I like to think I live my life with the mantra “end it on a high note.” And so it was, on my final eve in Belfast I wined and dined at the city’s newest culinary showpiece.
Saphyre is a hidden gem, a hard to find diamond in the ruff located at the back of the old Ulsterville Presbyterian Church on Lisburn Road. After stepping through the non-descript front door at the back of the church I entered an Alice in Wonderland world where a petite dining room’s glitz and glam offers a celebration in eye candy. Perhaps it is not shocking then that Saphyre is a pet project for famed designer Kris Turnbull who has a penchant for working exclusively with Hermes textiles.
Upon arrival I was given a quick tour of the cathedral space which plays home to Mr Turnbull’s furniture, chandelier and mirror filled showroom. We then dove back into the restaurant where a wee design boutique allows hungry guests to purchase anything at the table that suits their fancy: glittering wine glasses, contemporary cutlery, nifty napkins and plush pillows. The real gem here is actually hidden from view so be sure to visit the bathroom before gracefully making your exit as the pedestal sink is a jaw dropping gold leaf covered sculptural bust. Living for the glam rockstar aesthetic.
I was seated in the corner of the dining room where pretty views of the restaurants wee patio allowed me to smile at the rain drizzling outside. I chirped at my waiter to wheel over the fromage cart and insisted I start the meal by satiating my craving for casein. With his quick flick of the wrist a silver cheese knife whipped to and fro offering up a plate featuring top notch offerings from France and Ireland.
Once finished nibbling on cheese I found myself sipping on the bartenders take on a Manhattan, Saphyre’s own signature Ruby cocktail spiked with Markers Mark with hints of Aperol and a whisper of orange peel. Once the amuse Foie Gras Parfait arrived at the table the room was filled to the brim with chatty families and smug mugged couples.
My meal at Saphyre is now but a warm memory inspired by creative plates perfectly presented by a kitchen at the top of their game. The Ulster Fry reinterprets Ireland’s signature dish by playing with texture, form and flavour while a Tyndale Braised Goat Shoulder Ravioli showcases the importance of celebrating in-season bounty from the farm. My final savoury moment was a decadent fillet of beef accompanied by crispy oxtail and bone marrow croquette, sweet heirloom carrots, decadent duck fat chips and aromatic bearnaise.
The simply titled Chocolate offers a perfect sweet finish: a sculptured masterpiece constructed with layered leaves of caramelia, bitter chocolate cream accented by apricot and buckthorn. While sauntering out the Cathedral’s back door your’ll realize you’ve died and gone to heaven.
markers mark, antica formula, aperol, yellow chartreuse, angostura bitters, orange peel
Foie Gras Parfait
Irish & French Cheese
young black blue (cork), reblochon (savoie), pont l’eveque (normandy), cooley (cork), smoked gubbeen (cork)
slow poached hen egg, potato bread espuma, crispy bacon, soda bread croutons, roast tomato, black pudding
Tynedale Braised Goat Shoulder Ravioli
wild garlic and ramp pesto
Fillet of Beef
oxtail and bone marrow croquette, heirloom carrots, duck fat chips, bearnaise
layered leaves of caramelia, bitter chocolate cream, apricot and buckthorn