In Hara, a bright, fun eating room in Hillsborough in County Down, Roz and Andy write their menus with the skill of sonneteers. The dinner menu opens with five snacks, followed by a quartet of starters, a quartet of mains, four sides, and four puds. Every single thing sounds like a blessing:
Durrus puffs, fig chutney
Rose veal tartare, radish, onions, smoked mackerel
Loin of velvet pork, sweetcorn, smoked black pudding, green tomatoes
Milk chocolate, roasted honey, lavender
That is just a cross-section of dishes from the dinner menu, and it shows both verbal acuity, and a terrific sense of culinary nous. The result, as you might expect from two top-flight professionals, is superlative eating. The menu reads good. But it eats even better.
Andy’s menus are led by the seasons, but his technique allows everything he cooks – from carrot fritters with carrot top pesto, to heirloom carrots with spelt cooked in whey, to barbary duck with pumpkin, quince, fried cabbage and hazelnuts – to feel just right for the time of year. The food is very comfortable, and comforting, and the team really know how to wake a dish up, so that the flavours stay alert as you eat through a plate of hake with brown shrimp and peas, charged with both lemon and ginger. That precision with seasoning means that a dish of beef fat chips are perfectly salted, making them perfectly irresistible.
Food this clean and considered does indeed achieve that state of being irresistible: we cleared every plate, and were grateful that the balance of the dishes meant there was room for pudding: who doesn’t want toffee poached apple with Armagh cider cream and muscovado ice?
Faultless, inspiring food is what you will find at Hara, and warm service and brilliant value make the entire experience... irresistible. Hara is some hotspot.