Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Belfast Foodie Chronicles - Brunch at Bennetts

I've mentioned before that I love my home city of Belfast quite a bit, and enjoy watching it grow and modernise. Every time I wander through the city centre these days I find a new restaurant or café or shop I didn't know existed and it's really wonderful to see. You may also have gathered from my cupcake addiction that I also love my food, so I'm always eager to try out all these new eateries opening up all the time.

Unfortunately between a lack of money and ongoing attempts to stick to a healthy diet, I don't get the opportunity to sample their wares as often as I would like to. However occasionally I will throw caution to the wind and go on a little rampage of all the latest hotspots I've been itching to try. Recently a period "between diets", payday and a bank holiday weekend all coincided and resulted in a few fun days working my way through a hit list I'd created of things I wanted to try. Talk about a sugar coma, but it was all worth it!

Basically I tried to recall every time someone had said to me, "you have got to try it!" in the last couple of months, or any time I'd walked past somewhere and thought it looked or smelled good, and it went on the list. Unfortunately if I'd eaten everything on the list I'm fairly sure I would have exploded, so I narrowed it down to a shortlist and thought I would report my findings!

First up, my dear mother, sister and I decided we would take full advantage of the bank holiday by going for brunch. Actually that's a lie - I said I was going to take full advantage of the bank holiday by going for brunch and they insisted on coming along. Copycats.

My bruncherie (have I just invented a word?) of choice was Bennetts on the Belmont Road.

Photo artfully taken at high speed from a passing bus

It has actually been around for years but I think people might overlook Bennetts because it's not in the city centre and the on-street parking situation can be a little hit-and-miss in that area. I'd actually been with the Yorkshireman and some friends before and only had a coffee whilst everyone else tucked into their yummy food with fervour. I also go past it on the bus every day and it always smells divine, so I vowed that one day I would indeed return and actually eat something this time. Happily they offer a breakfast menu and were open on bank holiday Monday, and so our plan was set.

The breakfast menu is pretty short but diverse. They also have a brunch menu at the weekend (although I can't quite remember if it was Saturday, Sunday or both) with a bit more variety, but this was a Monday. We each perused our options and, in typical fashion for our family, all ordered pretty much the same thing, namely French toast with maple syrup and an extra side each. For those who are curious, sister dearest had a poached egg, mother had bacon and I went for the more expensive sausage option (no comments!).

I have to say we were all impressed. The French toast was more the savoury "eggy bread" European style of French toast than the sweeter, sugar and cinnamon covered American style. Either way it was pretty delicious and since the maple syrup came separately in a squeezy bottle, you could make it as sweet as you liked anyway. The slices of bread (baguette if I'm not mistaken) were very fresh and whilst the egg had helped the outside crisp up nicely, the inside was still lovely and soft. The sweetness of the maple syrup contrasted perfectly with the savoury taste of the egg. The sausages were thick and meaty but a bit too herby for my tastes. The bacon and poached eggs seemed well-received though. I quite enjoyed my vanilla latte too, although the large size was huge and mummy dearest couldn't finish hers.

We also enjoyed the ambience at Bennetts. There are standard tables at one side but we enjoyed sitting in one of the booths by the window. If you do get bored of people-watching on the Belmont Road, there's plenty of interesting art on the walls to entertain you instead. The whole feel inside is modern, laid back and yet welcoming - I could picture myself sitting there on a rainy day, snug, warm and relaxed, sipping a cappuccino and gazing out at the world outside without being bothered.

Our brunch cost us about £25 all in, or around £8 each, which seems a bit expensive for breakfast in general but unfortunately is pretty much the norm for a more upmarket brunch in the city these days. We all thoroughly enjoyed our meals and agreed we would definitely return in future, but at that price it will unfortunately have to remain an occasional treat for me!

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