Slap bang in the centre of Belfast’s Golden Mile, the Malt Room Bar and Restaurant opened in the former Bourbon premises November 2013.
The brainchild of Great British Menu regular Raymond McArdle and hotelier Lord Diljit Rana, who decided to inject some glamour back into the Golden Mile, they went to town on the décor - all grey painted wood and feature wallpaper, with white-clothed tables, gleaming glassware and plenty of soft lighting.
It’s a big space, with two floors connected by a sweeping staircase with plenty of booths and smaller tables as well as ample space for groups and private parties (including a private dining room on the first floor). It feels airy and elegant, with fresh flowers dotted around and very comfortable chairs - a place to spoil yourself a little.
True to the McArdle style, this is modern Irish fine dining and at the helm in the kitchen is a true Raymond McArdle protégée, David Mageean from Portaferry, who trained under him for seven years.
Before you taste any of his fine food, you can start with an excellent cocktail from the small, but perfectly-formed list. The bread is a must. Can anyone resist Guinness malt (of course!) bread and crusty, light rolls - which just happen to be gluten free - spread with handmade Abernethy butter from darling little white dishes topped with waxed paper?
A treat destination for both lunch and dinner, the set lunch and pre-theatre menus offer especially good value and upbeat versions of popular dishes such as Angel Haddock Goujonettes with thick cut chips, roast garlic and chive rouille, but the more ambitious à la carte dishes include many special touches (like the heritage carrots that come with a crisp confit chicken croquette, for example).
A standout main course dish which demands to be tried is undoubtedly the local Tyndale Goat Kid which has been slow-cooked for 18 hours, and Peter Hannan’s famous beef is also offered (although, surprisingly, it is not named on the menu), perhaps featuring as a salted braised piece of brisket with potato purée and spinach.
There may also be other local meats such as Rump of Mourne Blackface Lamb with lamb bacon, creamed spinach, butter beans and smoked paprika velouté, and you don’y need to be a vegetarian to appreciate the effort that goes into delicious meat-free dishes like pasta with roasted butternut squash, pickled Paris mushrooms and truffle crème. Expect lots of complementary flavours and contrasting textures, and beautiful presentation on gorgeous white plates.
Desserts are strong on the comfort factor with offerings like apple and treacle tart and lemon sponge pudding to tempt traditionalists, and an Irish cheese board showcases cheeses from across the island so it’s good to see the Leggygowan from Saintfield make the cut. Gorgeous truffles made in house round off the meal beautifully.
A fairly extensive wine list includes a good selection of mid-price offerings.
Personable staff are engaging and have good menu knowledge. Details, such as the delicious house truffles, add to the sense of occasion and the tasting menu at £40 for six courses offers excellent value and is well worth trying.