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Restaurant Review: The Potted Hen, Belfast

The Potted Hen Bistro
Edward Street, Belfast, BT1 2LR
Cuisine: Irish
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Ian Fillis: Belfast was my childhood home I grew up here in the 70s. I’ve known it all my life and these are the best of times so far.
 
Today, The Cathedral Quarter is the place to go for food. A short walk from City Hall, it has only recently become a hot spot for culinary and cultural activity.
 
The first restaurant to open here in 2010 was the Potted Hen, others have followed but the Hen is a trail blazer scooping the award for Best Restaurant in Northern Ireland in the National Restaurant Awards.
 
There is room outside to stall a while for cool pints of Guinness and crisp white wine before heading in to peruse the menu. I could have had a cocktail, all the usuals are there, and I liked their simple rendition of the Caipirhina: Sagatiba Pura, juice of half a lime and fine white sugar. But the boys had just come unceremoniously home so in commiseration and out of respect I took a pass. There are also non-alcoholic cocktails for anyone driving home.
 
To start I chose from the a la carte menu the potted crab hummus with green gazpacho, gems and hummus (£5.70) a light combination of sweet crab and refreshing tomatoey gazpacho, the croutons gave the dish good texture.
 
Others in my group had tea-smoked chicken with celeriac, beetroot, pomegranate and wontons, finished with soy and lime dressing (£5.95), and potted salmon with cucumber raita, accompanied by homemade sour dough toast (£5.50).
 
Having by this time downed my first pint of Guinness of the evening, I then devoured  a surf and turf style delicately roasted fillet of cod with chargrilled squid, white beans and spicy Merquez sausage (£16). This came in a vibrant and herby courgette and basil pistou.
 
Others opted for spiced haddock fritters with crunchy curried slaw and saffron mayonnaise (£15.95), 'the batter was light and the spices married well' went the comments. A whimsical riff on a classic roast of slow cooked pork belly with buttered savoy cabbage, shallot puree and celeriac mash came in the form of toffee apples (£15.95).
 
This being Belfast, a side of ubiquitous Irish champ accompanied my cod.
 
Now on my second visit to The Potted Hen I am yet to be disappointed. But I had eaten well so in lieu of dessert I took a detour on the way back to my hotel via the Crown Bar for one last pint of Guinness and to contemplate my childhood home. Belfast is changing, and changing for the better.
 
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27 June 2014
By: Ian Fillis
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