Monday
May182015

q&a with David Cavan photographer

It is a tremendous honour to have had the chance to interview one of my favourite photographers the sublimely talented, and all round 'great guy' David Cavan.  I went to school with David, his sister was in my year, he was in the same year as my brother.  

David sees the world with clarity, creativity and collaboration.   He is a man of integrity, honour and wisdom. His images tell powerful stories, evoking the heart to memory, they are full of emotion, capturing a little of the lives of his subjects in frame.  

David also has great taste in books!  

You can connect with David on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or head to his website.  

Welcome David.

Who are you, what’s it like being you …

Who am i? wow, I am David Cavan [31], I am a husband to the beautiful Julie, Dad to the brilliant and gorgeous Reuben [4] and Ollie [2]. I do some work for Tearfund [An International Development Charity] and the rest of the time I run my own photography business, which has been going for just over 5 years. Whats it like being me?

I feel HUGELY privileged for my life, for all my family and friends. From a work point of view I feel I have the best job in the world, taking photos of people, trying to see if I can tell a story at 100th’s of a second at a time - I feel people let me into parts of their lives, others don’t get to see, moments that are normally private for families. However, over and above all this, the best part of my life is my family, being a dad and husband is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Oh and I’m a Liverpool fan and the degree joy of my life is dictated by how well Liverpool did the previous week, thats maybe a slight over exaggeration. 

Where are you from, where are you based …

I feel like a bit of a nomad, I grew up in Carrickfergus, went to school in Belfast [Belfast Royal Academy], Lived in Northern California for a year and then lived in Bangor for 4 years. For the last 4 half years I have been up the beautiful North Coast living in Coleraine. However I still do a lot of work in and around Belfast and all around.

Talk about your work …

As a photographer, work is split in three; 

Making the images and engaging with the people who have trusted me to take their photos. 

Editing and post production, making small adjustments to the photos to help them be the best representation of how I made the image in my head. 

Admin; general correspondance, etc

Yes before you ask this list is in order of preference. I love getting out and meeting people, entering into their story and seeing how I can  best represent that through the lens of my camera. 

What are your future plans ... 

I have lots of ideas, but no real plans as yet, I still feel I am learning my trade, I hope I always feel I am teachable and learning, however, I am still trying to understand and get on top of the present. The future, I do believe if I continue to focus on the present and be the best person I can be in the present, the future will look after itself.

However the only thing thats in my head is that, I have always felt whatever talent/skills I have with photography are to be used for more than just running a successful business. There has to be more to it than that.


So I am looking into ways where photography can be a catalyst in hearing and change in peoples circumstances. I have loved travelling and doing some photojournalism especially in places of obvious need. I have just come back from a trip to Lebanon to visit some Syrian refugees in the boarder towns.


My heart is still broken from that trip.   


How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...  

I am inspired all the time, sometimes that inspiration can be helpful and drive me forward, at other times of insecurity, the inspiration from other peers around me can make me feel like an impostor in an artistic world that I don’t belong in. However I feel this is down to the fact that I would never have considered myself an artist until my mid-late 20’s.


So I am learning to accept the creative part of myself and owning it a little. I find massive amounts of inspiration from my boys. The eyes of wonder they possess inspire me to see the world through their eyes, how they can find beauty and wonder in literally anything, things that I have taught myself over time to discard as useless.  

Describe your space ... 

I am very fortunate, I have recently just moved my office back into the house. We live in a three bed semi in Coleraine and for the first few years of the boys being on this earth they had different rooms, as their sleeping patterns were different, however, once they started going to bed at the same time, we thought we could put them in the same room and leave a space for a spare room/study.

So when this happened I contacted my friend who is an amazing artist in his own right, except his paint brush is a blowtorch and saw. He made me a custom desk with shelves and I now love the fact that I can be surrounded by my family whilst I work and my boys can come in whilst I work and ask me the brilliant questions the ask. 

How are you feeling today ... 

Today has been strangely productive. Since coming back from Lebanon my levels of productivity have fluctuated. But today lots of things are being marked off the to do list. Since as completely this for Nicky, who asked me to do this AGES ago. 

A non-negotiable in your life is …

I think of myself as a flexible person about a lot of things, I love the sense of accommodation when it comes to life, the to and fro and working together creates a lot of energy. However the things that I am very protective of are my family and friends. I have a strong desire for people being allowed and encouraged to be the best version of themselves. 

 

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ... 

I have been very fortunate to have people in my life who have encouraged me along the way. However the one time that sticks out in my mind is with my former Headmaster.

I have failed my 11+, went to Downshire Secondary School for 2 years and then transferred to Belfast Royal Academy, this was because my sisters and family friends went there and I always wanted to go. However, the academic expectations was greater, and that wasn’t my strong point in life. So whilst my social skills in school with being developed no end, I was struggling academically. I literally scrapped by with my GCSE’s and got back into school for my Lower 6th year. At the end of that year I got my AS Level results and they where less than impressive, I hadn't put the hours when it came to study but I was still surprised i did as bad as I did. I got DUU.

However, I was called into the headmasters office at the time, Mr Billy Young. He sat me down and expressed how disappointed he was in my results. However this wasn't done in a way that made me think less of myself, it was done in a way that was empathetic and understanding. He said I have a few choices but continuing on into the Sixth Form with my class mates wasn’t one of them. He said I go could to a technical college, which might be great for me, but he felt I could get lost in an environment of independent study. The second option that was offered was initially very jarring and a bit humbling. I was offered the chance to repeat the year. This was the last thing I wanted to do, to drop into the year below, was embarrassing and it meant leaving my friends behind.

However, Mr Young, sat in his office and said something to me that will stay with me for the rest of my life. He stated that he had faith in me, not just as a human but that I could work hard and prove the thoughts I had about myself wrong. He said he didn’t want me to leave and would I trust him and agree to repeat the year. He also said that he would personally look at the subjects of offer and point me in a better direction to what would suit better, and he would meet with me once and week, and check in with my teachers to see how I was doing to make sure I was keeping up.

Now this is one of the top schools in Belfast with 1200+ pupils at the school, and the head  master was pouring confidence into me that I could do. I was very fortunate at school, mostly I had teachers that where very good, and I got on very well with them, however at the moment of me being the lowest, I walked into an office expecting to be told that I wasn’t good enough to come back to the school I loved. That day literally changed my life in lots of ways. I ended up leaving school 2 years later with CDE in my full A Levels and having been unconditionally accepted into university. I am not saying that a university degree is the best thing for people but for me, it wasn’t the qualification that at the end that inspired me, it was the effect that one mans confidence in me, had on me and how far it sent me. 

Your work life philosophy is …

For me, whether its life or work, I want the things I do to make a difference in the world or someones world. I love being a photographer, and yes there are days where getting my camera out feels a bit more like a chore than I would wish, I want to create a work/life balance that compliment and balance each other out.  

What is your favourite smell ...  

The slightly damp smell of my boys hair after they have come out of the bath / Julie’s perfume / BBQ’s! haha 

Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now … 

An album that has been on repeat for a long time in my ears. Bears Den - Islands is what I am listening to now. Its amazing. However, my musical tastes range from random people few people have heard of, right up to Taylor Swift, who is incredible and even a bit of One Direction. 

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients … 

I do love food. I did photos at a wedding in Texas last year on this huge raunch just outside Dallas. Americans do weddings a bit different. So the night before the ceremony they have a wedding rehearsal followed by dinner, were they eating, drink and do the speeches. The dinner at that and the actual wedding day was mind-blowing. It was slow flame grilled Brisket. I would say, without any shadow of a doubt that was be my favourite meal.

From an ingredients POV - its simple for me, I love meat. So chicken, beef and bacon.

 

Three things or products that have changed your life... 

My first Apple Mac, it was a beautiful white iBook and it started me on the road of realising how my creativity can be supported via computers.

My first digital camera. I had just come back from my year in America, and my best friend was out in Hong Kong, he kept telling me how much cheaper cameras where, so I got him to pick me up a tiny canon point and shoot, from there I realised I love the instant nature of digital photography.

I am a visional learner, who HEAVILY relies on trial and error, and digital photography gave me the platform to see what was working and how it was working. Even though this wee camera sits at the bottom of a storage box and hasn’t been used in years, it for sure was my first step in the door.


The film Good Will Hunting. For lots of reasons, this film changed how I approached life. The importance of engaging with life and not just experiencing it from the passenger seat. Plus Robin Williams. 

How do you relax ... 

Watch or play football, playing football whilst it reminds me how unfit I am, it puts me back to zero, re-calibrates me. Love watching TV shows/Films with Julie. Playing super heroes or cars with my boys. Finally, getting all my work done. I like to feel a sense of being of top of work before I can truly relax.  

What makes you happy, where’s your happy place … 

What makes me happy is watching people not accept 2nd best in themslves, especially when their opinion of themselves has come from someone else in a negative way. My happy place is sitting on the sofa with my family around me, just enjoying each others company, our boys bring us so much joy, so no matter how difficult a day/week/month has been, listening to their take on the world they occupy does it for me. 

What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ... 

When I lived in Northern California, I drove the 12 hr drive from LA to San Francisco a few times and the coast road is beautiful! My best friend lives in Hong Kong and I would love to go there or India. Cultures that are so different from ours really interest me, and love meeting people there and hearing how they view life.

What do you most value in your friends ...  

I love being my friends biggest fans. In Northern Ireland especially where saying your good at something is considered over confident, I like to make sure people are aware just how amazing my friends are. What I value most in them is loyalty. Not necessarily to me, but to themselves. 

What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now ... 

I am not much of a reader, I am dyslexic and find reading a chore but I do have subscription to Audible so listen to audio books in my car. I have just finished a few books, Love Does by Bob Geoff, The Zim Zum of Love by Rob & Kirsten Bell and Scary Close by Donald Miller. All are inspiring and gaving me different ways of looking at things I thought I had made my conclusions on. Favourite word is grace.

Share some words of wisdom …

When it comes to wisdom, I wouldn't suggest that I am someone who emits it in abundance. However, I would say with lots of things I do in life, I feel there are people doing it bigger and better than me. I have a constant feeling that one day people will notice that I am making it up as I go along.

However, I am learning to accept that I am always moving forward, it may only be tiny steps but its always in a forward motion.

When this happens, its only when you look back and see how far you have come. Even when life knocks you, you realise you have made a mistake, things aren’t working out, whatever it is, you learn and dust off, even if it takes a while and keep moving forward. Live life to the fullest and don’t forget the things in life that are most important, for me its people. 

 David, thank you for joining us at the Salt and Sparkle Q&A

That's if for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Sunday
May172015

Weekend Thinking

Tuesday
May122015

My Spice Cupboard

There's something really quite intriguing about little pots of spices.  Brightly coloured in shades of burnt orange and bright green, with deep reds and murky mustards.  There are textures and shapes, the points of star ainse, the nail like cloves, or spheres of mustard seeds.

Take the top off the pot and the power of the scent is rich and sensual.

I love these chunky spice pots from Marks and Spencer which are easily identifiable with the name of its contents written on top.  

These pots are very clever not only for their labelling but their wide necks make measuring using pinches or a set of spoons very easy.  They fit perfectly into a drawer, and because of their top labels you can virtually instantly find what you are looking for.

Spices are a central element in many cuisines, and it would be wrong to neglect their power to enhance the food we cook and eat.  It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of spices on offer, and how to use them. I use spices constantly in my cooking these are some of my favourites.  Oregeno with its warm, sweet and slightly bitter taste bring depths to chillis.  Or sprinkled dry on pizzas as we ate it in Sicily brings warmth to a dish.  Or use it as they do in Turkey to season meat before BBQ. 

Their biggest attribute is their ability to invoke flavour into a range of dishes.  Mustard seeds with carrots, cinnamon with orange compote, chilli flakes with green beans, harissa with lamb, sumac with chicken, dill with salmon, basil with tomatoes.  The list goes on and on.  Each spice has a multitude of uses and there are many claims for their health benefits.

Rosemary sprinkled over baby potatoes before cooking, brings a woody sweetness to their roasting skins.  They say in Greece - where rosemary grows wild, the woman rule the house.  Rosemary is a verstaile, useful herb, which works in a huge array of dishes, including sweets and puddings, such as sorbets, cakes and fruit fools.  For the latter it needs to be used with a deliciate hand.  It can flavour breads such as Focaccia, or wheaten, it is a natural pairing with lamb, or stuffed into chicken

I find a deep pleasure in the smell of rosemary, and often can be found picking it with lavender to sit in posys on my table, or by my desk.

This smoky sea salt works with nearly everything - a pinch in some houmous, ground over chips or roast potatoes, bringing some smoky salt to sweet potatoes.

 

Sumac is a wonderful Middle Eastern herb, tangy, lemony and slightly spicy, it brings a real zing to any cooking, it is more balanced and less tart than lemon.  It was typically used in Europe until lemons were introduced by the Romans.  It is delicious sprinkled on top of houmous, in salad dressings , dry rubs, marinades, in salad or sprinkled over food before serving, its red colour is very appealing.

I love to use it in salads, or when roasting a chicken.

 A scrapper is one of the best ways to lift herbs, I use my constantly for a whole array of purposes - making bread, lifting crumbs, moving chopped ingredients from one place to another.

 Ginger and Turmeric are botanically related and have been used throughout the ages as spices in cooking and as medicinal spices. They are recommended for treating gastrointestinal problems, inflammatory conditions and among other things.  I like to use them in stews and soups.  They are also excellent for dealing with muscle and arthritic pain, you can drink them in tinctures or teas, and Pukka do a great range of treatments that incorporate them.

 Spice grinders are a quick and easy way to add flavour to pasta, eggs, rice, salads, meat - just about anything really.  I keep several on hand.  

 My favourite is the smoked garlic and chilli mill.

 This Morrocan spice mix with dried rose petals, when ground makes a fantastic rub for slow roast pork, or legs of lamb.  Massage the herbs into the spices and leave over night in the fridge for maximum flavour.

 Ground coriander bares little resemblance to the fragrant green fresh herb, however it is very useful in a kitchen as the base of many different spice mixtures including garam masala and harissa.  You can use it in pickles, chutneys, casseroles or cakes.

Saffron the most expensive herb in the world, and is known as the King of Spices, it is also one of the world's most precious commodaties.  It has a deep red auburn colour and a sweet flavour.  Spanish and Kashmiri saffron are among the best types.  The herb brings a distinctive sweet dry aroma, and is used in the preparation of many perfumes as well as food dishes.

I like to use it in rice dishes such as risotto or paella.

Good spice mixes never go unused, and these two Marks and Spencer house blends are storecupboard savours.

It would be wrong to neglect the use of spices in our diet, they not only flavour our food, but do us a huge amount of good.  Spices bring life to otherwise dull food, and their taste, smell and colour tempt our tastebuds in a good way.

If you want to move away from eating overly processed food with its huge amounts of salt and sugar, spices with their kick, warmth and vitality are your friends.

What are your favourite herbs to use?

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
May112015

q&a with Cathy Martin

It is delightful to welcome Cathy Martin to the Salt and Sparkle q&a.  Cathy is dynamic, powerful, inspiring and interesting, not to mention very glamorous.  

The director of Belfast FASHIONWEEK and owner of CMPR, a media relations and events company. I first met Cathy when I interviewed her for a film I made for Channel 4 News several years ago, and since then it has been a pleasure to watch her success.  

During a lunch several years ago Cathy said to me, 'Nicky what are you doing for you, with your talents? You're doing a lot for others, but what are you doing for you?' At the time the comment slid into my head, and then stayed in my memory, gently nudging me to remember, I need to do things for me, with my talent.  

This short comment, during a quick lunch has been one of the most profound things anyone has said to me in my career. Thank you for that Cathy, and it is wonderful to interview you.

Cathy will soon be speaking at the Belfast Tedx at Stormont, she is a person worth listening to.

 

1.     Who are you, what’s it like being you ...

First and foremost I am a mummy to Valentina, a daughter to my lovely mum Mae, a sibling to six and a cousin to many. I’m also a colleague to Lucy, Leeza and Chris and a friend to quite a few people who are my rocks and my laughing partners in this wonderful thing we call life.

2.     Where are you from, where are you based ...

I’m from the Lisburn Road in Belfast, but I now live and work in Holywood, which I absolutely love. It is a wonderful community and a pretty place to live.

3.     Talk about your work ...

I have quite a few hats. First and foremost I am a PR consultant and advise clients across many sectors on promoting their businesses and projects. Secondly I own and manage Belfast FASHIONWEEK, which has been running for over ten years now.

4.       What are your future plans ...

I just want to be happy. Workwise, I have no ambitions for a massive company, I quite like being small and manageable – as well as personal.

5.     How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...  

I find inspiration in hard working people, honest people, those who are respectful and those who are creative. I love nature and music as well as a well written piece of poetry or prose and I am a big fan of art and nature.

6.       Describe your space ... 

My workspace is very modern and fresh, open and contemporary, with bright artwork and lots of light and mirrors. My home is grey and more traditional with a large fireplace and lots of art and photographs.

7.     How are you feeling today ... 

I always feel happy and blessed. I have a lot to be thankful for.

8.     A non-negotiable in your life is ...

I dislike lies and thieves, secrets and disrespect.

9.       Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

It’s nice to be nice.

10.    Your work life philosophy is ...

Work hard, play hard.

11.   What is your favourite smell ...  

I have many! Coffee – although I don’t drink it, and bread – although I don’t eat bread! I also love a rich chocolatey smell, and the cinnamon smell of Christmas, plus, lastly, I love the smell of faint aftershave on my other half’s neck.

12.   Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now ...

I listen to a lot of opera and classical music which would probably surprise people.

13.   Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

I love sea bass in butter and rock salt with fine green beans, broccoli, courgette or any other greens done in butter with a tiny bit of garlic. I could actually eat that most evenings for dinner!

14.  Three things or products that have changed your life...

Having my daughter Valentina has changed my life. But losing my daughter Rosie to stillbirth a few years before Valentina came along changed it much more. I had a very serious infection and in years gone by, probably would’ve died giving birth, so I am grateful for every day I’ve been given on this earth and have made some decisions recently to allow me to live this wonderful life to the full.

15.   How do you relax ...

I love to laugh in the company of good friends. We eat, drink and dance usually!

16.   What makes you happy, where’s your happy place ...

I love having fun with Valentina – at the park, in our home, wherever. But equally, I love being alone on a beach, reading a book and enjoying the warm sunshine, the breeze from the sea and the noises of nature.

17.   What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ...  

I’d love to visit more of Asia… The mountains and cherry blossoms of Japan, plus the beaches and islands of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. I’d love to go back to Australia and sail the Whitsundays or snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef.

18.   What do you most value in your friends ...  

Loyalty, a sense of fun and adventure, plus they need to have a good ear. I talk a lot! And they also need to understand that my job means I won’t make every social occasion, but it can mean some fun ones for them!

19.   What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now ...

I used to read at least a book a week, and then I became a mum. It’s harder now to read even a magazine at home, so I look forward to holidays and a blast of literature.

20.  Share some words of wisdom ...

Never cut what can be untied…

 Thank you for spending time at our place Cathy.  You can connect with Cathy on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or check out her website.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Sunday
May102015

Weekend Thinking

 

Anna Wintor Smiling suits you

Why you need to name and claim your emotions

I am excited about these 7 days of mindfulness - why don't you sign up too? My beautiful friend Melissa Smith is leading

Words to stop using 

Music full of peace and beauty Mahler - Symphony No 9 Lucerne Festival Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado I spent a rainy afternoon editing reports listening to this, it was a balm for my soul

Just who are you dealing with - manipulation

Empathy Cards - pithy fun cards, with a somewhat sardonic humour

It's worth listening to this podcast with Bradley Cooper on his film Sniper Cooper's commitment to those who serve is admirable

Five things happy people have in their homes - how many do you have? I am happy to report I have them all

Woman of Valor - I've always loved Proverbs 31 and it came as something of a shock to me that many women don't, this article offers them a new way to interpret it.

I am really looking forward to reading this book

The stress disease connection - I am thoroughly enjoying this book, 'When the Body says No! by Gabor Mate'

I know how you feel - the worst things to say to someone who is suffering

Glass ceiling for women shatters again

Social media is not a new mum's friend

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable 

Friday
May082015

Meet - Five Minute Friday

The day she met him was dull.  Only a vague shade of green could be seen on Black Mountain from which the rain seemed to pour onto the city streets.  Standing behind the table in the bakery, her hands dusted with flour, she wove lengths of dough with an effortless rhythm, stretching and pulling.  Teasing them into perfectly plaited loaves.

Using the back of her arm to wipe her brow, she left a faint dusting of flour in her dark hair.   Something in the air changed, the scent, and instinct told her she wasn’t alone.  Silhouetted in the doorframe watching her, he shook his blond curls and water dripped onto the tiled floor.  All the time his blue eyes locked on hers.  The stood still in silence.

In that instant everything changed.

 -------

Today I thought I’d share a little fiction from a story I am working on as part of my Five Minute Friday post.  I hope you will join the Five Minute Friday community, and consider writing for five minutes, then sharing your words with us.  It will be a five of the best minutes you spend all day.  Happy Friday.

That’s it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

 

Tuesday
Mar312015

Chef Alastair Fullerton's new menu at the Fitzwilliam Belfast

 

 


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 ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Salt and Sparkle dined as guests of the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast