I have been a busy bee the past couple of weeks hence the lack of posting. The plague came to visit the Noonan household as did the break the washing machine fairy. Very bad timing on both counts.
Poorly kids meant that they had to stay at home instead of travelling North with me to visit the Devlin grandparents. They were supposed to enjoy quality time with Granny and Granddad whilst I was doing some interviews for my radio show, Best Possible Taste.
My first port of call was to Portstewart Strand on the North Coast. Many a sunny summer’s day was spent here when I was a child and it was somewhat nostalgic to return. However, one significant change has taken place in the form of the endearing Harry’s Shack Opened since August 2014, it sits right on the beach and serves brunch, lunch and dinner with fresh local fish and seasonal vegetables featuring on the menu.
Despite its youth, Harry’s Shack has been visited by all the major food media and their reports have been nothing but complimentary. It first came to my attention thanks to John and Sally McKenna who named it as their Restaurant of the Year 2014. My pal, Joris Minne from the Belfast Telegraph has reviewed it and critics across the sea have also taken time to have a nosy, including The Guardian’s Jay Rayner.
The purpose of my visit was to interview one of its head honchos, Donal Doherty. I was chauffeured by the Father and my Mum and 3 nieces came along for the ride. While I was interviewing Donal, they had a walk on the beach in the glorious February sunshine (and literally filled their welly boots). They were not alone. It was jammers and fortunately, we had our table booked for lunch. We were spoilt for choice when it came to deciding what we wanted. Donal had told me during our interview that fish and chips is the most popular dish on the menu and Dad opted for that. Mum and I always seem to like the same things and it is not uncommon for us to be torn between 2 items. On this occasion it was the 6oz beach burger served in a brioche bap with garden leaves, ffo (that’s French fried onions to you and me) tomato jam and cheese versus he butternut squash risotto with toasted pumpkin seeds, sage and brown butter. We did our usual and ordered one of each and then split them.
Katie (9) had garlic bread to start followed by a junior fish and chips while her younger sister Rachel (7) enjoyed parsnip soup and spaghetti Bolognese. As the 2 girls were having starters, the adults didn’t want to be left out and decided to share a chicken liver parfait with apple chutney and sourdough. You never seem to get enough bread or toast with a starter of this nature and it didn’t help things that Rachel swiped some of it for her parsnip soup so a second lot was kindly provided.
I enjoyed relaying the story about how Harry’s Shack came about to my fellow diners during lunch and you can hear the background story in my interview with Donal on my podcast dated 3 March 2015. It’s not everyday I talk to a restaurateur who has had to turn away 1500 customers in a single week.
After a lovely day catching up with the folks and the nieces, it was back home to Ballymena for the night before heading to Belfast the following day for more interviews. I will tell you all about that in my next blogpost. Until then, Bon Appetit!