Newest Review: ... with modern dark wood panelling and all of the paintwork is grey - sounds dull and dour but it is actually very stylish and contemporary. ... more
Uptown Top Rankin(g)
Member Name: fizzywizzy
Date: 15/03/06, updated on 15/03/06 (297 review reads)
Advantages: Great food, excellent service, affordable
Disadvantages: Not near where I live!
On arriving in Belfast we decided to go for a stroll and explore the area around our hotel and we stumbled, by chance, on Cayenne. I was quite surprised by the exterior. It is situated at the end of a block of buildings which include a large, stylishly timber-clad Italian restaurant, a betting shop and a cheap Chinese cafe. The area is basically a big road junction but some of the trendier parts of the city lead off from the junction, such as the University/Botanic Gardens area and the antique shops area of Donegall Pass.
There are windows at the front but they are frosted and also have white drapes decorated with the restaurant logo which all means that you can dine without nosy parkers watching from outside.
As you walk in there is a lounge area by the bar where you can sit if you are not immediately shown to your table and just beyond it a long line of tables. To the right is the main dining area, non-smoking tables at the front and then a smaller smoking section towards the rear. The food is brought through this area to the tables and we were seated in this section but we could hear nothing at all from the kitchen. A fantastic glass partition blocked off the kitchen entrance and it consisted of a display of a dozen of so shelves filled with hundreds of the same miniature Bushmills whisky bottles (it's made not far away) and lit up - it looked stunning.
The floors and walls are clad with modern dark wood panelling and all of the paintwork is grey - sounds dull and dour but it is actually very stylish and contemporary. The light fittings are simple yet bold - either orange or off white and a simple shade design.
Our table was a large round table and seemed like it might be one usually used for larger groups but since it was close to the path taken by the waiting staff with the food there might not be much room on that side of the table. We sat on the other side and the table fitted nicely into a curved recess that held a curve of leather seating along the wall - very luxurious and rather comfortable!
Now, I will be primarily reviewing the lunch-time special set menu here because that is what we ordered from. Fifteen pounds for three courses and coffee - an absolute bargain!! Even for a set lunch I thought that this was a terrific deal.
There were three starters, three mains and three desserts to choose from. It was possible to choose starter and a main or main and dessert for 12.50 Pounds if you wanted only two course but we are too greedy to settle for anything less than the full three courses.
Vegetarians will find that there are a good number of interesting veggie choices in both starters and mains on the main menu. On the lunch-time menu there was one meat, one fish and one vegetarian option for both starters and mains.
We were asked quite soon if we wanted to order drinks but the staff were happy to wait until we'd looked at the menu and chosen a wine to complement our food. We ordered a lovely Argentinian Malbec for just under 15 Pounds which I think is reasonable for this type of establishment. When it came, it was with a two large glasses of cool fresh water - we were not charged for the water. We were brought a basket of lovely assorted breads and butter while we waited for our starters to arrive.
I plumped for the spiced parsnip soup to start. It was perfect - delicately spiced but very tasty and it came with what was described as a "sesame cracker" - a long penant shaped piece of filo pastry scattered with sesame seeds and baked until crisp. It was fantastic with the soup. "He who must be Fed" picked the fish option - a delicious rice-paper parcel of various kinds of white fish and shell fish, mixed with fresh coriander on a bed of tangy salsa.
My main course choice was confit of duck on a bed of creamy puy lentils and greens.The outer skin of the duck was a wonderful cripsy spicy surprise and underneath the beautifully tender duck fell easily from the bone. Not normally a fan of lentils I could not find anything negative to say about these - infact it inspired me to cook lentils at home!
My partner again went for the fish - a chunky piece of salmon with a wasabi crust (wasabi is a japanese delicacy derived from a root similar to horseradish, it is the pistachio coloured sauce you find served with sushi and can be mind-blowingly hot!) atop a bed of wilted bok choi. He reported that it was very good - so I had a taste and can confirm he was correct in his appraisal!
A brief interlude followed before we could contemplate dessert and the staff were in no hurry to make us choose. I went for the Tahitian vanilla bean cremne brulee and, not normally one to have a pudding, my partner plumped for the upside pineapple cake. Both were bigger portions than we had expected and, in particular, mine exceeded expectations.
The lovely white custard was speckled with vanilla and the crisp sugar crust was to die for. The dessert came in the usual creme brulee ramekin but on a long white ceramic tray alongside which was a small dish of plums pickled in crisp, sharp ginger, the perfect accompaniment to the sweetness of the creme brulee.
The upside down pineapple cake came with a generous dollop of marscapone and was declared to be very good indeed - again, my instincts to verify got the better of me and I can, once again, confirm that this appraisal was in order.
We were duly offered coffee which was very good and were several times offered top-ups. This was typical of the level of service throughout the meal. I especially liked that instead of just being asked if we wanted coffee, the question was phrased "Do you think you might like some coffee?" which I thought was a lovely way to ask and seemed more relaxed and friendly. The wine was topped up regularly but these interjections were unobtrusive.
We were quite smartly dressed (more so probably than during the rest of our weekend in Belfast!) but not on a par with some of the other diners though I never felt intimidated, out of place or not good enough to be there. When we left we were asked if we needed a taxi and we were helped on with our coats (maybe they were pleased to see the back of us?!). This is the most impressive restaurant service I have ever experienced.
Although we did not have more than a glance at the main menu, I can report that the prices are very affordable and by no means on a par with those charged by other celebrity chefs (Gordon Ramsey, for example...). I would say that it would be possible to enjoy an evening meal for two, three courses with wine for about sixty pounds. (There are also set evening menus at similar prices to the lunch-time menu for early evening pre-theatre diners).
I always like to try new places but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that if I ever go back to Belfast I will be back at Cayenne - my work there is not done!
7 Ascot House
Belfast, BT2 7DB
Tel. 028 9033 1532
e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org
Summary: Quality cuisine from a quailty chef