Restaurant review: A special tea in Belfast: Just Cluedo-inspired menu takes diners back to their childhood

A special tea

4 University Road, Belfast

A Peculiar Tea

As a kid, I loved playing the board game Cluedo and trying to figure out if Colonel Mustard or Mrs. Peacock was the killer.

So when I recently dined at what is surely Belfast’s coolest and quirkiest restaurant, A Peculiar Tea, I was filled with nostalgia enjoying their Cluedo-themed tasting menu.

The attention to detail with the theme and sense of playfulness was astounding, from the small menu that had to be read with magnifying class, to the clues served with each dish.

I won’t spoil the surprise of what they are so you can play along and try to solve the mystery yourself by the time you finish your dinner.

The restaurant, on University Road, is described as ‘an escape from reality and the stresses of adult life’. After my Friday night there, I can say he ticked all those boxes.

From the second you walk through the door and see the wonky grandfather clock, you know this place is different and full of character.

It all depends on chef and owner Gemma Austin, who recently appeared on the BBC’s Great British Menu. Her sesame white chocolate mushroom was one of the most impressive dishes I have ever seen on the show.

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Candied pork cheek and belly

Candied pork cheek and belly

Apparently known to her friends as a female Peter Pan, she is a master at using fairy tales and fantasy to inspire her menus, which change every eight weeks.

For a six-course gourmet menu, the cost is reasonable for the experience at £50 per person, with waiters knowledgeable about all aspects of the dishes. I encourage you to pair the perfectly matched wines for an additional £35.

The first course was a scallop with bacon jam and crispy parsnip. The moreish jam, which had been cooked in Jack Daniels and coffee for 12 hours, was a taste sensation, and the crispy texture of the parsnip chips worked wonderfully with the perfectly seared scallop.

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The white chocolate dessert


The white chocolate dessert

The white chocolate dessert

While this dish was great, there was even better to follow. Next, a short rib taco with dashi (Japanese broth), blue corn tortilla, smoked pico de gallo, crispy onion and pickled shallot. Huge flavors on one plate but each stood out, from the wonderful shallots to the succulent short rib.

For gourmet fish and chips, the turbot with Charlotte potato, fennel, velouté de pernod, smoked herring roe, fennel oil and salt and vinegar ticked that box. The firm, flaky fish was the star of the show, and I used it to mop up the superb sauce.

After a plum ice cream (what else for a game starring Professor Plum?) that helped clear the palate, the pork done two ways was simply sensational – confit pork cheek and belly with relish to onion and mustard puree.

For dessert, a white chocolate candle (one of many possible weapons of crime in Cluedo) was quickly opened with my spoon to reveal dulce de leche (caramelized milk) flavored with raspberry and coffee. The coffee was luckily quite subtle as I’ve never been a fan.

It was all so fun and theatrical. We played with the game on a pre-supplied sheet, but we didn’t guess correctly – the five glasses of wine may have played a role in this.

After being brought back to my 10 year old self at A Peculiar Tea, I will definitely be back to see what Gemma cooks up next.

The food
2 x tasting menu £100
2 x wine pairing 70€
TOTAL£170

THE NOTATION
A service ****
Food *****
Decor *****
Vegetarian ****

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