Tower of Refuge – image courtesy of Wikipedia
Within Douglas bay in the Isle of Man is St. Mary’s Isle or the ‘Tower of Refuge’. Built as a refuge for shipwrecked sailors in 1832, it was commissioned by Sir William Hillary, founder of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. Looking out at this seemingly submerging keep in the bay, you may ask why the architect designed it to look like a castle but you may equally well ask ‘Why would you stop there if you’re that close to the shore?’ The same could be said about finding a great meal on the promenade at Douglas. So why would you stop here when just five minutes down the harbour you can find 14 North.
The entrance to this little restaurant was a welcome sight to escape from the summer rain as we arrived. Led up the small staircase to the first floor dining room, the restaurant had a cosy intimacy that puts you at ease quickly, making it a more relaxing meal.
Diving straight into the menu I began eyeing up some good-looking dishes and because it was a business trip, this meal was going to be a bit of a feast. For the starter, I opted for the Goats cheese terrine. The cheese itself was flavoursome, with a creamy textured flavour. The beetroot puree added sharper overtones to the creamy cheese flavour and was topped with the flavour of the pickled beetroot. The sharp beetroot flavour giving way to the smooth cheese meant each mouthful left you wanting that tanginess from the next bite. Moreish stuff.
goats cheese terrine with pickled beetroot, beetroot puree and toast
Along side our starters, we were presented with a plate of queenies. A bit of a delicacy from the waters of the Isle of Man, this plate of Queen scallops were exceptional. Served up in a garlic butter and pesto sauce, the clean seafood flavour of the scallop shone through in what was an amazing example of fine scallops.
Queenies in garlic butter and scallops
Before moving onto our main course, we tried out some of the flatbreads. The original mozzarella flatbread was well made and had a deliciously firm dough base, but the winner out of the two that we ordered was the Smoked cheddar flatbread. Smokey, tangy cheddar atop tomato and mozzarella with red onions and sauteed potatoes. Sauteed potatoes were a small stroke of genius, adding a chunky bite to the smoked cheese flavour. Too rich to eat in quantity, but just right between courses with its convolution of flavours. I’d describe it is a high-end comfort food dish.
Smoked cheddar flatbread with sautéed potatoes and red onions
For mains, the roasted hake grabbed my eye. Served on a bacon mash with green beans and a mustard cream sauce. My personal favourite aspect of this dish was the rasher of bacon, cooked crispy and protruding from the hake. Even when having a sophisticated meal with colleagues, a big piece of bacon still makes me smile more than it should. The hake still stood up for itself though. Beautifully cooked to ensure the meatiness in each bite did not prevent the fish from flaking evenly and in full pieces. The roasting kept the fish moist meaning it was great too with the bacon mash. The mustard sauce was creamy, spicy and combined with the mash made a flavourful mix of salt and mustard spice. The sauce almost overpowered the fish but it all managed to hold together with the green beans to make a well-balanced and warming dish.
roasted hake, bacon mash potato, green beans and a mustard cream sauce
Rounding this meal off, mainly because I was physically running out of room to eat much more, I had my arm twisted to try the vanilla fudge cheesecake. Beautiful. Just beautiful. Taking the typical cheesecake topping and adding in a velvety rich fudge made the texture almost like a thick marshmallow spread. Sweet and chewy with a crunchy base. Too rich to finish after all of that but well worth the effort.
Vanilla fudge cheesecake
Leaving was hard, not just because I was weighed down by a massive meal but it was also a fantastic experience that I didn’t want to end. I’ll certainly be back again the next time I make it across the water and this will definitely be the only refuge I need.