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Ulster Life’s regular columnist Cathy Martin took her CMPR team along with actress client Seainin Brennan to House of Zen in St Anne’s Square this month – and here, intern Lucy Brownlie gives us her verdict. It’s a goodun’.
The Cathedral Quarter is fast becoming the cultural hub of Belfast’s city centre, and sees new bars and restaurants opening doors faster than you can say “table for two”; however, all this competition isn’t something the House of Zen need to worry about.
Situated in the lush surroundings of St Anne’s Square, House of Zen is the latest addition to the Zen restaurant group, with the same cool and glamorous décor, making it instantly recognisable as part of Eddie Fung’s ever-popular chain. Like the main restaurant on Adelaide Street, the ambience is relaxed and with a distinct Eastern mystery that makes the Zen restaurants so unique.
A small party of four, we were greeted warmly by manager Grainne, and to make the most of the gorgeous sunshine we’d been having, we were shown to a table outside. Unfortunately we all had an afternoon at the office ahead, so the wine menu remained untouched but, panic was averted as Grainne filled us in on the fabulous array of virgin cocktails available at House of Zen. Perfect for keeping a clear head but equally enjoyable! We opted for a few different ones; each packed with refreshing, delicious tropical fruits – a particular favourite being the Berry & Hibiscus Smash.
Everyone was kept happy while undertaking the difficult task of choosing from the menu with some prawn crackers and deliciously creamy satay dip, so addictive we had several more portions brought out. And with the appetisers this good, we couldn’t wait to try the main dishes.
The lunch menu has a mouth-watering selection of unique, luxurious Asian dishes, from roasted mango duck to ginger and spring onion king prawns that will truly spice up your lunchtime. After much contemplation we finally decided to order a few dishes to share, and after a short wait our food arrived and believe me when I say, we were not disappointed!
The crispy shredded chicken in a honey pepper sauce was a personal favourite, with tender strips of chicken in a light crispy coating, marinated in a sweet honey sauce, complimented by a warm, delicate spice from the pepper and chillies. Another favourite at our table was the crispy duck salad, a fusion of Asian flavours; a generous serving of shredded, perfectly crispy duck on a bed of lambs lettuce sprinkled with pine nuts and pomelo and drizzled with a homemade chilli and coriander dressing.
Alongside our main dishes, we had a few sides including the wok-friend Asian Pak Choi with crispy garlic, a classic Asian dish cooked to perfection and perfectly complimented with the garlic. The wonderful wok-fried long beans were tender with a slight crunch, and had a tangy kick from a delicate smattering of chilli flakes.
After a serious loosening of belts, we did all but lick the plate clean and sat back with another round of cocktails as our plates were cleared away. The staff were wonderful from the minute we set foot in the place to the minute we left; attentive and helpful without being overpowering in the slightest.
Sitting outside in the warm sunshine with a cocktail, what could be a more perfect way to round off a meal than with a refreshing fruit platter? Well, ‘fruit platter’ is somewhat of an understatement, as we were served a beautiful wooden basket filled with crushed ice and topped with a gorgeous array of fruits – strawberries, lychees, watermelon, kiwis – all fresh, juicy and bursting with flavour. As a serious sweet-tooth, I was particularly pleased to see a bowl of warm, rich chocolate dipping sauce – we quickly grabbed our skewers and proceeded to finish the entire thing, despite having sworn we would never eat again after our fabulous main course!
With a selection of absolutely exquisite Asian food, wonderfully welcoming staff and sumptuous, cool décor – not to mention being exceptional value for money – House of Zen is the crowning glory of St Anne’s Square and another brilliant addition to the Zen restaurant family.
House of Zen: T 028 90278688
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