Seafood in a Different Light at the Brilliant Balloo House Review
Balloo House is located in the small village of Killinchy about 30 minutes from Belfast. It has a wealth of awards including consecutive years for ‘McKennas Guide’, ‘AA Resturant Guide’ and ‘Georgina Campbell Ireland Guide’. It also is the only restaurant in Northern Ireland to be awarded the MICHELIN Bib Gourmand. When somewhere is as far off the beaten track and yet its reputation precedes it, you know it’s going to be a gem.
As soon as you arrive at the car park, you get a real sense of tradition and history. From the outside the restaurant looks like an old traditional pub/house with whitewashed walls and black windows. You can almost anticipate the warm, cosy atmosphere inside.
Glad to get in and be protected from the elements we were brought to our table by a very friendly young man, happy to chat and have the banter. Settled in with a few menus and two glasses of the house white, we were already happy punters.
Immediately from the menu you can see that this place thrives on the quality of its ingredients. On the edge of Strangford Lough, seafood is a strong element of the menu which ironically can be a rarity on this island! Four different menus to pick from, the problem was trying to narrow it down. The vegetarian menu was a very strong contender and were I not such a carnivore I absolutely could have been swayed!
I opted for Ballyhornan crab on toast served with pickled carrot salad. The company went for pan seared scallops with roast cauliflower puree, pancetta and potato crumb. It’s difficult to make crabmeat look attractive but what it lacked in beauty it made up for in flavour. Along with the bitterness and bite of the pickled carrot it was a perfect contrast to the mild crab.
The seared scallops on the other hand come out looking every bit like the perfect foodie Instagram star, served on a bed of sea salt and the most gorgeous shell – appealing to both the eyes and the belly! For me the highlight of this dish was the pairing of the cauliflower puree with the scallop. Absolutely divine and leaving me with serious food envy!
Never one to resist an old classic I went for the duck confit while risotto was the other choosing. The duck was amazing – cooked to perfection and there was plenty of it. I had toyed with ordering sides but I’m glad I didn’t as you actually don’t need them. The balsamic lentils on which it were served were just the perfect comfort food and one I’ll be trying to recreate at home…imitation is the highest form of flattery they say.
The risotto was quite surprising in that it was zingy and fresh and felt light in the mouth. It still had the smoothness and velvetiness you’d expect from a good risotto but not heavy and dense. Altogether winning on the mains so needless to say dessert was being ordered!
Normally a huge advocate for a cheese board I bucked the trend and went for a chocolate delice and herself ordered the chocolate pot. After such a big dinner I didn’t see how I could finish another course but true to form, there’s always room in the ‘dessert stomach’!
When the delice arrived, it was case of when the food becomes the art. You could tell by the delicate layers and precise edges that someone had spent hours over it. It was of course absolutely devoured within minutes…but enjoyed and savoured in every single one.
The chocolate pot was much larger than expected – it was incredibly creamy and smooth, the most luxurious of milk chocolate with a lovely, delicate undertone of orange. All positive things. Lastly, the coffee. I don’t as a rule drink tea or coffee. But the coffee was so good – intense in depth and flavour. An unreal way to finish our meal.
We had a wee snoop round the walls before we left. The décor and minute details really do make this place special in its character. Taking a look at all the pictures, it’s just as the outside would have suggested and the walls are filled with history and heritage of the days gone before in rural Ireland. There’s a gorgeous stove, reminiscent of something you might find in your grans house that has all the accoutrements that you’d expect along with it which I found particularly enchanting. Balloo House has a real ‘je ne se quoi’ – distinctive and special in some way but hard to put it into words.
Between the food, staff and ambience I can 100% appreciate why this place has a wall full of accolades not to mention the most recent – the Georgina Campbell award for Atmospheric Restaurant of the Year 2020.
Well-deserved and highly recommended…you won’t even care that it’s a bit off the beaten track!
Written by Imelda Rose