Like its neat exterior, the name of Mark and Patricia O’Kane’s smart modern bistro just off the Diamond gives very little away - the exciting bit comes when you discover Brendan Baxter’s terrific cooking, the friendly service and the great value that’s to be found within.
Comfortable and casual, with honey-toned wood creating a warm ambience, it’s a pleasing space with a wine bar towards the front where you can enjoy a pre dinner drink. Cocktails are a big thing here, but there’s plenty else to choose from while you’re looking at the menu, including craft beers.
Provenance is a real feature - Brendan Baxter is clearly on a mission to support and feature local food, and his menus are sprinkled with place names. So you might be offered Carlingford cockles or Kilkeel crab, for example, with game like Finnebrogue venison and local wild boar in winter and more seafood from Kilkeel in summer months.
The cooking is spot on, in dishes that are quite classical but with a modern twist - a delicious terrine of duck may come with a pumpkin purée and ribbons of carrot, for example, while main dish of Kilkeel hake may be served with wild sea herbs, spinach, butternut squash and champ.
Some may find the presentation in the currently popular fine dining style a little fussy (a few less garnishing elements can often add up to more overall), while others will feel the amount of detail gives a sense of occasion.
And the simple things are really good - excellent breads are a feature, for example, including traditional brown (wheaten bread).
Children are extremely well catered for and the children’s menus are an outstanding feature: there are two offerings, for smaller children (0-8) and hungrier ones (8-12, larger portions), both including an ice cream dessert as well as a real food main course.
All round, Fusion manages the balancing act of long opening hours and menus to suit different age groups and occasions very well - and they give great value for the quality offered too. A place to try.