To celebrate our first wedding anniversary earlier this month, the husband and I decided to splash out and treat ourselves to dinner in Holohans at the Barge.
I often receive bad press from mostly everyone I know for being cold and unromantic, so when I read Holohans had been declared one of the UK’s most romantic restaurants, it seemed the perfect dining spot to reverse this perception … and I also heard the food was pretty good too.
Our anniversary fell on a Sunday, so we decided an early evening dinner would suit best and I used the restaurant’s easy to use, online booking system to confirm the reservation.
When the taxi dropped us off, I was struck by how secluded the barge was, tucked in behind the Waterfront Hall. Having walked along the waterway many times, I was unaware of its existence.
The restaurant was fairly quiet when we arrived and the friendly waitress who met us, showed us to a window seat with views out over the Lagan River.
It was a fairly grey, late summer day, so there wasn’t much too look at, but I did think the view would be way more impressive on a dark wintery evening, with lots of lights glistening on the water on this quirky little boat.
The menu based on contemporary Irish cuisine had a limited number of dishes, but covered all the main options you would expect to see – meat, fish and vegetarian.
Whenever pork belly or duck is mentioned for me deliberation is not required, unless both were pitted against each other – dear Lord let that never happen or I would have to order both.
Thankfully this scenario did not arise, so I chose the pork belly with pickled carrot and apple sauce to start and husband ordered the same. The pork belly was moist with crispy skin and the apple sauce – silky and smooth and curd like in texture – was an absolute delight.
Choosing a main course was slightly harder and I was torn between smoked cod with crab crushed potatoes and the dry aged sirloin, red wine shallot butter and chips.
I decided to be extravagant and ordered steak; thankfully my other half went with the cod and in the spirit of what’s mine is yours, gave me a generous sample of his to contain any pangs of food envy.
The smoked cod was really soft and flaky and paired beautifully with the lemon butter and the crab potatoes which were still quite firm and salty. Prior to this meal my jury was out on crab potatoes – I had recently tasted a crabby mash concoction and it wasn’t very nice at all.
In between nibbling on scraps from my other half’s plate I also found time to eat my own dinner. The steak – a generous hunk of meat – cooked medium, melted in my mouth and the red wine shallot butter had a lovely subtle flavour that didn’t overpower the dish.
The chips were crisp on the outside and perfectly soft in the middle and my clean plate proved I made the right choice, following my gut instinct with this choice.
While we were both perfectly full and satisfied after the first two courses, we decided to push the boat out and order dessert; it was a special occasion after all and the words amaretto and coffee should never be overlooked on a dessert menu.
So obviously I choose the amaretto panna cotta with summer berries and coffee crumble. I am no panna cotta expert, but as an avid fan of cookery shows understand it should have a good wobble, and this one sure did quiver. The dish was light and creamy and in my opinion there really is no better combination than alcohol and coffee.
Husband ordered the ice cream sundae with chunks of honeycomb, toffee sauce and strawberries – which got the thumbs up at the end.We washed our meal down with a lovely bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, reasonably priced at £22, the atmosphere in the restaurant was really relaxed and the waiting staff did not rush us out so in true sailor fashion, we ended our romantic evening with a wee whiskey.
I would highly recommend Holohans at the Barge to anyone who fancies something a little bit different in a quirky and cosy setting and at roughly £90 for three course meals, a bottle of wine and whiskeys for two, this could be the place to float your boat.