SUNDAY lunchtime and we are, unusually, in town en famille. Once the requisite shopping is done, we decide to celebrate with a rare treat of lunch at somewhere other than a fast food chain. With no bookings taken at the weekend, we rock up hopefully at Urban Angel on Hanover Street and luckily get a table without waiting.
It’s a long time since I’ve eaten here – never with children – but it always struck me as the kind of chilled-out place that would welcome kids. And when we seat ourselves on painted, church-style chairs at a scrubbed wooden table set with French bistro glasses, there is a tub of colouring pens and paper.
Our eldest describes the interior as “old-fashioned pretty”, which I think perfectly captures its simple, vintage style. A former bakery, the restaurant has been open for 10 years and retains much of the character of its previous incarnation, particularly in the back dining room (there are two smallish rooms) where we are seated, which still houses the old range and Belfast sink.
The restaurant is currently only open until 5pm (although it will open for dinner throughout the festival), serving brunch, lunch and coffee and cake.
We ask for some bread (£3.50) to keep us going as we make up our minds, and grainy chunks appear with olive oil for dipping and dukkah, a mix of herbs, nuts and spices that adds a delicious crunch to olive oil-soaked bread. Well, it does to mine; the kids simply look at me in dismay. No Best of Both here.
The menu offers nine brunch options ranging from homemade granola served with milk or yoghurt (£5.50) through to avocado and ricotta with broad beans and mint (£8). You can add on a variety of options, such as mushrooms, black pudding, eggs, bacon, or even spring greens, chilli and garlic.
Our six-year-old plumps for French Toast (£9.50), which is made with brioche soaked in egg and cream, and pan fried. This comes with bacon and maple syrup – neither of which she likes, so the waitress offers to hold the syrup and switch the bacon for sausages. Our 10-year-old opts for scrambled eggs on granary toast (£5.50), while their dad also goes for scrambled eggs, adding the thyme Portobello mushrooms, slow-roasted tomatoes and veggie haggis (£11.70).
From midday, three lunch mains and “bites”, or smaller plates, are also on offer, ranging from soup and deli salads to the likes of pan-fried salmon and courgette noodles with seaweed chimichurri. There is also a specials board, where I spot the hake with mojo sauce, truffle potatoes and baby turnips (£11). Our youngest puts in a request for “chips”, which, if we’d paid enough attention to the menu, we would have realised were made from cassava – a starchy root vegetable a million miles from skinny fries (£3.50). When our youngest nibbles these large, pale wedges, I can tell by the nose-wrinkling that they’re not for her. They remind me a little of parsnip and I like them, but I’m in the minority in our party.
The French toast – a generous serving – proves too rich for our youngest, but the sausages get the thumbs-up (the organic ketchup an added bonus). The scrambled eggs prove unpopular with eldest daughter, and my other half confirms he finds them too salty and heavy on the butter. He isn’t too taken with his choice either – the tomato portion seems small and the overall taste is on the bland side, even with the veggie haggis, which he’d expected to add a bit of a kick.
My hake, on the other hand, is excellent. It looks resplendent on arrival, the pan-fried fillet perched beside vivid purple truffle potatoes with teensy turnips dotted around in the orange-coloured mojo sauce; it’s a rainbow on a plate. The fish flakes beautifully, while the paprika-based sauce adds a delicious hit of heat. The potato has a dense flavour, which again works particularly well with the spice in the sauce.
There is no dessert menu, but there is an in-house baker, so cake fans are in for a treat. The girls share a hefty slab of moreish dark chocolate cake (£3.50), while my husband and I wash down a generous slice of carrot cake with a couple of very good espressos.
Our mixed bag of culinary choices didn’t detract from this being a lovely lunchtime venue. The emphasis is on organic produce, staff are friendly and the service is good. Our bill came to £63.50 for four, with £51.70 on food and £11.80 on coffee and soft drinks. I doubt my daughters are going to be racing back for the “chips”, but that chocolate cake will get them every time.
Also on the menu
I liked the sound of the chorizo, squid and wild rice, which is pan-fried with broad beans and broccoli, and which you can have either as a starter or small plate (£6) or main course (£11.50). The sweet potato and quinoa salad, which also combines homemade harissa, spinach, feta cheese and coriander also sounded like a good veggie option and again is available as a starter (£5.50) or main (£10). And I do wish I’d left room for the intriguing-sounding grapefruit cupcake (£3.50).