You can’t keep a good man or woman down. After two years of hospitality hell, restaurateurs are re-emerging, blinking in the bright sunlight and peering into empty kitchens and dining rooms.
hey maybe understaffed too but somehow the restaurants are open again. They may also offer reduced service and opening hours, but they are back.
Jonathan and Chloe Clarke are among those holding a lit stove during lockdown in their food trailer.
Street food has been the backbone of many quality restaurants that have had to hit the open roads to find business. Clark’s Holestone truck recently appeared at the new Food Truck Festival at Down Royal Raceway, one of 18 festivals offering a wide variety of food including burgers, crab rolls, pizza, scallops, tacos, noodles and more.
The food in the trucks was so good that I vowed to visit the ship of the same name, which stands on the high street of Ballymagny.
Ballymoney also seems to have come back to life recently. A few days ago, when you walked from the car park in town to lunch at Houlstone, you found it’s bustling heart, with scores of shoppers jostling through the busy traffic on their way to the butcher and the charming lady.
Among these stores is Holestone, formerly Mollies. A fun, cozy and welcoming place, the staff at Holestone are young with an effortless professionalism. Chef Jonathan himself is in the kitchen.
I am with a man of impeccable taste and modest appetite.
This makes us even more attentive to the specials of the day, including scallops that “just flew into Ballycastle this morning” served with black pudding candies, chorizo aioli and shaved cauliflower.
An unexpectedly pleasant moment comes. I knew Chef Clark was good, but this could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best in Dublin or Belfast. The plate is generous with three large scallops, each seared perfectly with the tiniest crust and deep softness inside.
The delicate flavor of the scallop is not overshadowed by the chorizo, and the extra dimensions of the soft and salty balls of black pudding in a crispy crumb shell, the subtle tang of the blanched cabbage leaves and the warmth of the aioli combine to make this appetizer extremely appealing.
I’m currently wondering how this can be followed, and a large iron pan with sizzling onions under a mound of thinly sliced chicken covered in tobacco onions does a very good job of it.
A sinus-clearing pepper sauce brings it all together in a pubby presentation that calls for a chilled pale ale, which is sadly replaced by sparkling water.
A bowl of nachos sits across the table. They’re usually appetizers, but at Houlstone, where they’re a specialty, the house-made nachos are a meal in themselves, served with chili beef, fresh guacamole, and spiced salsa. A person eats them with a knife and fork, as if emphasizing their new position as food with substance.
Holestone is a confluence. There are burgers, fish and chips, Ewing’s salt and chili shrimp, 24-hour braised boneless ribs, goujons and even a vegan pizza.
Ballymoney families don’t have to travel very far to enjoy a wide selection of food.
It is a bar with a restaurant, and the quality here is unusual and very unexpectedly high.
It deserves your attention and is worth a trip to Ballymoney just to eat there.
Nachos: 7 lbs
Chicken: 19 lbs
Sparkling water: £2.60