A few weeks ago, myself and Nicola were kindly invited out to Northern Ireland to by the owners of Culloden Estate & Spa in Holywood to celebrate our wedding anniversary where we were treated to a wonderful evening of food and drink in very luxurious surrounding, the full review will be posted up in the coming weeks. Our return flight wasn't until late in the evening on the Sunday so we decided to spend the day by driving the Causeway Coast Route from Belfast to The Giant's Causeway. We hadn't given much thought to lunch or dinner plans for the day but after a Twitterchat with the FoodGoblin, we extended our drive a little further around the coast so that we could have lunch at Harry's Shack in the seaside town of Portstewart.
We were on a tight schedule and after a quick stop at The Giant's Causeway, we were back in our hire car en route to Portstewart. It was a beautiful sunny Bank Holiday weekend and as a result, the road ahead was very busy so we called ahead to let the team at Harry's Shack know that we were running ten minutes late. Unfortunately, that wasn't exactly true as I had misheard Nicola when I asked what number on Strand Road the restaurant was situated - I heard 116 as number 6 and after parking in Portstewart in a space that I guessed was not far from our destination, it turned out that we had a mile long walk before we would be eating lunch. Normally this wouldn't have been a problem but we were both starving and the sun was fierce. There's a valuable lesson to be learnt here - I really need to pay much more attention to Nicola in future!
By the time we arrived at Harry's Shack, we were over half an hour late for our table and the staff were turning people away from a very full restaurant. Fortunately for us, the staff had kept our booking open and we were shown to our table at the window which had stunning views over the golden beach and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean.
Our walk had left us feeling very thirsty and we quickly ordered drinks, Nicola enjoying a couple of glasses of a crisp Sauvignon Blanc while I got my lips around the Giant's Organ - a wonderful IPA from the community co-operative, Lacada Brewery, based in the neighbouring town of Portrush.
We decided to share a starter, opting for the Crab Claws in Garlic Butter. There's not much that I can say about the starter except wow! The crab claws were delicious. Soft sweet crab meat, cooked to perfection with a pool of garlicky butter for dipping. The only thing missing was a few slices of bread to mop up the remaining butter.
The main menu had plenty to choose from but as we were at the seaside, we both ordered the fish and chips with mushy peas. We've eaten a lot of really good fish'n'chips but the portion served up by Harry's Shack could possibly be the best that we've had. The huge piece of battered fish was so big that it barely fitted on the plate. There a knack to making a good batter and the chef at Harry's Shack has it down to a tee. The flaky haddock fillet was well seasoned and encased in the most amazing crispy batter that was still crunchy as we got to the last piece. If the fish was good, the chips were even better! Admittedly, they were served in a little stainless steel bucket - as is often the way these days, but I could see by that when the thick potato chips were cooks so well, crisp on the outside and soft & fluffy on the inside. We found out later that the owners of Harry's Shack have been running traditional chip shops across Northern Ireland for almost 30 years - no wonder the chips tasted so good. The fish was accompanied by mushy peas and a sharp homemade tartare sauce - I'm not a fan of mushy peas so I gave mine to Nicola who thoroughly enjoyed them.
We were both stuffed and it was time to get back to the car before making our way to the airport. After the lengthy walk down, I had promised Nicola that we would get a taxi back to the car however after a few attempts at booking the taxi, the staff advised that they were having trouble getting one to come and collect us. Fortunately and before I had to break the news to Nicola that we might have to walk back, one of the staff said that they were going up into town and that they would drop us off. Talk about great customer service?
Our trip to Northern Ireland included some great meals including an Ulster Fry, a Michelin Lunch, and a fantastic tasting menu at Culloden Estate Hotel & Spa but our coastal drive to Portstewart for fish'n'chips may well have been the highlight of our culinary break.