Looking for another burger to fuel our ‘best burger’ post (coming, oh, some time in December at this rate) we thought we’d try out the Gourmet Burger Bank on the Belmont Road…
Ah. How did we miss that Ace has now landed and claimed the turf in the name of hip, urban dining? And damn, it seems to be a rather popular - bunged with families and a queue almost out the door. Is this the new Il Pirata?
Well it certainly looks the part - taking heavy cues from its (relative) neighbour with some of the same names backing the venture and the outfitting apparently done by the same talented guys. Hip, funky, plenty of wood, a sprinkling of retro and just enough mismatch to add the quirk without the thrift shop stylings of Made In Belfast.
The current menu is fairly brief with just enough to provide a little variety, albeit nothing really leaping off the page; burgers, hotdogs and a random assortment of ‘suppers’. We started things simple with the tasty crunch of the huge aubergine chips. Rich batter, tasty aubergine, a rather dull raita-esque dip; but all in all a winner.
The ‘chilli glaze’ chicken wings failed to deliver much ‘chilli’ or ‘glaze’. The best approximation would be chicken wings dipped in a pot of tomato soup. Not sure what is going on there, it’s not often chicken wings get a ‘no’ from us.
What followed was the only ‘bad’ dish we had - a Moroccan spiced butternut squash salad that seemed to contain the innards of several mince pies left over from Christmas. A really odd combination that left the welcome preserved lemon to fight back against the overwhelming sticky sweetness of the rest of the plate.
After a so-so start, we were a little nervous of the mains, but actually things picked right up. A delightfully smokey, spicy pulled pork slider did everything you’d want it to do. Perfect seasoning, perfect bap, perfect size.
The Classic Burger was another success. Housing a sizeable patty that arrived with a hint of pink, resulting in a juicy burger (a rare thing in Belfast) with a wonderfully coarse texture. So we came in for a burger and we left happy!
The onion rings were also excellent, blowing away the sad floppy discs we encountered at Rocket & Relish last week. So damn crunchy, and the onion cooked to a nice sweetness inside. Best in Belfast?
To end on a rather bum note, though, I imagine if Ace were to describe the desserts they might say ‘children’s party inspired’. A less generous description would be ‘suitable for a children’s party’. The idea sits well with the hip/retro/school chairs vibe… but you really could rustle these up at home in a couple of minutes.
The cookie and icecream was as decribed - but neither the cookie nor icecream being good enough to elicit any more than a weary ‘meh’.
Would we go back? Early days, and signs that the style will one day be caught up by the substance. If this was in my neighbourhood I can imagine popping in for the odd bite… but despite being only the shortest drive from town, I can’t imagine going out of my way. Let’s see how things are shaping up in a couple of months.
Ace, 20-22 Belmont Road, Belfast.