“ Address: 53-57 Bachelors Walk / Lisburn / BT28 1XN / Tel: 028 9267 7061 „
~*~Is it a card game or a restaurant?~*~
Uno, if you remember correctly, was a card game popular in the late 80s and memorable primarily for being utterly baffling. Uno's by contrast, is a rather nice Italian restaurant in Lisburn.
~*~How shall I get there?~*~
Look for 'Bachelor's Walk' on Google maps and Uno's is about halfway along. There is parking outside along the pavement; this is free after 6pm but pay and display before that. I've generally always managed to find a space (read: abandon the car) but at lunchtime or rush hour you may need to park slightly further away. Be warned that trying to park outside can be a nightmare as you're manoeuvring into a busy flow of one way traffic. Additionally, the local 17 year old petrol heads seem to view the one way system as a kind of low-rent Le Mans circuit so you'll need to be vigilant if reversing into a space.
There are occasional changes as new veg and meats come into season, but generally it stays pretty much the same. I'd describe it as being extensive but not excessive. I'm suspicious of restaurants whose menus run to pages and pages, because I always worry that involves a lot of 'defrost and nuke in the microwave' offerings. As Uno's is an Italian, the emphasis is naturally on pizza and pasta with separate specials which change frequently. There are also various happy hours or early bird specials, the details of which are available on their website.
I've been going here for well over a year and my first experiences of the place weren't particularly good. There was nothing 'wrong' with the food as such, but eating out in Ireland and Northern Ireland is relatively expensive and I resent paying between £9 and £15 for a main course that is merely 'alright'. Because of this I hadn't visited for a while, but was persuaded to go back a few months ago because it was a handy meet-up point for me and a few friends. Since then, I seem to be back every other week; they have a new chef and things have definitely improved meaning it's now one of the better restaurants in Lisburn. The downstairs dining area is characterised by a lot of pale wood and brick walls, which is nice enough if a bit forgettable. The chairs are cushioned and upholstered in velour and are comfy enough to accommodate mine and my friends' bottoms for hours at a time as we catch up on the craic. There are also covers upstairs for large parties or when the restaurant is particularly busy, but I've never eaten up there so can't comment.
The last time I was there I ordered from the specials menu and had a starter of duck leg, main of chicken saltimbocca, and crème brûlée with raspberry sorbet for dessert (incidentally, had I not ordered a dessert the starter and the main would have been under 12 quid and I could have had a free glass of house wine, but I don't drink much and their desserts are too good to pass up). The duck leg had been nicely trimmed and arrived atop a puree of something tasty and vegetabley, a small mound of spinach and dotted with a fruity sauce. It was well cooked, well presented and the amount was just right. My friend declared her smoked salmon on griddled ciabatta to be very tasty, although felt a small pot of dill sauce to go with it would have been a welcome addition.
The chicken saltimbocca translates to a breast of chicken stuffed with sage leaves and wrapped in prosciutto. I rather suspect mine was actually stuffed with spinach as it didn't taste terribly sagey, but I like spinach so it wasn't too much of an issue. The chicken was very tender and moist but the prosciutto on the outside looked rather pale and insipid; I'm not sure whether it had been poached or oven-baked in a covered container, but it could definitely have done with being browned in a pan first. It came with sun-dried tomato mash, which wasn't a roaring success. Some things work well with mashed potato: lemon and chives, cheese, roasted garlic, butter and scallions. Unfortunately, sundried tomatoes are too strong a flavour and too chunky a texture and they battered the life out of the mash. The pan-fried sea bass my friend chose looked like a lovely dish; two chunky fillets of sea bass on a mound of (ordinary) mash with a creamy sauce.
The desserts were a triumph: the crème brûlée had a lovely golden glazed sugar top with the custard underneath smooth and with plenty of vanilla. The raspberry sorbet and sugar-glazed mint leaves provided just the right contrast to the sweetness. My friend's strawberry cheesecake was a huge slice that tasted properly creamy and came with a nicely sharp balsamic reduction. Overall, the amount of food provided for the three courses was just right. I felt pleasantly full by the time I got to coffee, rather than ready to burst. All in all, the meal and a large diet coke came to just under £25.
Throughout every meal I've had there the waiting staff have been attentive but not over-eager. They're friendly and will chat happily but won't intrude on conversations or hover annoyingly at your elbow. They will, though, always offer fresh parmesan or black pepper from the enormous grinder - well, what Italian would be complete without an olive-skinned bloke wielding his massive tool?
All toilets are upstairs. The ladies are quite compact but there's still room to squeeze yourself into one of the three cubicles without getting your leg jammed against the door. The wall between the female toilets and the disabled toilet obviously isn't very sturdy as my friend M decided to let rip with a volley of explosive trumps while she was in there, and recounted that an elderly gentleman emerged from the disabled loo just as she exited the ladies and stared at her, aghast. Worth remembering if you tend to have a burpy bottom.
Devotees of the evil weed are not, I'm afraid, terribly well catered for. If you must have a fag after dinner your options are to stand outside and make the place look scruffy, or to adjourn to the little patch of waste ground beside the restaurant. There are no seats or heating provided so you'll be foundered between September and May.
~*~Disabled access and prams~*~
The main doorway is wide and should accommodate wheelchair users and prams. The tables are spaced so that there is more than enough room for two people to pass each other so they should be reasonably easy to negotiate. Bizarrely, though, the disabled toilet is upstairs and I've never seen a lift so this is something of an oversight (or a cruel joke, depending on how cynical you are).
~~Atmosphere~~ As mentioned earlier, the inside of the restaurant is a combination of brick walls and a lot of wood. Even though incidental music is played at a discreet volume it means the general hubbub of chat and laughter gets VERY loud at peak times and I've struggled to hear what people sitting right beside me were saying. Tablecloths and a few more soft furnishings might help to reduce the noise levels slightly.
~~Children~~ I work with them for a living and am generally an advocate for youngsters. But, I abhor badly behaved children in pubs and restaurants. On my last visit there was a family with multiple children who screamed, ran around the restaurant and bothered other diners whilst their parents blithely ignored them. Now, when I pay £25-£30 for a meal, I expect to be able to enjoy it and not be distracted by ill-mannered little'uns. Uno's leaves itself open to this a bit by describing itself as a 'family-friendly' restaurant, but I think the manager would do well to undertake some training in how to politely manage families with rude and noisy children, especially when it's after 7-8 pm. Additionally, the father of the family was sat with his back to me and exposed half of his arse over the top of his trousers from the moment he sat down until the moment he left. A tactful quiet word from the waiting staff would have been appreciated as it got to the point where I found myself idly wondering if my aim was good enough to get the tulip from the vase on the table to land right between his cheeks.
~~Presentation~~ I salute the chef's enthusiasm and desire to make the food look as nice as possible by presenting it in unusual ways. However, there is something to be said for nice crockery. In the past I've ordered the belly pork and it came on a perfectly flat, round wooden chopping board. It also came with gravy. The upshot was that, lest I cause a small sauce tsunami, I was reduced to pouring on about a teaspoon at a time. My friend's smoked salmon starter was a thing of beauty, but came presented on a completely flat slate tile. Again, it looked great but the waitress was a nail biter and had a hell of a time trying to lever it off the table.
Minor quibbles aside, this is a great restaurant that I'm happy to visit regularly. The chef is relatively new and there are some giveaways that he's still finding his feet and attempting to establish his presence. However, I'm quite prepared to put up with some slightly gimmicky presentation tricks as long as the food is of such good quality and the waiting staff work hard to provide a pleasant atmosphere.
53-57 Bachelors Walk, Lisburn
T: 028 9267 7061