Opened in 2013 by chef Stephen Toman and sommelier Alain Kerloc’h, OX occupies an impressive high-ceilinged, light-filled space. Belfast-born Toman and Brittany native Kerloc’h met working in some of the best restaurants in Paris and have brought some of the élan of the French capital to the banks of the river Lagan while keeping the relaxed ethos of Belfast – and won a Michelin star for their efforts.
The pair learnt the importance of developing close relationships with suppliers while in Paris, so you’ll find some top-notch meat and fish on Ox’s menus. But there’s also a commitment to putting seasonal fruit and vegetables centre stage; this is a restaurant where beetroot has as much of a starring role as beef.
Lunch offers two or three-course menus, while dinner is a tasting menu-only affair. Classical French technique meets earthy Irish ingredients in the likes of crapaudine beetroot with venison tartare, tarragon and mustard, or Skeaghanore duck with quince, parsnip and chard.
Many of the same dishes appear in bigger portions at lunchtime, when there’s a choice of three dishes at each course. Start, perhaps, with Jerusalem artichoke with chicken skin, soy and trompettes, ahead of halibut with pine nuts, squash and veal jus. While dessert could be caramelised pear with cardamom and Poire Williams.
To drink, Kerloc’h’s wine list features around two dozen classic French varieties, but there’s also a commitment to a seasonally changing selection of grapes from lesser-known regions and producers, as well as a separate list of Irish drinks. Wash your meal down with Austrian whites or beers from Antrim and Armagh if your budget or taste don’t extend to Bordeaux and Burgundy.
If you’d prefer an even less formal experience, the neighbouring Ox Cave offers boards of cheese and charcuterie washed down by wine by the glass and carafe, with live music on Saturdays.