Belfast Taste & Music Fest 2011

12 08 2011

The annual Belfast Taste & Music Fest marks the 2nd anniversary of my blog and what a 2 years it has been! Perhaps I’ve lacked the time & motivation to blog as often as I intended but I’m glad that I’ve managed to at least try to catch up with my baking endeavours and not let the blog completely slip away from me.

I had been looking forward to our visit to the taste fest pretty much since we left last years event and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint. The weather wasn’t exactly cooperating but we came prepared this time with our own chairs and a multitude of umbrellas at the ready.

We visited Botanic Gardens on the Sunday afternoon, arriving at 1.30pm and leaving at approx 5.30pm. I must say that the admission prices aren’t great so we always make sure to arrive before the price changes to evening admission. 12noon – 4pm was priced at £6 and from 4pm onwards it was £10. I’ve never been a fan of the entry price at all but £10 is quite a high price to pay considering how much people will spend on tokens and drinks. I know that the entertainment is one reason for the entry fee but to be honest I’m there for the food, if its someone I like its a bonus for me. I guess not everyone feels like that and may go at night to enjoy the bands and the bar in conjunction with the food.

So we paid £6 entrance fee and bought one set of 20 tokens at £10 to start us off with the definite intention to buy more (as we always do). We found a spot and even managed to nab a table to congregate around.

I had come prepared with a spreadsheet for each person which included each restaurant, chef and the dishes they were serving. I decided to gather up all the token costs for each dish so that we could decide the best course of action for joining the queues and making sure we had a variety of dishes to share that were still hot.

I took pictures as quickly as I could of each dish and then gathered comments and scores from everyone to compare the different dishes that we shared. I’ve included pics of nearly everything we tried with scores on taste, appearance and overall comments afterwards. Each token costs 50p, I’ve included token cost and £ cost after each dish. Some were definitely worth the higher token price in terms of either taste or quantity while others definitely didn’t warrant the higher cost.

Restaurant: The Barking Dog

Chef: Michael O’ Connor

Dish: Salt & Pepper Scampi, tartare sauce

Tokens: 8 (£4)

Taste: 9/10

Appearance: 9/10

I don’t eat seafood so wasn’t able to try this but it scored highly with everyone else both on taste and appearance. They were perfectly cooked with a great contrast between the crunchy exterior and wonderful spicy interior. A good sized portion presented well with the added contrast of tartare sauce and lemon.

Restaurant: Yellow Door Deli

Chef: Simon Dougan 

Dish: Chargrilled Rockvale chicken, warm coriander, comber potato salad, moyallon bacon dressing

Tokens: 8 (£4)

Taste: 8/10

Appearance: 7/10

I had high hopes for the Yellow Door deli as it was a definite favourite last year with several of our favourite dishes and once again they didn’t disappoint. They had a good mix of dishes, one vegetarian (which many had neglected) and we ended up trying 3 dishes from their stand. This chicken was beautifully cooked, the picture doesn’t really do it justice. It was moist and succulent. The potato salad had several chunks of potato with a lovely mustard dressing. I don’t recall the bacon dressing if I’m honest but it was a hearty combination and good sized portion for the token cost.

Restaurant: Molly’s Yard

Chef: Ciaran Steele

Dish: Slow roast stout glazed pork belly with chorizo, tomato and lentil casserole

Tokens: 8 (£4)

Taste: 9/10

Appearance: 9/10

I want to point out that Molly’s Yard was the only stand that I visited that had a ticketing system for ordering which I highly recommend for the other stands. It meant you got served in the right order with the correct food with less fuss.

This was a definite favourite with the whole group. The pork belly was perfectly tender and melted in your mouth. The accompanying casserole was hearty and a lovely contrast to the pork with the spicy chorizo and chunky veg mixed through the lentils. The seasoning and herbs were wonderfully balanced.

Restaurant: Balloo House

Chef: Danny Millar

Dish: Dexter rump steak, buttermilk onion ring, triple cooked chips & bushmills pepper sauce

Tokens: 10 (£5)

Taste: 8/10

Appearance: 7/10

This was the most expensive dish we tried which I’m sure was solely because of the cost of the steak. I ordered well done as I was sharing with my mum but I would usually order medium or medium to well done. Unfortunately the girl serving here was getting confused with everyone ordering different steaks and tried to give me someone elses steak then it turned out we did end up with medium when she finally got the servings correct. I was happy as it meant the steak was the perfect level of tender for me. It was a decent sized portion, the onion ring was wonderfully crispy, the chips had the great combo of crunchy skin and fluffy inside but we couldn’ve eaten many more than three between us. I’m sorry to say the sauce wasn’t particularly exciting, it was a little bland and lacked any bushmills flavour at all. I thought the bap was superfluous & took everything apart to eat it but mum thought it was great as it made it easier to make all the components into a burger and eat in one hand.

Restaurant: The Barking Dog

Chef: Michael O’ Connor

Dish: Beetroot gnocchi

Tokens: 7 (£3.50)

Taste: 8/10

Appearance: 8/10

This dish wasn’t on the menus on the website so was obviously an addition by O’ Connor over the 4 day festival. It was nice to see another vegetarian option as my dad didn’t have a lot of choice unless he wanted to eat many more desserts than mains. I didn’t try this as I detest beetroot but those that tested it loved the combination of the unusual gnocchi, goats cheese and walnuts. It was nice to see a veg dish that wasn’t the usual curry or stirfry or totally loaded with cheese as the main component.

Restaurant: 27 Talbot Street

Chef: Michael Glinkowski

Dish: Chickpea, lentil & coconut curry with coriander basmati rice

Tokens: 5 (£2.50)

Taste: 4/10

Appearance: 7/10

This was one of the most disappointing meals of the day. It seemed like a great combination but the possibility of tasting any of those flavours were ruined by the completely overwhelming taste of salt. I’m still not sure if the peanuts on top made it unbearably salty or if the curry itself was painfully over seasoned but apart from a hint of curry heat at the start of a mouthful the only taste was salt. I could barely tell there were chickpeas and definitely couldn’t grasp a hint of coconut at all. The portion size was great for the token cost and I sincerely hope other batches of this weren’t quite so salty.

Restaurant: Deli on the Green

Chef: James Devine

Dish: Pork hoi sin with noodles

Tokens: 8 (£4)

Taste: 8/10

Appearance: 8/10

This was one of the best value for money dishes. There was a large portion of pulled pork which was tender if a little salty for my tastes. I liked the thin egg noodles which also had plenty of mixed peppers to offset the meat. This was well liked by everyone and agreed that the soft pork was a much nicer addition to the noodles than many chinese pork dishes which are usually not this tender.

Restaurant: Galgorm

Chef: Chris Bell

Dish: Spiced chickpea & fennel stew with olive focaccia & basil

Tokens: 8 (£4)

Taste: 8/10

Appearance: 7/10

Another vegetarian option that I was able to steal a taste of from my dad. This was a good sized portion from the stand with the most expensive dishes (three mains all at 10 tokens each) I’m not usually a fan of fennel as it’s so hard to balance it to ensure it doesn’t overpower the other elements of the dish. I have to say the fennel was wonderful in this dish, you could still get nice hints of it but without it overwhelming the chickpea and tomato based stew. I didn’t try the focaccia but dad said the crunch was a great compliment to the hearty stew.

Restaurant: Balloo House

Chef: Danny Millar

Dish: Strangford prawn fish cakes with roast pepper confit & prawn mayo

Tokens: 7 (£3.50)

Taste: 8/10

Appearance: 8/10

These were a great size and filled with large chunks of prawn and salmon with a lovely crisp coating. The confit and mayo were beautifully seasoned and everyone that tried them said they were very flavoursome.

Restaurant: Yellow Door Deli

Chef: Simon Dougan

Dish: Smoked chilli onion bhajis with Jilly’s fab peppery wild rocket & coriander lime aioli

Tokens: 7 (£3.50)

Taste: 9/10

Appearance: 9/10

These bhajis were delicious with a wonderful contrast of smoked heat and refreshing aioli. I wish I’d gone back for a portion of my own but we were about to embark on desserts so I closed my savoury belly off for the rest of the afternoon at this point.

Restaurant: Molly’s Yard

Chef: Ciaran Steele

Dish: Belgian chocolate brownie with Molly’s chocolate stout ice cream and chocolate sauce

Tokens: 6 (£3)

Taste: 8/10

Appearance: 7/10

These scores are my aunt & uncles as I only tried a little corner of the brownie. I’m loathe to order brownies anywhere as I’m rarely happy with their consistency. It seems that many restaurants opt for a more cake like brownie rather than the fudgy underdone taste that I prefer (and always aim for with my homemade brownies) These weren’t too bad, they definitely fall into the almost cake category but were still dense and the sauce was rich and paired very well. I’m not sure why there was a miniscule drop of vanilla ice cream instead of the chocolate stout, perhaps it had run out by Sunday afternoon.

Restaurant: Uluru Armagh

Chef: Dean Coppard

Dish: Bundy rum glazed pineapple & shaved coconut fruit salad

Tokens: 4 (£2)

Taste: 7/10

Appearance: 6/10

A very disappointing dish from Uluru. Reading the description we all expected darkly glazed chunks of pineapple with larger shavings of coconut. The pineapple did not appear to have any taste of rum or even look like it had been glazed and the coconut was distinctly dessicated. It was a refresher after the rich mains and my aunt enjoyed it but it really was not what was stated on the menu.

Restaurant: Yellow Door Deli

Chef: Simon Dougan

Dish: Chocolate pavlova with armagh strawberry & white chocolate chantilly cream

Tokens: 5 (£2.50)

Taste: 8/10

Appearance: 8/10

These were spotted early on in our travels up and down the food stands and earmarked for dessert. I’m happy to say they lived up to their appearance. The pavlova had a wonderful crunch and contrasted perfectly with the white chocolate cream. Perhaps it was to entice the children but I didn’t really see the point in the glitter and candy hearts, the strawberries were nice enough on their own. This dish also had a chocolate cigarillo that you can barely see in the pic. It was a great sized portion for only 5 tokens and loved by everyone. My mum also got to try the banoffee parfait lollipop while she was ordering the pavlova, she said it was delicious and definitely had that banoffee flavour which she thought might be hard to achieve in lollipop form.

Restaurant: Loft Coffee Bar

Chef: Joyce Price

Dish: Sticky toffee cupcake & butterscotch sauce

Tokens: 7 (£3.50)

Taste: 10/10

Appearance: 9/10

This was by far the best dessert we tasted. The cupcake was a warm, fluffy toffee sponge & the sauce was sticky perfection. I chose vanilla ice cream with ours but you could choose whichever flavour you liked. It was a wonderful combination and I could easily have polished off the whole dish myself. Thankfully I had also ordered a double waffle cone ice cream (not pictured), also from The Loft, so I didn’t feel too hard done by. The Loft also had a great range of cupcakes for sale. I was glad to see one stall that was dedicated to dessert and they didn’t disappoint.

Alongside our food we also had soft drinks (3 tokens/ £1.50 each) and coffee (3 or 4 tokens each) from the Illy stand, it was great coffee and at a reasonable price.  I think I’d prefer that the soft drinks and coffee were cash like the main bars as it means you have more tokens to try the food.

Overall we had a great afternoon, they have definitely increased costs over the whole event with the entrance fee being higher and the dishes being slightly higher in token cost but they have also significantly improved the toilets (both in number and cleanliness) there is more entertainment and extra bars. I may balk at the entrance price but it hasn’t stopped me returning for the 3rd year in a row and it’s unlikely to stop me next year unless it changes drastically. I highly recommend bringing your own chairs or blankets to grab a space, it really makes it so much easier to pop back and forward to the food stands.

This year the Yellow Door Deli was the one stand that we returned to most often which definitely makes me even more likely to keep a close eye on what they produce next year.

There were 5 of us and we spent the following:

Entrance fee: £30 (£6 each before 4pm)

Tokens: £65

Total £95

Maybe I’ll see you there next year?!

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4 responses

12 08 2011
sundryandco

Those desserts… :O

And it’s sunny? Some people get all the good luck 🙂

12 08 2011
leangel

lol, they were lovely I must say.
Sunny? It was literally 5 mins of sun followed by half an hour of dark clouds and mizzly rain for the whole afternoon unfortunately. We put our brollies up and down too many times to count and when we left it was torrential rain. It wasn’t ideal but at least we had some dry spells in order to be able to eat!

12 08 2011
louconvery

I have always wanted to goto this but I think it’s too expensive. The dishes did look lovely though so I might try it next year. I have to say I loved the sound of that pineapple dish but it definitely looked and sounded disappointing!

12 08 2011
leangel

Yeah, it’s definitely not a cheap day out at all but whilst I abhor spending money on clothes, etc & rarely drink I love to spend money on food. It’s what I spend the most on so I don’t mind venturing out for this event knowing roughly how much its going to be in advance. Yeah, its disappointing to love the sound of a dish then find it really doesn’t live up to its name.
There were lots of tweeps who mentioned wanting to go, I’m thinking a tweetup might be good next year?! If we got enough people we could practically try everything on the menu.

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