Eating in the restaurant of the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast is an intimate and lovely experience. It offers fine dining with a relaxed casual feel. Recently appointed Head Chef Alastair Fullerton brings a commitment to local produce, well sourced, perfectly cooked and served to create a menu full of excellent taste combinations.
The Fitzwilliam’s Head Chef Alastair Fullerton has used his some 30 years of restaurant experience to create a menu that focuses on using fresh local produce, cooked well and beautifully served.
We started with smoked salmon, thin flavoursome slices were presented cleverly in a shell, with fresh salad and wheaten bread, the food was as beautiful to look at as it was to taste. Crispy breadcrumbs hid soft oozing balls of goat’s cheese. The smooth flavour of which was nicely complimented by crisp hazelnuts and earthy beetroot.
The dinner menu offers traditional dishes made from the freshest of local ingredients; fish from Keenan’s Seafood, beef from K&G McAtamney, Goat’s cheese from Boile in Cookstown, and potatoes from Comber in County Down; with a slight twist. Pork Belly is slow cooked and served with Pear and Blue Cheese salad, and chorizo, grilled mackerel comes with an Japanese influence in pickled vegetables and horseradish cream, little balls of deep fried goats cheese are served with their natural partners beetroot and hazelnuts. Provenance of the ingredients is readily available from the staff but is not listed on the menu.
The soft cool wood and subdued pink upholstery, booths and open dining with funky high backed chairs, creates a room that is contemporary and a pleasure to spend time in.
The wood holds the sound meaning that conversations can be private in secluded booths, or full of laughter in the open tables. The space is split into two rooms, using clever wooden partitioning. When we dined, our side of the room had couples and small groups, while on the other a large group of ladies were celebrating an upcoming wedding.
Tables are dressed simply with strips of starched white linen, with place settings at either end and sparkling glasses.
Sarah one of the Salt and Sparkle associates was the perfect dinner guest.
We began our evening with glasses of Louis Roederer which were served interesting in glasses dipped in lime cordial and topped with sugar, a smart touch for cocktails but perhaps unnecessary with such fine champagne. Our waiter for the evening was Gabor, a handsome and interesting young man from Hungry with a great knowledge of food and wine.
Wine is served in fine stemware which allows the flavours to breathe and come alive. We sip Irish sparkling and still water throughout the evening.
The Fitzwilliam’s commitment to serving excellent produce be it wines, water or food and supporting the best producers is to be highly commended. Their food and wine are consistently good, and I have no hesitate to recommending the restaurant to anyone wanting a relaxed special evening, with great food, where they will be well looked after.
The fillet of beef was succulent with a depth of flavour that comes from a long hanging. The woody mushrooms and the soft potato mash created a smooth mouthful.
The Potato and Herb Gnocchi had an array of strong flavours all used with precision and thought, to create a rich dish with lots of flavour. The Fitzwilliam’s main course menu also included a selection of great combinations such as Confit Duck leg with black pudding, pork fillet medallions with sweet potato and cider, Salmon with mussels and vegetable chowder and butter roast chicken.
The selection on the menu is good offering firm favourites well interpreted in Chef Alastair’s own style.
The Fitzwilliam’s wine list is one of the gems of Belfast, filled with carefully selected boutique wines that really compliment Chef Fullerton’s dishes.
Combine a wine list like this with staff like Gabor’s excellent knowledge, and what is on offer at the Fitzwilliam is something really very special and very enjoyable to guests. It makes me smile to see how the Fitzwilliam invest in their staff to bring the guest the best experience when they spend time in the hotel.
Gabor is currently doing his wine exams, and what is so lovely about his wine knowledge is that he does not try to show off, instead he shares what he knows to enhance our evening.
We were particularly impressed with our waiter Gador’s knowledge of Northern Irish cuisine and his expertise in choosing wines to perfectly compliment the dishes we ate.
Gabor bought two very different, and lovely glasses of wine, for each course, perfectly chosen to compliment the dishes we were eating. The wines when sipped on their own, were really enjoyable, but when drunk with this food, took on a whole new level of interest, complexity and depth. The Fitzwilliam Hotel have an excellence in their wine and food pairings.
A coche was placed over a dish to keep it warm when guests left the table for any period of time, this is a very professional touch, and something I have not seen done elsewhere in Belfast.
The waiting staff at the Fitzwilliam Belfast have been superbly trained, welcoming and all with bright smiles. They are pleasant, knowledgeable and polite, knowing when to offer comment, and when to refrain. How they treat us is evidence that they enjoy their jobs and working environment.
The cheese board comes on a slate board with a selection of two Irish Cheeses, Cahill's Guinnes Cheddar, Cashel Blue and an applewood smoked. An interesting addition to the cheeseboard is mango chutney which goes surprisingly well with the Cashel Blue.
We finish our meal by sharing cheesecake and a cheeseboard. Gabor who is from Hungry produces glasses of Tokaji, a Hungarian desert wine which is really a nectar of the gods, it has flavours of citrus, apricot, nuts and a fresh finish. He carefully explained how it was made using late harvested grapes and those affected by botrytis to create a concentrated wine with complex flavours.
Gador shows us a cocktail list, for a nightcap, but says we can order anything we like, having heard us talk about Margaritas, he appears with two of the best Margaritas, we have ever tasted. One on the rocks, the other frozen, these cocktails are smooth and spikey with a citrusy kick. The secret we discover is that they are made by the Fitz’s head barman who also happens to be American.
The Fitzwilliam Belfast is a beautiful boutique hotel, with a restaurant that offers well thought out menus, using local produce were possible, an excellent wine list and a setting that is sophisticated. The staff are some of the best we have encountered they want guests to really enjoy their time. This is a wonderful place to spend an evening, sip a glass of wine, eat delicious food, celebrate with family and friends, take a date. The Fitzwilliam Hotel is one of Salt and Sparkle's favourite places in Belfast.
That's it for now ...
Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable
Salt and Sparkle dined as guests of the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast