“Doors open, so they are” quips a mischievous lift intercom voice with true Nordie twang as we arrive on the third floor of Belfast’s newest hotel, Bullitt, and head towards our ‘Comfy Room’. Size matters, and in a city hotel right at the heart of the bustling Northern Irish Capital, it certainly is at a premium, but the Beannchor group’s most recent 43 room development has imbued every square inch with the kind of effortless chic you know must have demanded quite a lot of effort indeed.
Describing itself as ‘no nonsense’, the little sister of the opulent Merchant Hotel, from which it is only a stone’s throw away, Bullitt has stripped the frills to create a space unlike anything I have ever seen. Ostensibly a warehouse, a teal wraparound couch is the centrepiece to the open plan lobby cum Bullitt Bar, with exposed vents and silver snake pipes, white marble accents and red brick floors. Somehow this eclectic mix makes perfect sense, the result of a skilled designer eye.
Having landed at Bullitt during ‘Hammertime’ happy hour at Baltic Bar (one of three at Bullitt, where you shall never go thirsty) two mean Negronis were a must on arrival – and we certainly weren’t alone with this in-genius idea. Staying in your hotel when the sights and sounds of vibrant Belfast beckon would be a waste in general, but Bullitt quickly revealed itself to be more like an entertainment complex that can lull you into lingering.
Cocktails in Baltic, a packed courtyard with DJ spun tunes, the sweet scent of flames from restaurant Taylor and Clay’s custom built Asador filling the air – ‘more than a bed for the night’ is clearly more than just a catchy tagline here.
Upstairs, we discover that what the rooms lack in plushness, they make up for with funky and quirky features, roomy rainfall power showers and very inviting King sized beds. Our home for the night overlooked the courtyard (which was less appealing after midnight – but such is the price you pay on a Friday night in one of the city’s most popular hotspots) and felt just as club-like with an eye-catching mural on the wall, making Bullitt feel uniquely Belfast based despite its nods to it’s namesake, Steve McQueen’s San Fran based film.
Undeniably one of the cooler rooms I’ve stayed in, this ‘Comfy’ room was exactly that and although a little tight (not as much so as the ‘Dinky’ rooms on offer) this wasn’t a problem for us. Two desktop mugs greet me with ‘Hello Brewtiful’ and the do not disturb sign specified ‘we’re having a moment’ – cheeky little touches which gave me a good giggle.
Bullitt hit the headlines upon opening, when two opportunistic older ladies attempted to make off with a portrait of Steve McQueen, and I seriously considered mirroring their mischief with these little tokens.
The aforementioned scent of the bespoke Asador grill wafting from Taylor and Clay, Bullitt’s in house restaurant, managed to tempt us back downstairs for dinner. A quick perusal of the menu vindicated our choice, as there are so many exciting restaurants on the Belfast food scene at the moment to choose from, but from inventive small plates to a selection of mouthwatering steaks, Taylor and Clay was not a compromise.
Showcasing the finest locally sourced prime cuts – primarily from award winning Peter Hannan – and heritage vegetables from David Love Cameron’s organic veggie garden at Helen’s Bay, the menu sang with Northern gems, exactly what I want to see when I travel to a new place.
Decor wise, Taylor and Clay mirrored the eclectic vibe of the rest of the hotel, with splashes of rust orange in leather booths and contrasting marble and oak tables, all bathing in the glow of flames from the open kitchen.
An extensive menu took some deliberation, but as a lover of all things smokey, I gravitated towards a starter of Smoked Duck and Pickled Grape. A generous plate of blushing duck breast slices were smoked in house and this seductively subtle smokiness was cleverly matched with pickled grape and popped on the palate with contrasting bitter radicchio leaves.
I think I may now love pickled grapes almost as much as fermented grapes, which we enjoyed in the form of a spicy plum scented Marlborough Spring Creek Pinot Noir – a comfy bedfellow for both the duck and the Burrata, Confit Tomato, Date and Dukkah dish we ordered alongside it.
An almost cosmic looking ceramic was topped with oozing burrata, which carried a Cairo-esque dukka confidently – sweet, nutty spice explosions colliding with dreamily smooth and lactic dairy clouds. This dish needed a vessel, so we added some wood-fired flatbread to scoop it up greedily, effectively creating our own delicious little mezze spread.
As the Asador and prime cuts of expertly sourced beef are the centrepiece of Taylor and Clay’s menu, a steak sampling was unavoidable, especially spotting one of my all time favourites on the menu, the king of beef: Wagyu Steak. As it is always good to sample a meat and seafood dish, I conceded (lucky guy, right?) and stayed pescatarian with the promise that my wandering fork would be welcomed. After the first delicious bite, this welcome quickly became begrudging tolerance.
Wagyu sings of the beefy, meaty goodness every caveman craves and is unadulterated pleasure, plated. Wrinkled up beauties of fries were like burnt ends at the bottom of the bag begging to be bathed in a deliciously tarragon heavy bearnaise, but of course, the meltingly tender Wagyu stole the show.
Sourced from Noble House Wagyu in Tyrone, this sirloin was so deliciously marbled with sweet veins of fat, flame rendered in places, intact in others, that leaving a single mouthful behind would have been treason – a crime we didn’t commit.
This was a perfectly executed showcase of Bullitt’s ethos – straight forward and frill-free but crafted with the very best and while the atmosphere is buzzy and fun, Taylor and Clay’s Head Chef Saul O’Reilly clearly means business.
My Swordfish with Spiced Potatoes and Molee Sauce turned out to be more like a South East Asian curry with volume turned up, than the Mexican concoction as molee hinted to. A generous meaty fillet was tender and unyielding, atop a knockout vibrant yellow pool.
The dish entirely undersold itself and was as colourful on the palate as the plate, we were both quite blown away with what was a more expertly spiced and delicately balanced sauce than you would find in the finest dedicated curry houses. Suffice to say, I returned the favour on the sharing front.
Rounding out a fantastic dinner were sweet and savoury treats – Peanut and Chocolate Cheesecake was a pleasant contrast to the often cloyingly sweet slice, richly unctuous with a mild wobble from baking. This had us harking to Steve McQueen’s native US of A, and strolling mentally down the San Francisco avenue after which Taylor and Clay is named.
Across the table, a Compte Cheese Plate with a piquant fig chutney and Scandi-like rye crispbreads was a luxurious end to a meal which exceeded all expectations – there is no such thing as dull hotel restaurant food at Taylor and Clay.
Nor is there such thing as dodgy cocktails, as we managed to sample one or two in the packed courtyard after a trip to The Dirty Onion down the street – a necessary jaunt to research Belfast’s thriving night-time scene before settling in for the night, of course.
For those of us who can’t quite do mornings after a late night of cocktails and Belfast revelry, Bullitt offers a sympathetic ear for your woes by leaving a paper bag brekkie outside your door – housemade granola, yoghurt, banana and the all important OJ.
The prospect of ‘brekkie buns’ and a ‘Full Bullitt’ however just about got us out of (the super comfy) bed with high hopes after a fantastic meal the evening before. Breakfast was served on Insta-heaven marble top tables overlooking the courtyard, on similar stunning ceramics from the night before – Bullitt is a feast for millenial senses.
Sourdough toast mopped up traffic cone orange free range yolks oozing from perfectly poached eggs, which we sneakily topped with a side of the bearnaise we had savoured at dinner. Alongside a Bullitt Brew flat white from the impressive Espresso Bar, this was breakfast actually worth getting out of bed for.
As 12pm checkout approached and we got ready to explore the city a little more, I couldn’t help but think to myself that Bullitt isn’t a robe and slippers kind of place, but perhaps the best Belfast experience isn’t either. In a city which is quickly becoming a go to destination for those seeking fun, frolics and fantastic food it is a natural choice and delivers on all three fronts – even if it does make venturing outside seem unnecessary.
Bullitt is an urban play centre bursting at the seams with personality and if the rumors are true and Dublin’s Capel Street is set to get the Bullitt treatment, it will be a game changer on the accommodation front here. For now, however, the King of Cool resides in Belfast.
Rooms at Bullitt start from €126 per night, for more information or to book visit www.bullitt.com.
40a Church Lane
T: +44 (0)28 9590 0600
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that(and greed) as the ultimate motivator, I realised that baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, fuelling my desire to focus on food in a serious way. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.