Lisburn is quiet, but The Square is buzzing. "It's been mad, right from this morning" says the waitress when I mention just how manic it is. "We’ll close from three to five to set up for the evening, and then it will be mad again."
No surprise. Stevie Higginson and his crew deliver the good stuff, with a precision that is really cheering. Take my lunchtime dish of Walter Ewing’s smoked haddock, with champ, crispy fried egg, mustard cream, bacon and cabbage. It's a dish designed to trap the unwary, for the many elements - fish, spuds, cabbage, bacon lardons, crisp egg - all have to merge and synthesise. They have to be sympathetic to each other. They have to get along.
In short, it's the kind of dish that you reckon many kitchens will get wrong. Not all of it will be wrong, but some of it will be.
And now here comes Mr Higginson’s version, and it's postcard pretty, and would get top marks in mid-Ulster in any culinary competition. It's a beauty. Everything supports everything else, everything is perfectly cooked - the crispy egg is benchmark - and Mr Ewing’s fish is anointed by everything else on the plate. Bingo! Winner all right.
It's a great room too, looked after by fantastic staff who seem to know everyone who turns up hoping for a table.
You could open a Square Bistro in every town and city in Ulster, and the quality of life for the citizenry would improve hugely. Modest, professional, dedicated, it's a wee peach of a place, so make that detour off the M1 and get the taste of the times.
18 Lisburn Square, Lisburn Northern Ireland BT28 1TS squarebistro.co.uk