Finding a restaurant to cater for over 20 adults and a rakeload of children is nigh-on impossible in Ireland. We have this absurd idea that children can only be a nuisance when eating out, rather than vital participants in any food culture.
I’ve no intention of ever having any kids, so I’ve no drum to beat. But on the rare occasions I’ve been in an eatery which deigned to let children cross their evening threshold, kids have only ever added to a sense of celebration. Adults, on the other hand, have often ruined my evening.
Shunning kids is not only crazy, it’s also bad business sense. Restaurateurs should see children as their future customers. If they see the joy of eating out while they’re young, they just might be more inclined to do it when they own credit cards. Grrr… ok, rant over.
Overcoming ludicrous and entrenched stereotypes about children in restaurants was the task facing my aunt Yvette last weekend. The entire extended family had descended on Derry city for my grandmother’s birthday, and we needed a place to go.
Yvette managed to find a lovely place called Halo which welcomed all its customers with open arms. Of course, nobody even noticed the kids and they were no trouble at all.
Halo has only been open a few months. It’s already a lively, buzzing restaurant. It was packed when we arrived on a Saturday night.
The downstairs part serves “lighter” evening meals at shockingly good value prices. Upstairs, where we went for the special occasion that was in it, is at least double the price. The only other place I know of that does something similar is The Hungry Monk in Greystones.
- Portions are very generous here. Possibly too generous. My sweet and gamey starter, a Warm Salad of Pheasant Breast with Honeyed Vegetables, could have been a meal by itself. Just one small quibble: it would have been more presentable if the pheasant had been cut into smaller pieces.
- Seafood is a great option. I had some perfectly cooked grilled sea bass, served as simply as only quality fish can be, which came with roasted cherry tomatoes, capers, thyme, and basil oil (£16/ about €18).
- My 15-year-old cousin Niamh went for a Roast Butternut Squash Risotto with sage butter and toasted goats cheese ciabata (£14/ €15.50), and enjoyed every bite.
- A few of our party chose the steaks. Some said they weren’t great – much bigger than they needed to be and a little bit dry and bland. But I was hugely impressed that the chef went around to the tables and gracefully took all criticism, compliments and suggestions on board.
- Desserts (£4.50/ just under €5) were perfectly executed. I loved my selection of Irish cheeses with poached pear and chilli jam, while their Fresh Mango and Raspberry Mousse struck the right balance between sweet and tart.
- Service was really helpful, efficient and friendly. Despite the place being really busy, nobody had to wait more than a minute if they for an item (such as a glass of water) to be brought to the table.
- Lunch in Halo (12pm-5pm) costs just £6-8 (around €6.70- €9)
- They serve a selection of “lighter meals” from 5pm downstairs – most of which are only £4-£8 (€4.50-9). They’re not really light at all, but perfectly decent feeds. This includes Thai Green Curry with rice, poppadoms and naan (£7/ €7.80), Burgers at just £5/€5.50, Lasagna at £6/€6.70, and a Peppered Sirloin Steak with Onion for only £12/ €13.50.
- Halo might just be one of the best value restaurants in Ireland, even putting Green Nineteen in Dublin to shame.
Halo is still finding its feet but it may soon be one of the best restaurants in the North-west of Ireland. They’ve got a chef who genuinely wants to improve and seems to really care about the food he serves. Halo deserves to come out of this recession with wings.