Expectations weren’t particularly high when my partner told me he’d purchased us a 9 course tasting menu at Art. Without wanting to be patronising, these are not the usual dining experiences found in seaside towns but after perusing their website, I was actually quite excited. A menu that changes on availability of local ingredients, organic fruit and veg, homemade preserves and supporting local artists… I started to think this sounded more like a contender for next year’s Michelin Awards.
We made the trip up from Belfast and were greeted by a waiter who asked us “where do yous wanna sit?” which was a bit strange. Before we had our coats off we were asked what we wanted to drink. Alarm bells started ringing. After sitting for 10 minutes, a waitress came over and asked us the same questions we were asked upon entry and we were then told “you’re sitting in the wrong place, you should be at the posh tables” – goodness knows what the other diners thought of them being in presumably the slums.
We duly moved into the window seats where we had to request a wine list. I ordered rioja and the waiter looked at me like I had two heads and suggested I was on the wrong page. I wasn’t. After some time he returned and told me they were running low on red wine (!) and they didn’t have any rioja but the chef had suggested a different red which we accepted.
40 minutes after arriving in the restaurant, we were presented with our first course – spiced parsnip soup. This was the Soup of the Day on the Squiggles board (effectively the same restaurant, in the same room). Why we had to wait 40 minutes for something they had obviously been serving all day was a mystery. I would suggest that they wanted to wait until their other tasting-menu guests who arrived at 7:30 got there to make it easier on the chef which is unacceptable, particularly since the second couple started getting their food before us.
The meat and fish dishes were delicious – confit quail with pearl barley, naturally-smoked coley with lentils and a kind of deconstructed beef bourginion were all wonderful and perfectly suited to the time of year. The granita and sorbet courses became farcical when the spoons we were provided with did not fit into the glasses and we had to use the other end to eat them. The goats cheese and beetroot was very tasty although I’ve eaten a LOT of cheese and it definitely didn’t seem like a goats cheese to me. Plus the spinach had seen better days and had rotted down in places. Dessert was a deconstructed cheesecake, which was fine but to be honest we just wanted to go home by then. We were there for over 3 hours and had to leave before coffee and petit fours, the evening’s good mood ruined.
The restaurant had only another couple of tables occupied and one waiter seemed to be doing all of the work while the others, particularly the girl, stood behind the bar area not doing a great deal. It was also freezing cold. They clearly have a talented chef but they need to invest in some front-of-house staff who have been properly trained and perhaps a restaurant manager to coordinate proceedings. I don’t want to be ageist but you can’t expect 3 kids to run any kind of decent restaurant.
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