December 15, 2017

Eating at Stix and Stones

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink

is an old English proverb dating back to the 12th century.

I’ve been the target of this proverb many times. Sometimes underservedly. If the waiters and waitresses of Stix and Stones Restaurant in Belfast had paid heed to this equestrian idiom perhaps they would not have recommended the ‘cook it yourself’ steak so vociferously to me.

I entered Stix and Stones without a reservation. I hadn’t even planned on going there but I’ve decided to limit my visits to the New Emerald Takeaway given that I’m going to China in the summer. There was still a couple of unused tables so my girlfriend and I chose a seat by the window as I quite enjoy glowering at passing Translink buses.

The drinks menu was quite impressive and our waiter enthusiastically described the fourteen different cocktails on offer. He further went on to describe the skills of the restaurants mixologist who apparently performs in some sort of Mixologist Champions League competition. I ordered a cider and my girlfriend ordered a coke.

For starters my girlfriend and I chose to share the “chicken wings, teriyaki, cucumber, crème fraiche salsa”. An impressive eight chicken wings were posed upon a throne of cucumber cuttings. It might as well have been placed on top of a pile of freshly cut grass for all I cared. Chicken wings are all about the chicken and having an adequate supply of water for washing hands.

There were lemon slices in the slightly warm, wash water which was my second clue that this establishment was more ‘hoity toity’. The first, being the prices of the food and cocktails. I’m not saying they are expensive for the average restaurant go-er but they are more expensive than my usual Wetherspoons fine dining experience. Granted, the food is much nicer. Perhaps this is because it’s cooked better. And whilst we are on the subject of cooking food….

When it came to main courses I was pretty settled on pork (pork belly glazed with molasses, pork scratching, dates, savoy cabbage, black lard jus) but after listening to the excited waiter’s eulogy on the beauty of the stone based cooking methods I switched to the sirloin (8oz salt aged sirloin, slow cooked tomato, flat cat mushroom, red pepper and shallot chutney). The menu boasted that all steaks are “dry aged Irish produce with 100% traceability” although I’ve found traceability is not always preferred. For instance I was perfectly happy not knowing that my ASDA bolognese sauce contained Seabiscuit’s left kidney.

Stix and Stones’ beef is brought out on top of a hot stone allowing you to choose how much you cook the beef, although you can request it presented to you in the traditional manner. I thought, “whilst in Rome”…

Rome wasn’t built in a day but it was burnt in one.

and had it brought out on the stone. Both waiters and waitresses had warned me that it was wisest to cut the meat into one inch slices to avoid burning the beef but I was so excited by the scalding rock in front of me that I slapped the whole steak around on it. A cloud of black smoke began to surround my table as I left the bottom of my beef blackened. The staff had to come over and remind me that my method of cooking was perhaps not ideal. Once the smoke (and my stupidity) had dissipated I found the staff to be correct. The sirloin was great and the side order was substantial. There’s nothing worse than a restaurant with a penchant for severe, side order, portion control. If you are in charge of a restaurant who believes five chips or half a potato constitutes a side order, please close down.

Restaurant Score: 4.2156737 / 5

Whilst this restaurant may have been the Downtown Abbey to my rusted caravan, I still enjoyed eating there. The restaurant was clean, the food was great, the staff were pleasant and perhaps most importantly, the seats were comfortable.

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