Simply Crispy


“Are you for real?”

“Has the world gone mad?”

“Whatever will they think of next!”

These were just a few of the comments that greeted the opening of the world’s first crisp sandwich shop in Belfast.


The idea itself had started as a spoof on the Ulster Fry website, but a pop-up cafe on Bedford Street decided that this was daft enough to work, and set about making it a reality.  It helps to remember that a valid reason for doing anything in Norn Irn is “for the crack”.


When I arrived on Friday lunchtime, the queue was out the door. Granted, not as bad as it was on Monday’s opening day, and the wait was not unreasonable, about 10 minutes. To pass the time we looked at the photos decorating the walls. There was one of a teacher from Grange Hill, under Cliff Richard. There was one from Roy Walker saying “Your food’s good, but it’s nat right!”. And there were 3 clocks showing the time in Belfast, Derry, and Londonderry.


First, choose your bread: a Belfast bap is the most popular choice, but it is a mahoosive sized roll with a crusty top. The dials on my internal carb-counter were already spinning out of control, so I applied the “less is more” mantra and rejected the extra thick softee white bread in favour of a Knutty Crust. From the available 20 or so varieties, I opted for by far the most popular crisps, local heroes Tayto Cheese’n’onion. These are a crisp of legendary significance, the banners greeting you as you arrive at Belfast’s George Best City Airport are decorated in its signature colours, with safety advice dispensed from Mr Tayto himself. Ex-pats weep at the memory of those yellow bags.


I added a slice of ham, just as a nod to the need for some protein. The meal deal additions of chips (fries) and soup brought it to £4, with an extra 50p for the ham. A slice of cheese can be added instead.


A bag of crisps is tipped onto the buttered bread.  The squishing action is all important when producing the resultant sandwich, I imagine the staff have to go through a rigorous training procedure in order to get the amount of force just right.



Places at tables were at a premium, but we did manage to elbow the photographers and journos out of the way to secure some space and settle down to enjoy the experience. That first bite, soft bread gently caressing crunchy crisps, the overpowering flavours of the latter matched by the blandness of the former – it really is a winning combination. I could say something about “mouthfeel” but you’d only accuse me of being all poncey.


The chips were not really necessary,and the soup wasn’t that exciting. So next time (and there WILL be a next time) I’ll just have the sandwich.

I also enjoyed  the Led Zeppelin playing in the background, which helped with the nostalgic feel, and memories of school packed lunches….
Has the world gone mad? Quite possibly. But maybe what the world needs is a bit more madness like this. It’s impossible to have lunch here without a smile on your face.


Med Cruise: Day 6 – Toulon

I would find it very difficult to visit somewhere without having done some basic research into it.  I was amazed reading some reviews of our cruise that one passenger gave it a low rating because “there’s nothing to do in Toulon”.  It’s the main French naval base, and having been heavily bombed in WW2 much of its buildings were hastily erected to provide  a lot of housing quickly – in other words its not very pretty architecturally.  The clue for me was the word “gateway”.  Anywhere that styles itself “gateway to blah blah” is usually an indication that you want to getaway from it as soon as possible.  Toulon calls itself “gateway to the Cote d’Azur”.  On top of all that, it was a Sunday when we visited, so many places would be closed.  This was the best day to go for one of the organised shore excursions.

Our first stop was the pretty little post of Sanary sur Mer.  The market there was yet another feast for the senses – I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time on this cruise blog extolling the joys of the variety and freshness of the local produce, so I’ll try to resist posting yet another picture of glossy tomatoes.  I bought some delicious fresh macaroons, a punnet of sweet and sharp strawberries, and couldn’t resist joining the queue for this local delicacy, Cade.  It was a sort of chickpea flour pancake, cooked in a wood smoke oven, served with a little salt and pepper.  The texture reminded me of potato bread.

A passing local advised us to climb to the top of the tower, accessible behind the hotel.  It’s free to enter, but quite a few steps and ladders to climb.  The view over the little harbour, with the old-fashioned painted boats – pointus, the pointed ones – was just exquisite.

Our next stop was the seaside resort of Bandol, weekend retreat of choice for the residents of nearby Marseilles.  There was a display of classic British cars (Les Anglaises) along the promenade, and the island off the coast belonged to M Ricard, inventor of the eponymous aperitif.  We had a welcome sit-down in the shade and enjoyed tapas of mussels and aubergine, followed by a gentle stroll in the sunshine enjoying delicious ice-creams from a dizzying choice of flavours.  I went for lavender, this being Provence, while Roger tried a salty caramel.  During the ice-cream purchasing process, he managed to drop a 5 euro note, which a passer-by retrieved and returned to us.  Back on the coach, and we were back on board at 13.30.  The trip had cost 32 euros – they’re not cheap, shore excursions, but this was definitely one we were glad we had taken.

I managed a short session in the gym, and then had a GnT in the Lookout Bar as we set sail. At dinner, there was a crepe station set up, so we enjoyed freshly prepared crepes Suzette for dessert.  I even managed to catch the evening show in the Ocean Theatre, which was very good, high professional standard.

Cruise Tip Of The Day: Check where you’re going to be on a Sunday, as shops and other attractions may be closed.  And look out for the words “Gateway to….”

Chorizo bean stew

I might blog a few recipes this year! This one is based on a Nigel Slater recipe. I do love Nigel – he has a relaxed approach and an obvious passion for food which is infectious. This is a wonderful hearty soup/ stew, using mostly store cupboard ingredients.

Cut a chorizo sausage into chunks,and brown in a saucepan with an onion and some garlic.

Peel some carrot and parsnip, and cut into chunks. Add these to the pan.

Add a tin of tomatoes, and a tin of beans. I used borlotti beans tonight, but cannelini, butter, or chickpeas would be just as good. Add one canful of water. Stir it all together and season – pepper, salt, some basil or oregano, and a few dried chili flakes. And the zest of an orange.

Simmer with the lid half on for at least 45 minutes. Serve in a bowl garnished with parsley, accompanied by a hunk of crusty bread to mop up all the paprika-y goodness.