The Pit Stop

Is it bad that I don’t remember how long I’ve been married to my husband?

Okay, well, that isn’t strictly true – we’ve had seven years of wedded bliss – but the only reason I know that is because we married the year before our daughter was born.

There hasn’t been much time since then for romance, what with pregnancies, newborn babies, toddlers, work, house moves, strokes and a broken neck thrown in for good measure.

But for Valentine’s Day, we decided to make a bit of an effort (our cards to one another might suggest different, but at least we actually went to the trouble of getting them).

Anyway, with the kids at the childminder and Mr S still off work recovering, we got out the Harley and took it out for a spin.

We can’t go too far – after a couple of months wearing a collar, Ms S’ neck muscles have wasted and his wee head gets too heavy to hold it up!

So, you can imagine that wearing a motorcycle helmet is a bit of a challenge.

Setting that and the rubbish weather aside, however, it was incredible to be out on the bike together again.

Our ride took us through the village of Parkgate, just off the M2 between Antrim and Ballyclare, and we spotted a restaurant for our pit stop where we were able to park the bike just outside.

Stepping inside The Holestone, the décor is bright and fresh – the high ceiling and wooden table and chairs given a touch of warmth with the log stove burning away.

It certainly helped to heat us up after the hour spent on the bike.

Head chef at The Holestone, Jonathan Clarke, has been at the helm since 2017, when he took over the restaurant with his wife, Chloe, in July 2017.

I didn’t know it at the time of our visit, but Jonathan was a finalist in the Northern Ireland Young Chef of the Year contest in 2018.

Knowing this now, I can appreciate why our lunch was so good.

We really weren’t expecting too much, the location exterior and prices are unassuming and certainly not representative of the dining experience you can expect there.

The lunch menu offers one course for £14, two courses for £18 and three for £22, so it’s definitely better value to be greedy – something that isn’t too difficult.

Our decision to forgo a starter was more to do with calorie control than anything else – the menu includes Strangford Lough mussels, Sicilian lemon and thyme cream and toasted sourdough, cauliflower popcorn, pak choi with tikka and lime aioli, and 24-hour braised boneless ribs, homemade BBQ glaze and watercress salad. 

There is as much variety in the mains, with two fish dishes, steak and chicken on the menu.

I was once told by someone during a work lunch years ago that you should never order chicken in a restaurant.

I was tempted by the fish pie with baked potato, tarragon, English mustard, lobster cream and topped with butter poached Kilkeel scallop.

However, I went for the chicken after the waitress told me they could make me up a sauce without mushrooms.

Mr S ordered the 10oz rump steak and we had the usual conversation with the waitress about how much my husband loves his steak blue.

I went over the same old script, telling her that he will eat the steak off the chopping board when I’m making stew and Mr S told her he doesn’t mind if it’s still mooing.

We do this every time he orders a blue steak – and while they nod and assure us that they will let the chef know, the steak invariably comes rare or medium rare.

This time, however, the steak came cooked to perfection.

“Unbelievable,” was the considered response from Mr S.

“Probably the most perfectly cooked blue steak I have had outside of my house.”

His steak came with tobacco onions, truffle tomato, homemade chips and peppercorn sauce.

My main course of Co Monaghan chicken with crispy skin was equally as delicious.

The salt baked parsnip and puree was sweet, the tenderstem broccoli was perfectly al dente (is there anything worse than overcooked broccoli?), while the potato presse was perfectly complemented by the pulled leek cream.

Tweedies Dessert Mumbreakable

Despite the fact we were both adequately fed, we both ordered a homemade Belgium waffle with fresh raspberries and gel, white chocolate and vanilla ice cream.

Crispy and chewy on the outside, the waffle was warm, light and fluffy on the inside, the raspberry gel was tart and with white chocolate melted over the ice cream, it was sweet and crunchy.

Our lunch was delicious and the service was friendly and warm – the only disappointment in the whole experience was the fact we’ve never been there before.