Review: Native by Yellow Door

You've heard the saying, "the natives are restless". Well, this new native of Belfast – yes, I moved here only a matter of weeks before – is rather restless, or at least his stomach is, as he settles down with the Native menu at the city's MAC.

But first, some history. For twenty-five years Simon Dougan's Yellow Door business, which started out as an Armagh restaurant, has catered for and almost certainly charmed the populace of Northern Ireland with their communal style and service. And for nearly two of those years, Native – the name alone hints at the award-winning commitment to local food – has seen Yellow Door's reputation and products adorn the premier artistic hub of Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.

The results are as parochial and pleasant as you could hope for. Every single item on the menu is locally sourced, from rapeseed oil in Limavady, to popcorn from Maghera, to eggs from Newtownbutler, in a menu that caters for every time of day on every day of the week, with extended hours on show nights of course. All served by very friendly and helpful staff.

Had I arrived before 12, I could have had a much-needed breakfast – I've been kept going on not much more than a small coffee by the time I arrive – but it is lunchtime and so I am left to pick and choose from the Native Bites menu and the all-day menu. Seeing that the bites are, in their words, "the very best home-grown produce in Northern Ireland" I'm tempted to find out whether or not they will really live up to their reputation. So here goes...

Simple options exist, like chicken tenders from Rockvale farm and a mini beefburger with Fivemiletown cheddar, but my three choices - all of which amount, in total, to a very reasonable price of just under a tenner - are the duck bonbons from Enniskillen, the rice croquettes from Belfast and hake bites, fried in buttermilk, from Kilkeel. Three distinct flavours from three distinct parts of the province. A tasting board of MacIvor's cider, Yardsman lager and Rowlock Indian Pale Ale – they're sadly out of Kinnegar ale today – supplement them, with tap water on the side just in case.

I say "just in case", because I usually don't wash my food down with alcoholic drinks. But I'm soon to find that the cider is better than usual. It's sweet, satisfying and refreshing, with little of the back-of-the-throat burn I'm accustomed to with cider per se. Sadly, the other two drinks are a little too bitter, but they do go down better once I'm on the high of having consumed three varyingly tasty dishes.

Varyingly, in that one is very good, one is dependably delicious, and one is exceptional. The three tough and tender pieces of duck get an invaluable lift with the most pleasurable of spicy plum chutneys, made by Native themselves. The fried fish goujons are bigger than expected, but for a guy who loves his breaded fish with tartare sauce – yours truly – that's not a problem.

The croquettes, ham, leek and parmesan cheese blended with rice three times over, are fantastic. On their own, they're like breaded rice pudding balls. With tomato sauce, they feel like something better – mini pizzas in a crust. I could definitely eat more of them.

After all that heat (and drink), the cold of the ice cream in the pudding is a shock to the teeth. But this is offset by the lovely berry compote and sugary honeycomb that go with the restaurant's cheesecake. A pleasing end to a memorable meal in a comfortable and stylish venue which demands repeated visits. (That applies to both Native and The MAC.)

Simon Fallaha

Native by Yellow Door can be found in The MAC, Belfast, at 10 Exchange Street West, and is open seven days a week, from 09:30 to 17:00 – 19:30 on show nights.

Recent Restaurants Reviews