It’s only a hop, skip and a jump across the border but it would be worth walking thousands of miles just to taste the food in Harry’s Restaurant in Bridgend, Co. Donegal.
Let’s face it, us Derry ‘wans’ like nothing more than jumping in the car, going for a run in Donegal and stopping for something to eat.
If top class affordable food made using top class local ingredients is your thing then I can’t recommend Harry’s Restaurant enough.
The food, the wine and the restaurant’s staff are all amazing and an evening spent sampling the greatest food Inishowen has to offer will be a night savoured forever.
Last weekend, Harry’s hosted a special wine and dinner evening. It was also a chance for the restaurant to show off the recent acquisition of Donegal born head chef, Derek Creagh, who has worked for Heston Blumenthal in the pioneering The Fat Duck restaurant and for six years was head chef in Michelin starred Deane’s Restaurant in Belfast.
Harry’s restaurant owner, Donal Doherty, welcomed everyone individually with a glass of sparkling wine from South Africa before introducing Darren Rafferty from James Nicholson Wines in Crossgar, Co. Down.
Derek Creagh and his team of talented cooks used some of the best ingredients Inishowen and other parts of Ireland have to offer and the five course dinner they served up would have given any national cuisine a serious run for its money.
Although sometimes delicate and beautiful to look at, the food never once felt pretentious or contrived. The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say and by the end of the night the kitchen was laden with towers of empty plates. Derek’s food had most certainly gone down a treat.
The most enjoyable aspect of the special wine and dinner at evening at Harry’s was the fact each dish was introducted by Donal and each wine was introduced by Darren.
Donal, Derek and Darren selected the wines specifically to compliment the food and boy did it work!
The opening two courses of celeriac and apple soup with roasted hazelnuts and St. Tola goat cheese with pickled vegetables was served up with a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet Prestige 2013 Domaine Guillaume from Montpellier.
The wine with both the soup and the goat cheese coud not have worked any better together. It simply was match made in Harry’s.
Next up was a fish dish of brill (a flatfish) done with brown butter and diced pig’s trotter. Remarkably for a flat fish, brill, is very meaty and has a taste not disimilar to sea bass. The fish was just fresh off the boats in Greencastle earlier and knowing that they’d travelled down the road along the Inishowen peninsula made it taste that little bit better.
Just before the brill was served we swapped the Picpoul de Pinet for a Portuguese wine made using both Alvarinho and Soalheiro. Known as Allo, the wine hails from the Melgaço region in northern Portugal and was perfect companion for the fish. Whilst the Picpoul was creamy and subtle the Allo was citrusy and possessed much more of a bite.
The fourth course was that of slow cooked (20 hours) beef bourguignon with delicately seasoned slices of roe deer loin. The dish was served up with the most amazing creamy mash I’ve ever tasted, a hand full of seasonal vegetables and gravy made from the meat’s left over juices.
The beef and the roe was delivered to each guest with a glass of Cotes Du Rhone 2012.
The fifth and final course was dessert and it came with a glass of Rioja by a family who pride themselves on harvesting the grape by hand.
It was risky business serving a glass of Rioja with a dessert of chocolate moose and rice crispies with espresso and hazelnut ice-cream but it paid off. It was so delicious that one stage all I could hear was a cacophony of spoons scraping the bottom of dessert bowls in search of one more tasty morsel.
The evening ended with applause for head chef Derek Creagh and guests were keen to show their admiration for both the food and the wine.
It was an amazing evening and at £45 per person, it was also real value for money. Donal spoke at length with all of the guests and Darren moved to every table to talk about the wine.
The menu at Harry’s Restaurant changes as a result of what local ingredients are available. For full information on their menus visit their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Harrys-Restaurant, follow them on Twitter: @HarrysDonal or telephone, (from the North) 00353 074 9368444 (from the South) (074) 9368444. The next special wine and dinner evening is due to take place in September.
All of the wines served in Harry’s during the special wine and dinner evening are available to buy both in Harry’s Restaurant, Bridgend and from Jim Nicholson Wines - www.jnwine.com