As my previous travel blog on Belfast would suggest, Hadskis is a definitive diamond in the rough.
Though the restaurant is hidden between Hill Street & Donegall Street (in fairy light-covered Commercial Court) and only a few years old, Hadskis has developed something of an unblemished reputation. If I had time for one fine dining experience during my time in Northern Ireland, this was destined to be it.
As the space is modest and uncramped, reservations are recommended; we only managed to book in for a 9pm slot but were thrilled to receive impeccable service from the get-go. Service typical of waiters and chefs that haven’t already been on their feet for hours.
This isn’t, however, a love letter to the service alone: the food is locally-sourced and Michelin quality.
We started with perfectly cooked N’duja-dusted Kilkeel scallops on a bed of cannellini beans and a small serving of jerusalem artichoke risotto with crispy garlic & creme fraiche (also available as a main).
You know that feeling you get when you kiss someone for the first time and you find yourself unexpectedly euphoric? That is the Hadskis feeling.
Continuing their courtship, we moved on to a “Hannan’s Spiced Meatballs” (with orecchiette, harissa & oarmesan – a small serving, per our filling starters’ dictation) and Chicken Cotoletta with grilled gem, topped with Cafe de Paris Butter.
I could pretend the truffle chips with parmesan and honey-roasted root vegetables simply came with the dishes, but no. We ordered those. And they were worth every extra undone button.
By this point we had hit the finish line and decided to run back a proverbial mile to explore the culinary talents of the sweets section. A meringue-scattered Bannoffee Mess for the gentleman and a Creme Brulee-inspired cocktail for myself.
A benefical illustration of gluttony and perfection, indeed.
Until Belfast, I had never been to Northern Ireland.
Thanks in part to it being the epicentre of mass political conflict (which I’ll touch on shortly), the one hour flight never seemed to be convenient enough. That is, until last weekend.
I spent two emotional days in Belfast. Days that included one heart-wrenching mural tour of Fall’s Road, one incredible hidden restaurant experience, a long-awaited visit to the Titanic Museum, and much more.
I never would have expected it, but I think Belfast might just have changed my life.
The last time I visited a Cafe Rouge I was rather hungover. Two of my very wonderful amigos had tied the knot the night before and decided it would be the best place to invite the wedding party to refuel post-open bar.
I remember a lot of carbs and little more.
When people started buzzing about the new menu at Cafe Rouge I was intrigued, so made a significantly more sober effort to put it through its paces at their flagship restaurant outside St Paul’s Cathedral.
Get a table by the window if you can. The view is spectacular.
Underneath the chain bistro’s hand-foiled ceilings, The Boy and I put our critic faces on and nibbled some moreish saucisson bon-bins (Roquefort-threaded pork charcuterie balls) before ordering up a storm.
To start, he opted for the classic Crevettes (king prawns in garlic & smoked chilli butter with a sliced baguette) while I went for the twice-baked Brie soufflé – a lighter yet undeniably delicous option served with a watercress, apple and chive salad.
This was in preparation for a less-than-light main course. Don’t worry, I haven’t changed.
Having put a lot of effort into their steaks for their updated menu (all of which are premium grass and grain-fed British Charolais), I couldn’t pass up a 7oz fillet and frites. I ordered mine medium-rare with two sauces (Bèarnaise and a specialty snails & garlic butter) and had to stop myself from licking the plate clean.
With perfectly cream-crunchy dauphinoise potatoes, spinach and a tomato & red onion salad between us, The Boy decided to treat himself to a childhood favourite – Boeuf Bourguignon – slow-cooked in red wine, smoked bacon and mushrooms with green beans and carrots on the side.
As we are both dedicated fans of Argentinian Malbec, we decided to trial a bottle of Pays d’Oc from the wine’s home in the Languedoc region (South-West France) and found it to be a surprisingly silky, full-bodied and plum-heavy alternative.
Powering on, we ordered a fondant aux chocolats (a tad dissapointing, as the overcooked centre had no melt) and frozen salted caramel cream parfait with malted pecan crumb and fresh raspberries (as good as it sounds).
Bar the small dessert faux pas, it was a truly commendable French cuisine craving-beater.
Fragrance Direct for Beauty – Fragrance Direct has always been trustworthy for, well, exactly what it says on the tin. It was only in the last month, however, that I realised what a haven it could be for beauty loot of the unfragranced variety. Their inventory of discounted beauty products reads like a beauty junkie’s Christmas list MAC, Bobbi Brown, Rodial et al. The highlight of my initial haul was the Rodial Instaglam Eye Tint in Aspen, which was a massive £9 off its retail price. Th brightening concealer contains hyaluronic acid (a hydrating wrinkle-killer) and works a treat underneath the Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer Kit in Sand (£3 off through Fragrance Direct) which features a long-lasting powder to set concealer and stop it from sinking into any lines or wrinkles.
Other favourites from my cost-efficient haul include MAC Frost Lipstick in Tanerama (£2 off – an incredibly ‘club girl’ nude on pale skin but stunning when paired with a dark lipliner as it creates a much more dynamic and shiny hue), MAC Powerpoint Eye Pencil in Bordeauxline (£1 off – the most flattering eyeliner for green eyes), and Bobbi Brown Brillant A Levres Lip Gloss in Hollywood Red (£3 off – a botanical and brightening soft red gloss with aloe extract & avocado, jojoba and chamomile oils).
MILK Beauty Massage –
I have been travelling, working, and working out so much over April and May that my body has been in slight revolt. Muscles off fleek.
Thankfully, I had booked in for a coconut oil massage with mobile beauty service MILK Beauty just before I left for three weeks and it completely transformed my entire body. With each massage, your therapist arrives with towels, essential oils, a super soft blanket, music and a massage couch to set up a perfectly serene space bespoke to your schedule. I decided to ‘host’ my masseuse in my kitchen as it is one of my largest rooms and has a floor to ceiling window (sunshine is very peaceful, to me). Sixty minutes later, my coconut oil-kneaded body felt brand new; knot free, awake, and ultra moisturised. This is a perfect post-flight treat.
Dermalogica Prescription Facial and Gluttony Manicure at PEINT –
Post-massage, I began to realise a few additional body parts were becoming ravaged by travel. Like many people, faux-oxygenated airplanes make my skin feel dull and dry. Something needed to be done before heading to Belfast’s chilly air (a personal skin irritant of its very own). I found reaolve in PEINT‘s Dermaologica Prescription facial. Knowing Dermalogica have worked miracles on my sensitive skin on previous occasions, I booked in with the small salon’s lovely ladies for the one-hour treatment and managed to fall asleep before she was even half-way through.
The facial combines a tailored consultation and assessment of the skin to target your treatment where you really need then. In my case, bringing everything back to life; a relaxing orchestration of cleansing, exfoliating, steaming, messaging and topical treating to result in skin so fresh it looked like foundation.
Seriously. They put a #nomakeup photo on their Instagram and I look no different when I’m caked in cosmetics.
When awake, I wrapped my time at PEINT with a Gluttony manicure. The real indulgence, of which, is the parrafin wax mittens and the face-to-face therapist time (the ladies at PEINT are honestly some of the sweetest around).
Mandara Spa, London
CACI Lift & Sculpt at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge’s Mandara Spa –
As Summer creeps up on us, so do the shorts, skirts, and – most intimidatingly – swimwear. Knowing it takes a certain level of confidence to bare thighs with pride, Mandara Spa recently extended their range of CACI treatments to include the Lift & Sculpt. As an alternative to surgery, the electro-massaging Lift & Sculpt helps tighten, lift and smooth the leg and bum area with zero pain. There is a slight discomfort during the treatment (comparable to a quick but soft pinch), but immediate results after only one session. In fact, if you ask the therapist to do one side of your body before the other and take a photo, you almost look like two bodies joined in the middle.
For the best results, a session of six or more is advised but if you’re looking for a confidence boost before baring your bikini body, a day at the Mandara Spa (one of London’s most sumptuous underground retreats) will not go to waste.
Tip: you aren’t advised to work out directly after your treatment so I would suggest utilising Mandara’s neighbouring gym and pool beforehand so you have nothing but the Balinese relaxation area to think about post-treatment.
Mythic Oil treatment at The House of RUSH –
Mythic Oil is one of very few hair oils that make a difference in my unruly, flaxen mane so I was thrilled to find out that The House of RUSH (the brand’s Piccadilly flagship) had introduced a Mythic Oil treatment. Though my recent re-introduction to hot yoga has done wonders to my body and mind, my neglectful non-use of hear protectant or hair oil has left my mop…well…moppy.
Under the care of my Canadian goddess of a hairdresser, Mythic Oil brought my curls and colour back to life. After a wash and treatment with their products, the oil was applied, I sipped on a cup of branded tea (featuring many of the oil’s natural ingredients) and watched as she blasted out the best and healthiest feeling blow-dry of my life. All in under one hour.
In celebration of last month’s National Tea Day, I set off on my first visit to a restaurant that has been on my Asian-obsessed hitlist for quite some time. Situated at the top of the Royal Garden Hotel, Min Jiang is a stylish space renowned for haute Chinese dishes as breathtaking as its birds-eye view of Kensington Palace.
To put Min Jiang to the test, our discerning table set off on a food and tea pairing of belt-breaking proportions.
Kicking things off with an Ooling Tea-Tail (Havana Club 7 Year Old Rum, Malibu & Spring King Oolong Tea with a slice of orange – the cocktail of my rum-loving British dreams), we quickly segued into a small steamed dim sum platter paired with Dragon Well Lung Ching Organic.
Slightly underwhelmed by the dim sum (I am a prudent judge of all things dim sum), I was very pleased to find the next dish – their ‘legendary’ wood-fired Beijing duck – the best I have had of its kind. As our paired cup of Formoda Oolong was poured, we were bestowed with a number of their most popular dishes (pan-fried Dover Sole fillets in XO sauce, diced rib-eye of beef with black pepper sauce
& seasonal vegetables stir-fried with oyster sauce) before wrapping our shareable savouries up with leftover duck-dusted fried noodles and a cup of Yunnan imperial FOP.
Weighed down with the most caffeinated bellies of Chinese food you could imagine, our bravest table companions picked at a beautiful seasonal fruit platter while the rest of us settled in with a farewell cupful of China Lychee Lizi Hongcha.
A meal at Min Jiang may not come cheap, but with unbeatable views, intimate luxury, and a perfect Beijing duck on the cards, it comes at great value.