Some years ago I had the pleasure of working with entertainer Lionel Blair and I accompanied him to a hotel where he talked to the staff about presentation. It was fascinating. He told them to compare their job with his, theatre. Prepare your stage, he said, look round the room, is it attractive, warm and inviting? Check your props, make sure there is salt in the salt cellar and pepper in the pepper grinder! Your menu is your programme and should be easy to read and give a good roundup of what you are offering.
Then your audience arrives. Welcome them, he advised, take their coats and show them to their seat, offer them the ‘programme’ and answer any questions they may have. The food itself should be served with sensitivity, look inviting and, of course, be fresh and tasty.
I was reminded of this on Tuesday evening when The Potted Hen in St. Anne’s Square Belfast invited guests to try their new lunch menu specialising in healthy dishes, sea food, salads, and gourmet Lite Bites.
Owners, Dermot and Catherine Regan fulfilled all of Lionel’s criteria. As tables filled with diners in the downstairs restaurant, we climbed the spiral staircase to take our seats upstairs at tables set for eight, others for six so there was plenty of opportunity to chat with other guests and friends.
Each offering was presented on long white dishes, and we had a chance to sample portions of ‘Lunch Bites’, Potted Brown Shrimp with spiced butter, lemon and homemade wheaten bread, Ox Tail Linguini with tomato ragu, crispy pancetta and spinach, or my favourite being a vegetarian, Goats Cheese Fritters with beetroot compote, candied pecans and balsamic gel! After enjoying a dozen dishes, more plates arrived including ‘Super Salads’ – Bulgur wheat, apple, celery, radish, scallion, spinach, gems with citrus miso dressing and beetroot, Shaved Fennel salad with chicory, orange, toasted pine nuts to mention just a few. A choice of chicken, salmon, mackerel , beef and quail is an added extra.
Under ‘Classics’, our table was delighted with the Shorthorn Beef Burger, Fish and Chips and Chicken Breast with pearl barley risotto. We finished with delightful sweets including Banoffee.
To get the full favour of the lunch bites you need to pop into the restaurant Monday to Saturday, 12 noon to 3 p.m. And you can expect value for money, Lunch Bites on average £4.95, Super Salads around £6.50 with supplements between £3.25 and £5.95 and the Classics £9.95 to £11.95.
The beauty is you can mix and match with advice from the restauranteurs that two or three dishes will be a quick and filling lunch.
There’s a lot of competition in St. Anne’s Square, one reason is the easy parking, but since opening in November 2010 The Potted Hen has always been thinking ahead and with this new menu, along with Lazy Sunday lunches, Pre-Theatre evening meals and their A La Carte menu plus private events, they are certainly providing their public with an excellent choice. Lionel would be proud!
Telephone 028 90 234554 www.thepottedhen.co.uk
Review by Anne Hailes