Eating Out: The Parson’s Nose makes a great argument for foregoing Veganuary – The Irish News

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The Parson’s Nose

48 Lisburn Street


Co Down

BT26 6AB

028 9268 3009

SO, WHAT have you been getting up to this Veganuary? Yeah, whatever.

Me? Thanks for asking. Well, on Monday I loaded up on a couple of months’ worth of stuff from the Louvre of butcher’s shops before a meaty meal good looking enough to be stuck behind a velvet rope for tourists to gawp at.

I say all this not to troll vegans – especially not ethical vegans, who last week saw their choice declared a philosophical belief and protected in law by a judge. You batter away, folks.

If everyone who can afford it eats a bit less meat it will pretty evidently be good for everyone – and the planet we’re trying to live on while simultaneously destroy.

The Parson’s Nose in Hillsborough Co Down. Picture by Mal McCann

I’m happy to do this one meal at a time rather than going cold (fake) turkey for an entire month, but that’s not quite so hashtaggable – or marketable, with big chain after big chain taking the opportunity to launch shiny new menu options.

I haven’t tried Greggs’ new vegan steak bake but I’m sure it will go down a storm.

After all, their vegan sausage rolls, which prompted a huge leap in profits, are perfectly fine, being entirely edible, by-and-large unidentifiable savoury mush wrapped in pastry, making them pretty indistinguishable from their non-vegan sausage rolls.

They also annoyed Piers Morgan, so they must be doing something right.

But back to the meat. The butcher’s was The Meat Merchant in Moira, the retail arm of Peter Hannan’s remarkable supply of beef, pork, lamb and the rest. With his sugar pits and Himalayan salt chambers, Hannan has established himself as the gold standard, and is name-checked on just about any menu that wants to really show off about where it’s getting its gear from.

The parson, presumably… Picture by Mal McCann

Not far away, in Hillsborough, both steaks on the menu of The Parson’s Nose are prefaced with “Hannan’s 35 Day Salt Chamber Aged”. It would be rude not to.

The ribeye, shot through with barley cream-coloured fat that dissolves into nothing, is perfect, as you’d expect. Beef this good takes some ruining, and that’s never likely to happen here.

The Parson’s Nose shares the lofty reputation of its Balloo Inns stablemates The Poacher’s Pocket in Lisbane and Balloo House itself outside Killinchy – both the downstairs restaurant and upstairs in Danni Barry’s spectacular Overwood.

Pass through the comfy pub down into the airy dining room and the January clouds, so full of rain barely an hour before, have retreated to let sun pour through the windows that look out on to the beer garden.

It’s a late lunch and just a few tables are occupied. Service is just what you’d want. Portions are huge. Everything is good.

The steak came with spinach, the best onion rings I’ve ever had, perfectly thick, crunchy chips and a garlic and anchovy butter that was just as persuasive an argument for foregoing veganism as the ribeye was.

The beer garden and restaurant at The Parson’s Nose, Hillsborough. Picture by Mal McCann

At £30 it was the most expensive thing on the menu, but beef of that quality should cost that much. £12 for the turkey and ham pie – a creamy, winter hug, full of more obviously high-end meat under a glistening pastry lid – with champ and roasted veg feels like altogether not enough.

It’s part of a daytime menu of £6 starters and desserts and £12 mains that provides serious value for the quality on offer.

Potato and leek soup is smooth and intensely leek-heavy, broken up with the bite of scallion. Hot salmon rillettes are deeply smoky next to peppery watercress, with the horseradish cream slightly underpowered – though I would happily munch on the stuff raw as a palate cleanser.

The banoffee was more of a banana/toffee mousse inside a crisp, sweet pastry case than the boiled up condensed milk on digestive biscuits found in petrol stations up and down the land. While the latter has its undeniable charms – “I prefer trashy banoffee,” said Mrs Maloney – this one was still a success.

Even better was the rice pudding, laden down with syrup oozing from Armagnac-poached prunes and little boulders of almond granola.

By this stage we were laden down too – but all the better for getting the new year under way with a genuine treat like this. And they also have a full vegetarian menu – vegan options and all.


Salmon rillettes £6

Leek and potato soup £6

Turkey and ham pie £12

Ribeye steak £28

Garlic and anchovy butter £2

Banoffee pie £6.50

Rice pudding £6

Diet Coke £2.30

Clover Club cocktail £9

Total £77.80

Source: Thanks