Dining out: Muddlers Club – rock ‘n roll meals hit all the right notes
The Muddlers Club,
1 warehouse aisle,
028 9031 3199
The IT says a lot for the Muddlers Club in Belfast city center that it manages to both look like it just popped up and has been there the whole time.
In fact, it will be seven years this October since chef Gareth McCaughey opened what was quick to establish itself as one of the best places in town.
Nestled in a tangle of alleys and alleys out of the slightly larger tangle of alleys and alleys that make up the Cathedral Quarter, four years after opening it has joined other Belfast restaurants Ox and Deane’s Eipic in the Michelin Star club from the north, making it three nods for the city for the first time.
He’s held it ever since and done it his way.
McCaughey’s other Michelin and former Ox boss Stephen Toman described the Muddlers Club as “pure rock and roll,” and it’s easy to see why.
The Rolling Stones bounce around the sharp industrial space as we sit.
It’s early evening on a Wednesday but the first night open after a week and a half of spring break and the place is buzzing.
There’s street art along the way and the occasional bit of body art on the team of eager young waiters who, when not flying around the room, line up outside the open kitchen, McCaughey and his team a blur of activity behind them.
If the Muddlers Club was into real rock and roll rather than the foodie version, that’s your album cover right there.
Whether you are passing through for lunch or dinner, a “surprise” tasting menu is on offer.
If you stay off the website, the surprise will continue until the plates are dropped in front of you, but even a little browsing will only reveal a lot to you with three or four of the ingredients for each dish listed and the rest left to the imagination.
For £70 pp, with vegetarian/vegan versions ten times less, these are just good surprises from a place that’s completely sure of what it’s doing, but with the enthusiasm and excitement of the latest la brighter.
Crispy celeriac tubes are filled with sweet crab, with drizzles of rich avocado. Given that they’re adorned with dill fronds and pretty flowers, calling them “blobs” seems inelegant, but everything is bursting with summery freshness. Even in this alley, the early evening sun finds a way through the windows. It captures him.
Beneath a cotton candy-like foam is a perfectly sweet and pert scallop, which hits it with a bisque deep enough to dip from any height. It was made by a sauce wizard over there in the kitchen, nodding Rebel Rebel.
The scallop shell was perhaps mysterious and simple – the lamb grabs you by the collar and grabs your attention in a hundred different places. Like a forest floor in a Disney cartoon, there are perfect parsnip crisps, red-edged radishes, little leaves and tiny flower petals, drops of lovage puree, and the softest and sweetest slices. softer rump of raw lamb. All dusted with dulse powder, all a brawny reminder of why there’s a star nailed to the door.
A piece of cod is (obviously) perfectly cooked, alongside an assortment of mussels, broad beans, zucchini and romanesco. On top, there are salty sea vegetables and coral egg pearls that end up floating in the light and sharp dashi broth.
Complete confidence – in the product, in the idea, in the people who put it together and the people who produce it – oozes from the Muddlers Club, and it is delivered in the effortless and engaging way that is only possible when everything everyone knows and loves exactly what they’re doing.
A magnificent piece of beef sits simply with a length of charred asparagus, more asparagus mash, a leaf of wild garlic and a single baby potato. Oh, and a truffle burst.
A burst of sweet white chocolate and sour rhubarb is the most glaring of the two desserts, leading to the finish which, surprise, surprise, is a spectacle. Slices of sharp plum and strands of candied lemon peel are presented on a dense sponge cake, under a delicately nutty gorse flower ice cream.
It’s fruit, sponge and ice, but it’s rock and roll fruit, sponge and ice.
And not a bum note to be heard anywhere.
THE LAW PROJECT
Tasting menu x2 £140
Lime tart cocktail 11 €
Coconut Margarita €12
Bramble of Berries 5 €
Pear and Almond Fizz 5 €
WB Yates still water £5