Named by The Good Food Guide as the Restaurant of the Year in Northern Ireland 2017. Awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand in October 2016 and just last week the restaurant was shortlisted for menu of the year by the Catey awards. This was my second visit to Moira's Wine & Brine, the first being its opening weekend where the food was good, however, it seems the bar has been raised many times since that initial visit with the following accolades being truly warranted.
The occasion for the visit was a large family gathering meaning we were seated upstairs in a private dining room. The decor was modern and plush with enough room for around 25 adults and more screaming kids than is generally comfortable with a worsening Sunday afternoon hangover.
Once seated there were immediately a number of dishes that jumped off the menu. The offerings were divided into 'snacks', 'starters', 'mains' and 'desserts.' Cod Cheeks, Shellfish, Chicken liver parfait, rib of beef and rump lamb all provided much appeal. After a bit of deliberation it was the Shellfish Cocktail that won the battle of the starters. The presentation of the dish was as expected, a retro cocktail glass with some greenery and the crispy scallop taking pride of place. The rest of the dish was made up from small shrimps and a bit of white crab meat. I was slightly disappointed in the size of the prawns, I imagined fluffy tiger prawns covered in a thick, spicy and tangy Marie rose sauce. However my expectations didn't ruin the dish as the shrimp were fresh and sweet. The crab meat, once drizzled with fresh lemon, was a great addition with the only minor downside being the small quantity of Marie rose. Perhaps the chef wanted the natural shellfish flavours to take centre stage which is hard to argue with. The star of the show was undoubtedly the crispy scallop, perfectly cooked, perfectly crispy and a pleasure to eat. I only wish there was more than one.
For the main course I was again torn. The rump of lamb with charred lettuce would usually have my name on it but I adore linguine with fish and my decision was rewarded with a stunning plate of food. The pasta was homemade and was cooked to al-dente perfection. The skin on the gurnard was perfectly crisp with a meaty firm white flesh that soaked up the rich shellfish emulsion. The prawns were plump and retained their structure adding another welcome dimension to the dish. Each element complemented the other and the cooking was faultless. No mean feat when getting 25 main courses out at the same time.
As you can see from the lack of desserts on this site sweet things don't do it for me. Give me a cheese board with a glug of port. However, since it was part of the 3-course menu I ordered the Crème brûlée for someone else. They didn't get a morsel. The Fennel brûlée sounded peculiar which was enticing and my curiosity got the better of me. It turned out to be a delight with the aniseed strangely working with the custardy, creamy brûlée. The apple filled doughnut was a great accompaniment but then again what doesn't go with doughnuts?
I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of my meal and the waitress, Debbie, couldn't be faulted in trying to keep up with the demands of 25 people in one room.
Food great, service great and the dining room was a nice place to be. I enjoyed it so much I booked again for Friday night.