Permit Room is brought to us by Chef Marty Murphy and business partner Niall Davis, owners of Howard St which has fast become one of Belfast’s most reputable and popular restaurants since its opening in 2013. This new venture is in Fountain Street, set on the site of former eateries La Boca and if you’re old enough to remember, which I am (just about!) Alto’s.
Unlike Howard St, Permit Room is much more of a café setting, with breakfast and brunch being their main focus. Lunch is also on offer from noon until closing. The food here is a fantastic side step from the norm with each dish having a little bit of something different prompting multiple incidents of raised eyebrows as you read the menu. Speaking to Niall it was apparent the menu choices were personal to him, with a lot of thought going into the food and his plans for cafe as a whole.
The all-day breakfasts include Shakshuka (baked eggs in a spicy tomato sauce) and Permit Room’s signature flatbread served with braised beans (in a rather fancy little pot) and a choice of tasty additions.
‘The Rest’ of the Menu is a list of 10 lunch options with a tenner being the most you will pay for any of them. There’s a light soup of the day for £6, which was white onion, roasted garlic & thyme on our visit, a poached pear, whipped goat’s cheese, candied walnut and bulgar & rocket salad which sounds a like a good shout for veggies at £7. A more substantial salt and chilli beef or house made burger for £10, even the fish, chips and mushy peas had a twist, served with watercress & gherkin mayo.
I went for the flatbread with the works, black pud, sausage, bacon, egg and chilli jam, and the beans of course. My lunch companions chose the house burger and salt & chilli beef. My flatbread was excellent, crisp and fresh with plenty of well cooked fillings, soft egg and flavourful meat. The earthy bite of
the beans finished the dish off well. I tried a bit of the salt & chilli beef which was aromatic and crunchy, most definitely a front runner for those looking for lunch. I didn’t get trying the burger (harsh) but an empty plate and a satisfied smile told me all I needed to know.
For drinks, you get a bottle of chilled water on arrival which is a nice touch, there’s a great selection of Mark Jefferson wines, Estrella on draught, a different yet very diverse choice of beer on the pump and a selection of bottled beers, ales and cider including to my delight several from local brewers Farmageddon Co-op. As it was a workday lunch we decided to forgo the booze and try the specialty coffee blends, namely the Colombian. We were about to be very good and skip dessert until we were told the special was a salted caramel brownie with ice-cream, so one delish melt in the mouth dessert and 3 spoons it was.
What I really love about this cafe was the open kitchen, with the pass being right there in the middle of the room. A ‘nothing to hide’ attitude which is a big sell for me and many others I know, with the effort and the excellence of the chefs on full show as well as the cleanliness. The decor is simple, laid back with low hanging lights and a touch of rough industrial. The service was first class and the value was good at a nudge over £40 for lunch for 3, coffees and a dessert.
Breakfast, brunch, lunch or just coffee and a dessert, Permit room is deliciously different and won’t disappoint.
By Michael Reid