You have to trust a place that displays cookery books. In Belfast’s Bistro Este they have masses of them, tucked into wine boxes with a little raised table amongst them, presumably for browsing.
It's a clubbable space with big windows onto the street, a huge atrium roof throwing loads of light onto simply laid tables with large goblet wine glasses at each setting, a bar that serves classic cocktails and craft beers, and a hatch to a relatively open kitchen.
Maybe it's the way the waitress declared 'that's you all booked in!' on the telephone as you request a table that makes you feel you're somehow tucked up in bed rather than making a reservation, but from first contact you know this is a place you can relax.
The food seems relatively simple - roast breast of chicken, roast and mashed potatoes, Cumberland sauce, gravy and veg, on the Sunday menu when we visited. But taste it and you know that gravy is properly made, those vegetables are carefully sourced from a local organic farm. Both the roast beef and chicken are blessed with a little bun of Yorkshire pudding. The burgers use Dexter beef, no less, while a dish of Morroccan lamb has rolls of lamb neck, falling apart on the knife, chick peas in a flavourful spicy sauce with a smoky baba ganoush. This is both proper cooking and inventive cooking as well. Those books are well thumbed.
221 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 +44 28 9065 6976 bistroeste.com