Hello I’m Grainne McGarvey and welcome to my column which spots local hidden gems from the world of beauty, health, fashion, tourism and hospitality. I will have my ear to the ground (quite literally) to keep you up to date about the new or interesting products and services from our neck of the woods. If you know one – get in touch on twitter @grainnemcgarvey or at www.pulseprni.com
LOCAL CUISINE WITH A TWIST
Hasn’t the weather been great? The sun always gets me in the mood for holidays and I’m lucky enough to be jetting off to the Mediterranean in September. Wishing it would hurry up; I was delighted to hear about the newest brand on the local culinary scene, bringing a touch of the Mediterranean to Belfast and beyond.
Synge & Byrne is an artisan coffee brand with the first outlet recently opening its doors in the Abbey Centre, with more to follow in Derry and South Belfast. Its identity is based on two fictional characters, Synge and Byrne, whom together reflect the diversity of the north of Ireland – urban with rural, industrial with agricultural, modern with traditional, blended in a harmonious mix of coffee and cuisine.
All ingredients for the menu are sourced from local suppliers and sprinkled lovingly with an international twist. I know places often say that, but I couldn’t mistake the shortbread from Yummy Bakes in Jordanstown and the tasty looking pies from the Jolly Pie Man, located in Belfast’s Pottingers Entry – the Grass Fed Beef & Irish Stout flavour caught my eye and I hear there will be Abercorn Estate Venison and Dark Chocolate later in the year. Delish!
There is a wide choice of sandwiches, toasted ciabattas, wraps and daily hot specials, all guaranteed to tickle you tastebuds, while the handpicked quality beans for the barista style coffee recreate a vision of Sicily in the summertime, even on a wet Wednesday in winter.
However, according to brothers, Adrian and Damien Garvey (no relation!) who run the company, Synge & Byrne is about creating quality food the way your mammy would make it, in comfortable surroundings. As they were talking I was thinking, how comfortable can a shopping centre be?, but I did think it will be great to have somewhere to eat that offers something more interesting than the traditional family friendly fare you usually get. It seems like I’m not the only one, as the place was buzzing – young mums taking a break, friends having a catch up and the more mature silver surfers. I also noticed lots of customers using their HIVE loyalty app – it’s great for coffee addicts wanting to collect points for more free coffee.
How did the food taste? Delicious I must say – plenty of flavour and a good choice of salads as accompaniments. I don’t drink tea or coffee, hot chocolate is my poison – it was perfectly fine, a little bit colder than I like, but the quality was good. My friend had to try the coffee out for me and he was suitably impressed. Good customer service always gets a mention in my book and here it is better than most, but if I had to pick out a negative, it is slightly more expensive than your average sandwich and cuppa, but to be fair you get what you pay for and the quality shines through on the plate.
If you’re a South Belfast resident like me and the Abbey Centre and Foyleside in Derry are slightly outside your normal shopping parameters, you’re in for a treat with the exciting future plans of this fledging brand. I’ll not spoil the surprise, but just think busy shopping area, with lots of ladies what lunch!
I know coffee shops are ten a penny, but it is important to support local NI businesses. So when you’re ordering your mocca-chocca-latte-ding-dong from the big boys wake up and smell the coffee – remember to eat local, drink local and shop local, but when you’re doing it you can still close your eyes and think of the Med!