Northern Ireland produce is stamped all over the menus at the café-bar restaurant at Belfast’s MAC arts venue, the signature building on the beautiful St Anne’s Square in Cathedral Quarter.
It takes up part of the open ground floor and mezzanine space and the décor is industrial in style, with large concrete block walls and dark colours - but the food is vibrant and packed full of flavour.
It’s open from breakfast until late for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tapas and cocktails - and while pared back, with bare tables, bentwood chairs and simple tableware, the arrival of linen napkins at your table hints at the quality food to follow.
Local products like Broighter Gold rapeseed oil, Doran’s beef and sausages and Clandeboye Yoghurt are name-checked, and typical dishes include sustainable fish chowder with edible flowers and micro-herbs from their own polytunnel and flank steak with chimichurri sauce. The children’s menu deserves a special mention, with unusual offerings like bean beignets in a pitta pocket.
Very attentive, efficient staff know the menu inside out, thughtfully advising that sides are not required with the well balanced main dishes. Desserts are a highlight - chocolate orange pot should be a hit, for example, and a perfect apple and rhubarb crumble is paired with the excellent Glastry Farm ice-cream.
Canteen gives good value for the quality of the food and the ingredients, and the £20 deal for a glass of wine with main and dessert is deservedly popular. The small list also combines quality with good value, wth a good selection of old and new world offerings by the glass, carafe and full bottles. Their cocktail menu is also interesting, the most popular being an Espresso MACtini.
Well worth a visit, theatre or not.