I’ve had somewhat of a hiatus from blog writing over the last few months. I’ve not however stopped eating food and enjoying trying new places. In fact it’s a visit to Harry’s in Derry that has cured my writers block.
I’ve always loved Harry’s Shack in Portstewart. It’s the first place we book for any visit back to the Causeway Coast (if you haven’t been, book a flight, hire a car, drive up the coast road, eat local fish and seafood at Harry’s Shack and you’ll never want to leave)
Anyway, a day trip to Derry on the train, the most magical train journey by the way, gave us opportunity to book lunch at Harry’s. Harry’s feels like the ‘grown up’ sibling of Harry’s Shack. There is a familiarity about the style of food but a delicate touch and refinement that sets it apart from Harry’s Shack. That is no disrespect to Harry’s Shack, their food is sensational and fits the surroundings, but at Harry’s in the Craft Village they are definitely showcasing their craft by focusing on seasonal ingredients grown in their kitchen garden alongside the bounty of local seafood the Causeway Coast is gifted with.
My starter of warm garden pea, broad bean, leek and summer truffle tart with soft duck egg and chervil was stunning. The vivid green when it arrives does not prepare you for the delights hidden within. Cutting through the most delicate of filo pastry uncovered a beautifully soft set duck egg adding richness to the dish, alongside what has to be one of the finest tastes of summer in fresh peas and broad beans; finishing with the luxury of summer truffle leads to the most satisfying of dishes and a great start to our meal.
Mr F had the breaded mackerel fish cakes, pickled garden beetroot, dulse and horseradish curd. The beetroot, lightly pickled and bursting with flavour was the perfect accompaniment for the rich mackerel. The background flavour of local dulse providing the perfect seasoning for the dish and a wonderful reminder of the sea. A few robust ingredients that had the risk of battling against each other given a deftness of touch allowed each component to shine.
For main I had Greencastle hake, ham hock, peas, gem lettuce, horseradish and mint curd, whey reduction and new potatoes. It sounds complicated but had an elegance that summed up summer for me. Perfectly cooked hake sat atop braised gem lettuce, peas and mint providing colour and freshness; saltiness from the ham hock and a horseradish and mint curd that packed a punch without overpowering the rest of the dish.
In a departure for Mr F he chose the roast chicken breast, pancetta, girolle, charred leeks, macaroni gratin, hazelnut and truffle pesto. A particular highlight of the dish were the charred leeks, suitably black but without a burnt flavour. There was a lovely depth and sweetness to the dish provided by the girolles and pancetta. The macaroni gratin, light and cheesy was a great accompaniment.
After a breather we decided to go the whole hog and get a dessert too. To be honest as soon as I saw there was woodruff on the menu I couldn’t refuse; Sweet woodruff pannacotta, strawberry, passion fruit and coconut is my kind of dish. The earthy flavour of woodruff complimented by a lovely passion fruit granita, coconut foam and strawberries gave just the right amount of sweetness. Plenty to grab your attention but light enough to enjoy at the end of a meal.
Mr F enjoyed the tarte tatin, raspberry, pumpkin seed and vanilla ice cream. Beautifully caramelised plum tatin sat on velvety creme anglaise and fresh raspberries. The unusual addition of pumpkin seed really worked, adding a crunch and nutty flavour.
At Harry’s there is a simple beauty to the dishes. What we experienced was expert cooking, everything we had was perfectly balanced allowing seasonal ingredients to shine. This is somewhere I would love to return to. There is a confidence and simplicity to the food here that should be celebrated and enjoyed.