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WITH an hour to kill before an assignment in Ahoghill I decided on the rare treat of a weekday lunch at the village's only restaurant The Yew Tree which had caught my eye on the way in.
The restaurant's smart white and purple fa'ade wouldn't be out of place on a city centre street and once inside, I was pleased to find a similarly bright and modern interior.
A friendly greeting set the tone for my visit and I was asked if I would prefer to sit upstairs or down. I opted to stay down, where a colourful, well equipped playroom caught my eye.
I have only ever seen this once before in a restaurant and at the time, with a boisterous two year old in tow, children's play facilities proved a real Godsend.
A young couple was making the most of the chance to dine in peace while their tiny toddler played contently nearby.
As well as a fairly extensive main lunch menu, the waitress drew my attention to a set menu of exceptional value, offering a choice of three courses with tea, coffee and mints for the reasonable price of '9.95.
The menu really did have something for everyone, from substantial main courses to lighter bites such as sandwiches and toasties, a range of snacks and you could even order all day breakfasts.
Good standard fare such as gammon, chicken fillets and Rose Silverside of Beef were presented with interesting twists which made them sound that little bit more appealing.
The 10oz Sweet Cure Gammon Steak came with a whole grain mustard sauce and grilled fresh pineapple wedge, the Pan-Fried Chicken Fillets were on a bed of onions and mushrooms, napped in creamy black pepper sauce and the Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding was accompanied with cabbage, bacon and Bushmills Sauce.
There was also a good choice of four vegetarian dishes and a carefully thought out children's menu.
Even the sandwiches were that little bit extraordinary with fillings ranging from pastrami with BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato and mayo to garlic chicken with rocket lettuce and peppers.
After some deliberation I opted for the set lunch.
I chose the Satay Chicken Skewer on crisp salad leaves for starter, followed by the Warm Salmon Salad on parmesan and rocket with sun blushed tomatoes, rounded off with my all-time favourite of Fresh Cream Pavlova with strawberry coulis and chocolate shavings for dessert.
The restaurant is fully licensed with a first-class selection of wines but as I was working, I opted for a glass of water.
The starter arrived very quickly and the chicken skewer was indeed resting on a bed of crisp salad leaves, accompanied by a small pot of fresh chutney which had a lovely kick to it.
The chicken skewer looked quite simple but was full of flavor and the salad of shredded iceberg lettuce and red onion was drizzled with a delicious dressing. I scoffed the lot.
The main course comes with a choice of chips, champ, garlic fries, potato wedges or mixed salad but because I was having three courses, I passed on the side order.
I was presented with a good sized salmon fillet sitting on a bed of salad. The salad was a meal in itself with lots of delicious sun dried tomatoes, peppery rocket, onions, parmesan and grated carrot. The salmon was cooked to perfection and very flavoursome. Again, I didn't leave a crumb.
I had barely enough room left for dessert.
It never ceases to surprise me how often Pavlova can disappoint. Thankfully not on this occasion.
The meringue was melt in the mouth light with a crispy, nuggety base and lashings of fresh cream, topped with fresh strawberries and the divine strawberry coulis on the side. It was by far the nicest Pavlova I have ever had.
I declined coffee and mints and simply couldn't leave without telling my friendly waitress how perfect the Pavlova was and how much I had enjoyed my meal. I learnt that The Yew Tree has recently been refurbished and re-launched with a new menu.
While it might be a little bit off the beaten track for some, this little restaurant in the heart of Co Antrim is a real gem - unpretentious, good food, friendly service and all with change from a tenner! About
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