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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
Barry O’DohertyRead More »
Full picture gallery at the bottom of this article.
Twenty seven former winners and finalists of the renowned Miss Northern Ireland contest this morning (24 January) gathered at the Europa Hotel in Belfast to celebrate the launch of this year’s Open+Direct Miss Northern Ireland competition, which is in its twenty-seventh year under the direction of model agency boss Alison Clarke.
The contest, which is sponsored by local insurance company Open+Direct, will see heats right across Northern Ireland from February until April of this year, with the gala grand final taking place at the Europa Hotel on Monday 13 May. The glittering event, which will be hosted by TV presenters Zoe Salmon and Marc Mallett, will see top class entertainment and a catwalk show from fashion partner, The OUTLET Village in Banbridge.
Contestant organiser Alison Clarke and the current title holder Tiffany Brien – who reached the Top Ten in beachwear at Miss World 2012 – announced a continued two year title sponsorship from Open + Direct. Alison said: “I am absolutely thrilled to announce the continued support from Open + Direct as they have supported the competition for a number of years and then had a successful title sponsorship last year. We’ve already had a number of entries for this year’s crown – and I can see it being a tough competition, but one lucky girl will undoubtedly stand out and impress the judges to win this title before going on to compete in Miss World in Indonesia in September. Tiffany has been a wonderful ambassador for the contest and has put a very positive and friendly face to Northern Ireland this past year. I wish her every success in these final few months and would hope she hands over to someone just as hard-working and enthusiastic.”
Colin McEvoy, Director of Operations for Open + Direct said: “Staff across Northern Ireland, in all 16 Open + Direct branches, are really excited about the 2013 contest, which we have no doubt will be as fun and glamorous as ever! We’ll be showing our support throughout the competition and a judge from Open + Direct will be on the panel at every regional heat. As a hint to any of the potential entrants – our judges will be looking for the same qualities we look for in all of our staff – openness, honesty and friendliness. We’ll also be running a range of fun competitions at every heat, details of which will be announced on our Facebook page.”
Alison explained the heats and entry opportunities for girls hoping to take this year’s coveted title: “We’re starting our official twenty-seventh search with a heat in Café Vaudeville in Belfast on 28 February and will continue on a whirlwind tour throughout March and April – stopping off in Spice Restaurant in Antrim, Gillies Bar at Galgorm Ballymena, Sweet in Limavady, the Coach in Banbridge, Sense in Cookstown, Walshes Hotel in Maghera, Horatio Todd’s in East Belfast, McAleer’s in Dungannon, Sally’s in Omagh, Pretty Mary’s in Moira, and BED in Newry city, before finally coming to a close in Betty Blacks in Bangor on 28 April 2013.”
As well as the heats, the finalists will all enjoy days out including a day at The OUTLET Village in Banbridge, which is the official fashion sponsor of the contest for the third year. Siobhan McKeown, Marketing Manager at The OUTLET said: “Our partnership with this prestigious event allows us to showcase the latest fashion trends, culminating in a fabulous fashion show at the gala final. As well as the fashion show by top ACA models, the finalists also showcase stylish swimwear from Calvin Klein Underwear at the OUTLET Village at the final. Plus, this year we launch our spring campaign with the current Miss Northern Ireland Tiffany Brien and we love how she beautifully demonstrates our passion for fashion. For style and savings up to 70% off your favourite brands, The OUTLET Village Banbridge has it all.”
Current title holder Tiffany said: “I have had the most amazing experience so far this year – and the best bit is, there’s more to come! My ultimate highlight was being part of Miss World in the summer. It really is an opportunity and an experience of a lifetime which I relished and soaked up every minute of. Back home I’ve enjoyed attending wonderful events and doing a huge variety of modelling assignments – everything from photocalls, to advertising campaigns, fashion shows and editorial shoots, but I’ve also loved taking part in several charity challenges and fundraisers – in particular, the Miss Northern Ireland chosen charity, The NI Children’s Hospice. The team there does truly wonderful work and I would hope to continue helping them where I can in the future. All in all it’s been a life-changing and incredible experience to represent my country in such a positive way, but I couldn’t have done it without Alison and her team who I continue to learn from every day. It’s no wonder she has girls here today from her 27 years at the helm, she is an inspiration and an excellent role model for many women!”
This year’s winner will not only take on the coveted title of Open + Direct Miss Northern Ireland 2013, and an all-expenses paid trip to Miss World in Indonesia, she will also win a Kia car from Downey’s, taxed and insured for a year by Open + Direct, as well as a wardrobe of designer dresses for Miss World from Beverly Hills and a front cover photoshoot with IN! magazine. Beauty prizes, which will keep her preened and prepared for her role, include one year’s hairdressing and LA Tanning Treatments from TAN 2 U Mobile Spray Tanning, as well as 1 year’s eyebrow threading, eyelash extensions and nail treatments by Renu at Michele International, a £500 makeup hamper from Paddy McGurgan’s Make Up Pro store and a makeup lesson with Paddy himself plus luxurious beauty treatments from Beauty Culture as well as stunning designer sunglasses from Jonathan Keys. The winner can also keep fit with her gym membership at Culloden Spa and her modeling career will also get off to the right start with a photoshoot session with Andy Cameron Photography and a year’s contract with top model agency, ACA Models.
Event organisers are looking for entrants aged between 17 and 24 from all parts of Northern Ireland to take over the crown from current Miss Northern Ireland Tiffany Brien. “As a champion in her sport beforehand, Tiffany really approached Miss Northern Ireland with gusto and made the title her own. It takes great stamina, commitment and confidence to carry off the title, and we are seeking a girl with that special X factor – something unique and different which sets our winner apart from all the rest, as it takes more than just good looks to win Miss Northern Ireland.” said Alison Clarke. “The winner will have her diary filled with a range of modelling and promotional assignments throughout the year – some challenging, some fun – but all fantastic experiences. Plus she must be free to depart Northern Ireland in September to attend the Miss World final held in Indonesia.”
To enter, girls should send a photograph with their name and address to the Open+Direct Miss Northern Ireland Contest, 381 Beersbridge Road, Belfast, BT5 5DT. Competition rules can be checked out on the Miss NI website www.missnorthernireland.co.uk or on Facebook at Miss Northern Ireland Contest. The official website also outlines full details of the competition heats and the full range of prizes available.
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