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05 March 2019

The Hoose Bistro, Belfast

Chocolate orange délice @ Hoose.
(No I wasn't drinking gin, the Hendrick's
bottle makes a tasteful candle holder.) 
This is the first in a new 'chapter' on this admittedly wine-centered blog, which will feature 'reviews' (for want of a better word) of recommendable restaurants where you can bring your own wine, either because they are unlicensed or the owner is flexible / enlightened. The focus initially will be eateries in Belfast and North Down, for no better reason than that's where I work and live, although the grand plan is to 'roll out the guide' (to use the marketing speak) to further afield, as and when other places are discovered where you can experiment a bit with wine and food without being ripped off.
Moving swiftly on then to The Hoose Bistro in east Belfast, lurking just up the hill from Holywood Arches on the way up to Ballyhackamore (the beginning stretch, more or less, of an increasingly happening food and drink scene), we have started going back again after a glitch a few months ago, when four of us felt the meals on a particular night weren't great compared to previous occasions. However, I'm pleased to say that Hoose is back on form and has recently introduced a revamped day and evening menu combined. This retains the very good value two courses for £16 idea, but offers a wider and better choice overall where you can upgrade to a different starter or main if you wish, each priced individually (and not particularly steep à la carte style prices either) rather than imposing supplements on these dearer dishes to the menu price as before.
For instance, I thought the 'Pan-fried duck breast, duchess potato, burnt butter cabbage, tenderstem broccoli, red wine & blackberry gravy' at £14 was reasonably priced compared to elsewhere; and I loved the sauce idea, which too often is too sweet with duck. I took along a half-bottle of Tesco's Finest Valpolicella Ripasso (£6-ish? - see note in my previous 'wines of the mo' post) that worked well together. Hoose's sea bass dishes are usually a worthwhile choice as well.
Although the selection on the £16 menu is more limited nowadays, it does still include e.g. Hoose's consistent favourite main, 'beer battered Portavogie scampi, triple cooked chips, homemade tartare and lemon wedge'. And tasty pork and chicken liver parfait or usually superior soups of the day for starters. Desserts always were on top of the two-course deal or à la carte price and cost £5.95 each, except their rather yummy (and fancy-looking too: see my crap photo above) chocolate & orange délice at £6.25 (worth the extra 30p for sure!). This three-storey bistro (in an old converted slightly camped-up townhouse) also excels at classic puds such as sticky toffee pudding, inventive cheesecake (changes quite often) and substantial raspberry & white chocolate waffles.
In addition, there's a brunch and sandwich menu, the bargain special Monday night club (basically the same two-course menu but for £12! You'll definitely need to book as it gets busy apparently), Sunday roast menu etc. They charge £2 per person corkage on the wine you bring; and offer a creative cocktail list if that lights your fire (probably would).
52 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 3EL. Phone 02890 658216 / Hoosebelfast@gmail.com
Open: Monday 5pm-9pm, Tuesday-Sunday 12pm-9pm (so most of the time really!).

Hoose's awesome Banoffee tart.