Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Cocktails, Culinary Delights and Comedy Gold

I had been looking forward to last Friday night for literally months. The Yorkshireman and I love a good stand up comedy show and we've been to see Jimmy Carr a good few times already, so when we found out he was returning to the Belfast Waterfront Hall with his Laughter Therapy tour this November, tickets were purchased pretty quickly. Friday 4th November was to be the night and it was to be a merry band of three, as sister dearest (also a comedy fan) had decided to join us.

However after a long day (nay, long week) at work, sustenance and alcohol would be required before we even thought about the show itself. We met up in Victoria's Bar on the corner of Victoria Street and Chichester Street. It's a bar that has been through a few incarnations in its time, perhaps most memorably The Advocate, so named presumably because it's across the road from the Courts and was popular with be-suited legal eagles with a cheeky glass of red in one hand and a Blackberry in the other.

These days it's still quite plush but it has a trendier twist to it. It also offers £3.50 happy hour cocktails, which appealed to us greatly. Sister dearest and I happily enjoyed Sex On The Beach (cheeky!) but the Yorkshireman was clearly not in a fruity mood and instead went for a pint of the black stuff (Guinness, for the uninitiated). We sat outside, sipping our drinks as dusk fell over the city, enjoying the slight chill in the air and some good music being piped out of the bar. How very urbane!

A quick time check revealed that we should probably get our skates on if we were to duck in under the bar of the early bird menu at our chosen dinner spot. I've only ever been to The Northern Whig at night, when it was too dark and too loud to communicate with anyone, so it hadn't left an amazing impression on me. However I'd been hearing a lot of good things about their food in recent times and in the spirit of second chances I was willing to give it a chance to change my mind. The fact that they serve an early evening two course meal for £10 was enough to persuade the Yorkshireman.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from our dining experience, but the place was already full when we arrived, so it's clearly a popular choice! A lovely waitress told us that if we could wait five minutes she would find us a table for three. Perfect. We decided on a bottle of wine to share and settled in at the bar in the meantime. The wine was just their house white (a nice Chilean Riveroak Sauvignon Blanc for £14.50) but it was lovely. Sister dearest was all proud of herself when the label confirmed her suspicions of a hint of gooseberry. Perhaps she has a burgeoning career there as our generation's Jilly Goolden. Does anyone else remember her? Why do I remember her?

*Shakes fist at parents who made us endure hours of TV hell in the form of shows like Food and Drink*

Ah well, childhood trauma aside we'll get back to the night in question...

We were merrily sipping our wine at the bar and checking out the elegant and quite plush d├ęcor (I do love a good chandelier) when, before we knew it, we were summoned to our table along the back wall. We were given our menus with a warning that the two course set menu was only available until 6.45pm - in only 7 minutes time! With the Mission Impossible theme running through our minds, we quickly made our choices and downed our menus in the hope that the waitress would return on time to take our orders. Thankfully even though she had a huge party to serve beforehand, she was very efficient and we ordered just on time.

For my main course I opted for the pork and leek sausages with colcannon mash and a roast onion jus. The Yorkshireman and sister dearest both went for the lemon crumbed haddock with a crushed potato & saffron cream. My meal was exactly what I'd hoped for: decent sausages and mash with a tasty gravy; just the right sort of comfort food required after a hard week at work. My fellow diners were completely blown away with their meals. The haddock was beautifully cooked and breadcrumbed and the saffron cream sauce was just delicious. So far, so good!

For dessert sister dearest and I had both ordered vanilla tart served with Guinness ice cream and the Yorkshireman had gone for the sticky toffee pudding. We waited a good while for our dessert to show and I started to worry about our timings. Eventually our waitress bustled over, all apologies saying that they had run out of vanilla tart. Okay, no problem. I went for the homemade banoffee toffee and bananas combined on a delicious crumbly biscuit base instead, which had the unfortunate side-effect of getting the Buttery Biscuit Base song stuck in my head (you must watch this if you have not yet had the pleasure). Sister dearest opted for the rocky road frozen ice cream cake with mallow and fudge pieces and chocolate chunks.

By this stage it was 7.40pm (20 minutes before Jimmy Carr was due to start all the way over at the Waterfront Hall) so I had to be cheeky and ask for the bill at the same time. Thankfully our desserts arrived not long thereafter (thanks, nice waitress lady) and they were indeed worth the wait. My banoffee was pretty much like the one I make at home, but I love my banoffee so that was a good thing! The Yorkshireman's sticky toffee pudding was a hit too. I did sneak a taste of his warm toffee sauce and have to agree it was pretty darn good. Sister dearest enjoyed her rocky road too, although the base was unfortunately a bit too frozen for even the sharp edge of a spoon and some brute force to contend with and so some remained uneaten.

Possibly also a contributing factor to the abandoned dessert was that I was ushering everyone out in a hurry, bearing in mind there was now only 4 minutes to go until the show kicked off, a good 10-15 minute walk away. In the end we tumbled into a taxi helpfully parked outside and instructed the driver to go go go! It was £4 well spent and we took our seats just as the bell was going off outside to announce the start of the show. Perfect timing!

The show was, as it has been every year, absolutely hilarious. I am in awe that Jimmy Carr manages to have such a huge repertoire of material. Okay so if you follow him on Twitter or watch some of the TV shows he's on, you might notice one or two jokes being reused, but for the most part every tour is fresh and original. To be fair you could go and see the same show twice and it would be slightly different each time because a lot of it relies on audience participation. Plus the man is a genius when it comes to slapping down hecklers. I won't spoil any of the material for those who might still be going to see it, or will watch it on DVD or TV, but if you ever get the chance to go and see him live, I would snap those tickets up.

You get a good amount of entertainment for your money too. The show started at 8pm and we didn't get home until around 11.30pm. I appreciate a bit of bang for my buck! So all in all it was a pretty great evening. Good company, good food, good drinks and a damn good show. What more can a girl ask for?

The next comedy show we have tickets for is Sarah Millican in March and I'm really looking forward to that one. I always find her hilarious on TV but any time she's been in Belfast the tickets have been sold out before I could get hold of any. So that's something to look forward to. Now just to find another restaurant on my "must try" list to dine at beforehand. Well, you've got to make a night of it, don't you?

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