Spicing it Up
“Red hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous.” Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse
Nick’s Warehouse was The Place for business lunch in 1990s Belfast. £10 for two courses. As its name suggests, the restaurant, something of a trailblazer, was in a converted warehouse. It was down a cobbled street in Cathedral Quarter on the northern edge of the city centre. When Nick’s closed, Simon McCance, its Head Chef, set up Ginger which he runs with his wife Abby. Businessman Ricky Garrett is co owner. Ginger is more centrally located to the immediate south of the City Hall. The Place was reborn. And 18 years later, it’s all grown up.
Simon says, “When I first opened Ginger Bistro way back in 2000 on Belfast’s Ormeau Road, I wanted to serve quality food in a relaxed and friendly environment. Now located close to Belfast’s Opera House, Europa Hotel and one of Belfast’s oldest pubs, The Crown Bar, my resolve for quality food in a relaxed atmosphere has never been stronger or more relevant. With Ginger Bistro’s longevity, we have built a loyal local customer base and are one of the favourites of our ‘wee city’ and locals alike.”
At lunchtime there are no fewer than four menus: À la Carte | Lunch + Pre Theatre| Vegetarian | Set £25.50 for two courses; £32.50 for three courses. Morsels of wisdom make for fun reading. On the wine list, a Pinot Grigio is “Clean as a whistle, far too easy to drink.” An Orballo Albariño is “An aromatic wine, perfect with fish and Ginger has fish.” A Picpoul de Pinet is “Lip smackingly fresh, lovely long finish.” Cocktails (£7.00 to £7.95) are listed under “Fancy Drinks”. Promiscuous ordering is recommended:
- Apple, peach purée and ginger mocktail (£3.95)
- Veuve Fourny Premier Cru Blanc de Blans Champagne (£60.00)
- Ginger’s squid and dips, garlic mayo, homemade sweet chill and pickled ginger “best seller for over a decade!” (£8.00)
- Rich mushroom cottage pie with fat chips (£12.50)
- Classic crème brulée with raspberry compote (£7.00)
Everything is spot on. Brilliant actually, a real asset to the city’s restaurant scene. Adjoining informal dining rooms – one plum, one mustard – are already a hive of activity. The afternoon has barely begun. A slit of an opening reveals the kitchen to the rear. Ginger continues to mature. The bistro has extended into what was in Nick’s era a clothes shop called Parks. This fully glazed frontage facing Great Victoria Street has allowed covers to grow from 70 to 102. Unlike the main restaurant, the new white dining area with bar is not bookable.
“Belfast is booming!” observes Simon. “It’s a good time to be doing business. When we decided upon the extension, it was the first time I knew for certain a business plan would work. It felt grown up: I knew it would be instantly busy. New hotels are opening in the city. Grand Central has just opened round the corner. It gives an Art Deco nod to the original Grand Central which was on Royal Avenue. It’s all Belfast money too. Hastings have spent almost £60 million on their new hotel.” Guid forder! Sláinte mhaith!