Sunday, July 28, 2013

Yellow Door restaurant: a great culinary attraction at the Ulster Museum

If you’re in the vicinity of the Ulster Museum this summer and feeling peckish, the Yellow Door restaurant in the ground floor of the museum is well worth a visit (open noon-3pm).

I’ve never eaten my way through an entire menu before, but – burp – it was a delight to sample the dishes on their new summer menu along with some better qualified culinary commentators one sunny lunchtime a few weeks ago.

Before July if you’d mentioned Yellow Door to me I’d have thought about the enormous cherry scones I used to share with Littl’un as an occasional Saturday morning breakfast treat in their Bow Street café in Lisburn.

So I was intrigued to hear about the County Armagh-based firm’s bakery, its lack of preservatives (no need if you bake through the night and deliver fresh each morning) and no-margarine-only-butter rule, the grow-your-own/make-your-own mentality and their outside catering.

When the Ulster Museum reopened, the canteen-style Girona aitin-hoose (as the Ulster Scots museum guide would describe it) run by John McNally/Stonebridge Group involved a lot of queuing up for food served from metal trays sitting under hot lights, followed by wandering around to find an empty table that wasn’t already being “reserved” by someone for their queuing friends.

Yellow Door have overhauled the restaurant to offer a waited dining experience that is a lot more relaxing. Talking to the owner Andy Dougan (pictured) it is quickly apparent that his passion for high quality ingredients - which goes so far as to select which beef cattle will make their way from the field to the plate - is combined with a focus on service training, staff attitude and being able to cope with the sudden surges of trade a museum eatery can experience.

The printed menu was full of hints to the local sourcing of the ingredients. Bacon from Moyallon in the tasty Caesar salad, mussels from Dundrum Bay and shorthorn beef from Glenarm sacrificed for the burger.

The “Taste of Ulster” board combines a medley of cheese, ham, pâté, chutney and fresh bread, doubling up as a great ploughman’s lunch to share as well as an advert for visiting tourists demonstrating the fine tastes of Northern Ireland produce.

Norn Iron stalwarts like lasagne (served with a salad) have their place on the menu alongside fish cakes and pasta. And children haven’t been forgotten with sausages, ciabatta pizza, pasta, cod goujons and lasagne available for hungry museum visitors. Main courses in the summer menu priced between £7.50 and £8.25; some smaller dishes around £4.

Along with Takabuti, the Girona artefacts and Peter the polar bear, the Yellow Door restaurant with its fine food and luscious views over Botanic Gardens is a genuine attraction at the Ulster Museum that deserves to pick up regular visitors independent of the displays upstairs. Yellow Door also operate the Coffee Bar (open 10am-4.30pm).

(I should add that I discovered that unlike wine-tasting, it would be rude to spit out what you've chewed ... and a waste for a half-eaten plate to be binned rather than finished!)