IN recent weeks, the North Belfast News has covered much that the brand new Lansdowne Hotel on the Antrim Road has to offer.

Back in the day, the establishment was the place to go and thanks to a recent refurbishment, its new owners are hoping to restore its glory days. From 23 stylish bedrooms, a stunning bar with an extensive drinks and cocktails menu and even an eye-catching garden and bridal suite, the Lansdowne has it all.

As for grub, the Lansdowne caters for diners from AM to PM and a recent Thursday lunchtime visit for myself and two colleagues offered us the chance to sample some dishes from their lunch menu.

The menu is made up of light bites, small plates and main plates so your choice depends on just how hungry you are and how much time you have. We were greeted and shown to our table by their new yet welcoming staff and joined for lunch on this occasion by co-owner Jim McLaughlin who took little time in doing the work for us by selecting some of his favourite and most popular dishes from across the lunch menu. Jim’s background is in food, so we had no hesitation he would deliver the right goods to the table.

It wasn’t long before our huge selection of grub arrived in front of us and left us with the question, where to begin?

We were served three main plates – the larger courses on the Lansdowne lunch menu. First up was the simple yet classic Chicken Caesar salad – a generous portion of sliced chargrilled chicken mixed in with maple-cured bacon lardons, baby gem lettuce, garlic focaccia croutons and lashed with parmesan shavings drizzled in Caesar dressing. Often known as the not so healthy salad option for dieters, it would have been rude not to try this classic and spoonful after spoonful, the smorgasbord of flavours really came out. The next main plate was the duck confit, served on a bed of sweet potato mash, green beans with a dash of herb butter and red wine jus. For me, it was quite the standout dish and as a duck lover, it hit all the right spots from the crispiness on the outside to the easily torn-off meat on the inside, all brought to life by the sweet potato mash and red wine jus.

The last of the main plates was my colleague’s definition of heaven – a huge pot of steamed mussels in garlic and white wine cream and served with rosemary and red onion focaccia bread. A massive lover of all things fish, the silence at the table was noticeable as she made her way through the portion, which, priced at just £11, could easily be shared amongst two.

Also served up on this lunchtime occasion was a selection of small plates which are proving the most popular choice od customers, according to Jim. Small plates are exactly what they say on the tin and take a form similar to Spanish tapas, meaning they are ideal to share. Customers can choose 1 for £4, 3 for £11 or 5 for £17 so whether you want a nibble over a drink or simply can’t choose and need to try a few, the world is your oyster at the Lansdowne.

For me, the stand-out small plate was the crispy pork belly with a layer of caramel apple sauce. Pork belly is one of my favourite things and, having previously worked in a Chinese restaurant, I am all too familiar with it and this did not disappoint.

Another triumph was the firecracker chicken wings, served with a blue cheese dip. The wings were a perfect combination of a fiery wsoon overtaken by the wonderful dip – I would highly recommend.
The brie also deserves a paragraph to itself because it was simply mouth-watering. A crispy shell was soon followed by the delicious melted delight that is brie but the dish was really taken to the next level by the homemade blackcurrant gel and it is not difficult to see why it is the most popular side dish order, according to Jim.
Also served to us on small plates was the crispy beef: large chunks of beef brisket which were cooked to perfection and beautifully seasoned with pickled carrot and a tastebud tingling Asian dressing which ensured the beef inside the crispiness was moist and melting.

The deep fried salt and chilli squid was equally as good and something I also adore – well, anything salt and chilli really. The squid was fresh, fried expertly and served with a napa salad, harissa mayo, coriander and sesame seeds, it would put some Chinese restaurants’ attempt at the dish to shame.

The small plates were a huge success on our visit and enjoyed in the impressive surroundings of the stylish bar, for me it was exactly how ‘bar food’ should be – in fact, it was on another level. I cannot wait to try some of the other small plates which include spicy Italian meatballs, crab bruscietta and sweet potato bhajis. The main plates were mighty fine too and maybe with a cocktail or two the next time. I am already looking forward to planning my next lunchtime visit to the Antrim Road’s famous stalwart. The Lansdowne is back with a bang – and so is quality food in North Belfast.

The Lansdowne Hotel
657 Antrim Rd, Belfast, BT15 4EF
Tel: 028 90 772 999