looking for;
- Side of rocket & pine nut salad (free with the main casserole) - an excellent fresh large salad topped with generous amounts of goat's cheese.

I'd come back to try the Guiness pork belly ribs and the seafood chowder. They use a lot of local produce. They also gave me 20% off the food for no good reason - "just because we are nice" they said. Just wonderful overall.

Harry's Shack, Portstewart 02-2019

Harry's Shack is located along the beach in Portstewart. It's a drive away from town which means I suppose it is quieter (although I'm sure in summer it is rammed). Cars drive onto and park along the beach. The winter winds were blowing sand across the ground, but the blue skies, sun shining and cloud formations made up for it.

It wasn't warm enough to eat outside and the inside had a lovely strong smell of fish & chips, a nice looking and obviously popular dish.

- Seafood chowder (smoked cod, hake, haddock, mussels, new potato) £11 - chunks of fish with a smoky and creamy sauce. I don't think there were any mussels. Unfortunately I hoped for much more liquid and even some bread to mop up with, but not so. It was nice, but the fish & chips would probably have been better value, if you don't want liquid and something slightly soupy;
- Local sole on the bone (pickled cucumber, cornichon, caper, cockle, almond butter, pink fir potatoes) £15 - the local cod drew me in to at least something domestic and it was a real winner. The fish was cooked perfectly with soft succulent meat sliding off the bones. Did they give me two fish? I think so. The topping was a flavoursome blend of salty capers, tiny salty cockles, rich butter, crunchy tangy bits of pickles and was so very good. The potatoes were a side addition and fine.

A lovely location, a sunny beach and very good tasting local seafood. What more do you need to go?

Ursa Minor, Ballycastle 02-2019

Winter seems to mean a lot of food places are closed. Finding lunch along the Causeway Coastal route was actually unexpectedly difficult (and because I'm picky and want select places only). Mary McBride's bar wasn't open for lunch and being renovated, Morton's fish & chips wasn't open until 3pm, and so hopefully a simple bakery would be open.

Luckily it was and it had a cafe area for sitting down, reading their books on food, healthy living and photography or history, and just enjoying being alive.

The coffee was apparently bitter, which was disappointing.

- Lime leaf & miso noodle broth £5 - a warming bowl of noodles with quite a bit of tangyness, but less miso flavour. The noodles were too soft and way overcooked unfortunately. It's odd to have bread served with noodle soup, but I happily ate it;
- Roasted winter tomatoes, Irish cheddar, coconut bacon, with sorrel oil on toasted sourdough £6 - a wonderful open sandwich bursting with flavour from the strong cheddar, the sweet and remarkably (first encounter) with coconut bacon, and the lovely rich tomatoes and green oil. All on top of a crispy piece of sourdough. Definitely great. I could have had another.

The light rye sourdough to takeaway (they sliced it for me too) is a truly outstanding loaf. The bread has excellent chewy texture and a strong amount of sourness. I was glad it was available. I wonder if this is probably the cheapest healthy meal in a cafe anywhere in the UK.

Morelli's, Portstewart 02-2019

We were recommended Maud's icecream by a girl at Sixt and I had also read about it. However all the Maud's we came across along the Causeway Coastal route (Portstewart, Larne, Ballycastle) were all closed for winter. What a disappointment.

A waiter at Harry's Shack asked why we wanted to go there when Morelli's is better? A fair question. They even had Guinness flavour.

After discovering Maud's in Portstewart was definitely closed, we wandered to Morelli's. It was a cold sunny day, glorious for eating icecream and watching the ocean.

Morelli's didn't have Guiness flavour and just looking at the fluoro colours, I would usually be turned off. But there weren't many other options (there was another icecream place a few doors away, but we didn't look there).

Coconut and chocolate were both ok. Not bad by any means, but neither were very strongly flavoured. They were very very creamy in texture.

I'd try for Maud's next time.

Neptune & Prawn, Portrush 02-2019

Winter in Northern Ireland doesn't necessarily mean cold (12C days in February) but it does mean a lot of the restaurants are closed or only semi-open. Within Portrush itself, I had heard of (and been recommended by the Sixt customer representative at Belfast International airport) to try Ramore's 3rd floor (adults only but likely not open) or the 2nd floor (children also but good food). Sadly only their ground floor was open that day with a rather unexciting menu. Along that port area, also the Harbour Inn was only serving drinks and their food area wasn't open. Quiet season I suppose.

Across the way was Neptune & Prawn, known for some seafood with Asian twists. To be honest the menu didn't sound the best (how hard it is to find a good seafood restaurant in the area surprised me) but there weren't many other alternatives. It's rarely a good thing when a(n Asian) menu has one type of dish/sauce and an option to serve it with different proteins. I stuck to the dishes that had some N&P mentioned in the description.

- Salt & Chilli Neptune Prawns £12.95 - actually a very flavoursome dish of prawn crackers, crisp well seasoned prawns with firm bitey meat and an unexpected chilli and oil underneath with mayo;
- Lamb shank massaman (traditional Indian dish served N&P style, peanuts & cucumber salad) £14.95 - this was a creative take on curry served Peking duck style. The large shank had a solid amount of relatively tender meat. The thick curry was earthy although not heavily spiced. It tasted similar to katsu I thought. And had some potato and a kind of crunchy pulse also. The spring onion and cucumber added freshness and the chutney topped it off. Actually very good. If I had stomach space, I would definitely have ordered rice to finish off the sauce.

It's a nice setting with friendly (and quite attractive) staff. I would eat here again.

Super Miss Sue Cervi, Dublin 06-2016

It is proclaimed to be the best fish and chips in Ireland. I'm not sure where this came from but the high rating and craving for a simple meal for one took me on the 25min walking journey to get here. 

The options for dinner that night were: My Meat Wagon (BBQ), Crackbird (Fried Chicken), The Meeting House (highly rated Burmese), Fade Street Social (Irish) and Camden Kitchen (Irish). SMS won in the end due to it being quite late, well rated and just a craving.

The guy serving the register was very surly and needs to lighten up a bit. Asking for an opinion on cod vs. haddock was met with an indifferent grunt and comment "they are pretty much the same".

Luckily the food was better with a beautifully cooked haddock, crispy seasoned coating and decent piping hot chips topped with vinegar and salt. The crushed peas made me feel healthy balanced and provided some gritty texture but otherwise didn't add much to the meal.

Super Miss Sue Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Herbstreet, Dublin 06-2016

For some reason I thought there were no good breakfast options near The Marker Hotel (grand canal) where I was staying. My online reading had me listing Fumbally, Green 19 and Whitefriar Grill as options but none near me. I was very lucky to find Herbstreet on Zomato, and even luckier that I had been drinking the night before and so needed a later start to the day.

I sat in the warm inside for breakfast looking out over the blue skies and the water. A decorated matcha latte €3.5 was warming with light green tea flavour. They only serve this with cow's milk, unlike the soy/almond/other options I'm used to being offered in Melbourne. Perhaps these other versions would have increased the sweetness and depth, but it's only minor.

As tempting as the Full Irish was, I opted for the unique choice of Breakfast of champions (cassava rosti lightly spiced and topped with a poached duck egg, smoked salmon and avocado, wiith lime and rocket) €12 - an excellent dish of a slightly chewy (distinguishing it from classic potato versions) but crisp surface rosti, smoked salmon lining on top, slightly overcooked poached duck egg, and avocado and lime to complete the flavour and add moisture.

I was so impressed I returned with colleagues for lunch, where the Herbstreet burger (6oz Irish beef with burger sauce, gherkin, red onion, lettuce and tomato and my choice of smoked McCarren Family bacon and jalapenos) €15 was presented with unsalted but nicely cooked chips. The default patty is medium-well, so I specifically asked for medium-rare and it was cooked to this with a beautiful soft beef mince that highlighted the quality of the local produce. This was simply one of the best and most satisfying burgers I've had, comparing to London, Canberra, Melbourne and USA.

I'm glad I found you Herbstreet.

Herbstreet Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Murphy's, Dublin 06-2016

After fish and chips, nearby I had starred Murphy's for ice cream. The city's best, maybe even the country's best, it had to be tried. Seeing the shiny metal containers is always a good sign of a company that cares for its ice cream product.

The Irish Coffee with whisky was as unique as you'd expect, with a strong coffee flavour and whisky aftertaste. I balanced it with black current sorbet for the sweetness, tartness and lightness. The cookies, chocolate and caramelised brown bread beg to be tried next time.

Murphys Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

The Temple Bar, Dublin 06-2016

When in Dublin, the tourists apparently go to The Temple Bar. That isn't necessarily a good reason to be there but a French girl I met had it listed in Le Routard, and so off we went. The live music area is very cosy, and it is a nice space to have food and a drink.

I was only after something light only for myself, so the Irish Smoked Salmon & Smoked Trout platter with Guinness bread, cucumber pickle and salad €12.5 had me from the word Irish. In future I think Galway Bay oysters, black pudding platter or an open sandwich may be alternatives.

The fish was nicely smoked and not too strong, although I couldn't discern the smoked salmon and trout since they were heaped together. The bread was nice and moderately dense. The music provided entertainment and the atmosphere was sound. It may be touristy, but I thought it was worth a visit in the end.

The Temple Bar Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

O'Neill's Bar & Restaurant, Dublin 06-2012

After a great brunch at Avoca, there wasn't a lot left to do around town. I have to admit I don't find Dublin very interesting and if it wasn't for the trip purpose of Watch The Throne tour (Jay-Z and Kanye), I wouldn't have gone back there at all.

The Guinness Brewery tour cemented my position that beer is not for me, especially harsh strong bitter dark ones that the Irish seem to prefer. However one of the magics of cooking is that flavours meld and transform.

The Beef and Guinness Stew seemed the most quintessential Irish item on the menu and given I was in a sports pub where everyone around me was drinking Guinness, watching sport, and occasionally looking at me wondering why I was there, it was an easy food choice. It was a dense mix of potato mash balls, vegetables and slightly stringy beef in dark stew. 

All in all it was fine and filling although it definitely wasn't the best Irish stew I've had (I think the best was somewhere else in Dublin back in 2009. I'll have to look it up).