A restaurant is a restaurant is a restaurant or so the story goes. There are hundreds if not thousands on our wee island and they all provide the essentials, staff, a roof and a selection of hot food at a price you and your wallet are happy to shake on, some even pride themselves so much on service they have or haven’t given they add their own tip. But like everything in life the variables can vary but rarely do they come together as well as they did on our recent evening out to Danny Millars Parsons Nose in Hillsborough.
You walk into what seems like an ordinary pub with a traditional but contradictory modern feel. (Think stags head on the wall with uber trendy Grey Goose vodka as the default standard) The staff present themselves as you’d expect to find in any fine dining restaurant and seat us in the bar while our table is prepared (I’m 20 minutes early as usual) so I wait unstressed giving myself plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere. A couple of families are in having tea in what I think is the restaurant and where I’ll soon be sitting and a few locals are at the bar. It’s nice; I like the vibe, relaxed and cosy.
Right on time though and our drinks are moved upstairs to a busy vibrant restaurant I didn’t even know existed. Some 15 yards up a flight of stairs to a table overlooking the quaint Hillsborough architecture outside. It’s a cold wintery night in January and there is something really romantic about sitting at a window looking out at sleet fluttering past. Tables are changing hands with ease while we wait to order and we get a chance to have a good look round trying as we always do to find the “first date” couple – None tonight! Scores of empty wine bottles adorn the walls which are testament to many great past nights and all day lunches no doubt.
Now the food – Before we order a waiter leaves us a selection of breads, Stout wheaten and two types of focaccia with a local churned butter and a tapenade of black olive and sundried tomatoes. I’m a sucker for any type of wheaten but this was beautiful and the butter made it Moorish. A triumph! But if anything, I eat what’s put in front of me so I scoffed a good 70% of the bread before ordering which might have been foolish. However, I had room remaining and I went for the wild mushroom Risotto with leaks, mascarpone cream & parmesan starter and Sirloin with buttermilk onion rings, Bushmills sauce & The Parsons own triple cooked chips for a main while my wife started with the twice baked Cashel blue soufflé with sweet & sour beetroot & roast walnut dressing followed up with the parsley crusted cod that came with wild mushrooms & a potato & celeriac gratin.
Everything worked. The starters both light but loaded with taste and again I initially felt annoyed for not getting the larger risotto for a main. It really was that nice. My wife’s Soufflé was as it should be, light with a really thin pastry holding it together. I think I stole a percentage of that as well when the opportunity arose. My steak was cooked as ordered medium/well but looked more like a huge Fillet than a Sirloin and the triple cooked chips are highly recommended even if just to be greedy. Get them! The cod was deliciously flaky and tasted fantastic on the leaks and mushrooms nestled below and the gratin too was beautifully creamy making it the perfect accompaniment for the cod dish.
The dessert menu arrived but by then we had consumed too much so we both passed, however, this leaves a return trip an absolute must over the coming weeks where we can start at the mains and work our way forward to the sweet stuff.
On this visit Id highly recommend the Parsons Nose. For the food absolutely and fundamentally but I can’t finish this off without giving the staff a mention. Credit where credit is due from the front of house to the waiting staff, reminding me of an old football saying “a good referee is one you never see but gets everything right during the 90 minutes” Attentive and on hand if needed yet hardly noticeable in a very busy and efficient dining room.
Wine was Australian Sav Blanc – Forrest. Priced with a £10 premium above the house wine but worth it.
A beautiful setting and amazing food 10/10
The Parsons Nose
48 Lisburn Street, Hillsborough, BT26 6AB
028 9268 3009
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Ulster Life eZine Issue 37 Feb 2013