That’s why the three of us – two adults and a fifteen-year-old – were grinning like Cheshire cats when leaving Drennan’s on Belfast’s University Road last night.

Sulking beside Villa Italia, it doesn’t have the most enticing of exteriors compared to the brash modern neon exteriors of many a Belfast eaterie, but that shouldn’t put you off.

Inside, it has real warmth with dark wood, advertising mirrors with a Parisian feel and sharp white table linen.

It is a reincarnation of the legendary Larry’s Piano Bar but in the absence of a pianist last early evening, the background jazz was fun but unobtrusive.

We’d booked a 6.30pm sitting to avail of the early bird menu which is a steal at £12.95 for two courses and £17.00 for three if you go between 5pm and 7pm, Monday – Saturday.

Another great feature is the BYO policy which will save you lots of money as you bring in your own bottle (or two) of wine although there is a £2 corkage fee.

The menu was one of those you spend ages over, even though the choice isn’t huge, everything on the menu looked so very appetising.

The evening began well. Our wine was brought in a cooler by one of the two very attentive and pleasant waiting staff, and the starters of Dundrum mussels in a Thai Fish sauce were just superb. Emma, the teenager, went for Tempura chicken Fillet with Satay and Coriander Emulsion starter which she loved – despite starting off a little grumpily about the menu.

The main courses kept up the high standard. Two Poached Natural Haddock on Garlic and Parsley mash with fresh cream sauce were cooked to perfection and surprisingly filling.

The other main was the Pan-Seared Fillet of Chicken on Linguini with Porcini Mushroom sauce and Buttered Asparagus, none of which was left by the end of the evening.

Okay, okay we’ll have deserts! One Bread and Butter Pudding, one Warm Chocolate Brownie and Vanilla Ice Cream and one selection of cheeses and biscuits followed, You know the feeling – you’re quite full but the draw of the dessert menu is just to tempting to resist. Again the food was first class.

We finished off with coffees and a peppermint tea and plans to go back to Drennan’s on a regular basis.

There may be trouble ahead though. The place was almost empty when we got there (it was a Monday at 6.30 remember) but I could imagine the place being a little cramped if it got crowded and that should be very often given the quality of the food and all the other pleasures that Drennan’s has to offer.

On a historical note, the restaurant is named after William Drennan, the United Irishman, who used to visit the building – as it was over 200 years ago – on a regular basis. His sister even lived in it for a time.

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