**Climbs out from under rock, rubs eyes, fires up WordPress**
Solidarity eh. I had always thought solidarity was a trendy European T-Shirt, poster and badge label from the 1980s run by a man with a dodgy moustache and funny name who was friends with the Pope. Turns out that its not that. It's not that at all.
No, as it turns out, solidarity means actually having to get out of your bubble of comfort and do something. For a one time shut-in that still hanker's after the lonely joy of bedroom life this revelation has come as quite the disappointment. I, for one, am very pro online petitions, online donating and lending my “voice” to all sorts of causes via the power of the Facebook “LIKE” and what have you. The downtrodden peoples of the world have, in a very small but well-meaning way, benefited from my bedroom activism.
I mean, how many times have you helped a panda or Palestinian whilst still in yer monks and eating pizza? Eh? Exactly. Don't judge me until you've spent a day in my slippers.
But hopes for a dreamy afternoon spent curled on my bed reading, playing video football and listening to the music of
the day yesterday were cast aside when I asked to step up. Step up? That's a thing right? We, Belfast folk, can step up yeah? It’s not just a thing Americans do when faced with adversity or a 24oz burger. Wouldn’t it be better, now that I think about it, if a few citizens of this town stepped the fuck down rather than up? Oh well.
But, I suppose, being asked to go for lunch to show solidarity is about as doable as it gets. It's not like I’ve been asked to sneak messages up my what-what across enemy lines.
Anyhoo, there I was at 12:30 sitting with a few others in solidarity in a restaurant drinking San Pelligrino. I believe this is what they call Direct Action, Manuel style. Heh. The restaurant, of course, is the wonderful East Belfast eaterie, Bistro Este.
Now you’d think the good folks of Bistro Este would be used to adversity and tough times what with being next door to the hairy faced, sandal wearing, tree hugging, Why can't we all just get alongers? of The Alliance Party what with all the soy lattes, chai teas and gluten-free brownies. Oh yes, tough times for sure.
Heh. Wee joke there lads, no need for strongly worded emails and that.
But add to that the horror and inconvenience that is the daily fleg protest and you could be forgiven for wondering why they haven't Sunny Jim'd the place weeks ago and moved to The South of France with the insurance money. Running a restaurant is hard enough - the daily battle to keep costs and prices down, maintaining standards, attracting and holding onto new punters whilst fighting the competition. No, you'd want to be tapped in the noggin to want to run your own place. As the old joke goes, how do you make a million quid? Start with two million and open a restaurant. Boom fucking boom.
Bistro Este have been in the firing line of the daily protest simple because they are next door to the Alliance party office on the Newtownards road. It means they have to close early. It means when faced with other options punters will dine else where, somewhere less shouty-shouty rioty-rioty. It means that a tough job just gets tougher.
So when The Belfast Telegraph's food critic, Joris Minne suggested we, food bloggers and others, book a table and show them they aren't in this on their own it was a no brainer for me.
Anyhoo, we went to Bistro Este and this is what we had...
Whilst most of this band of food loving peaceniks went for soup or chowder or like The Restaurant Pimp both, I opted for the Italian Chicken Mezzaluna - chicken breast, basil pesto, melted mozzarella and fresh tomato. It was swell - fresh, filling, tasty and definitely gonna happen again. Everybody waxed lyrical about their choices. The chowder and the soup were full of flavour and satisfying and the steak ciabatta was as manly and beefy as you could possibly want. Everything on the Bistro Este lunch and breakfast menu comes in at under £6.00 which makes it fantastic value.
They run a very impressive evening menu on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening with offerings such as Daube of Rose Veal and Lebanese lamb casserole. Again it is fantastically priced and, you'll like this, they are bring yer own and there's no corkage. Whoop whoop as Jay Raynor no doubt says.
It's not just Bistro Este that is suffering at the moment, there's hardly a restaurant and bar in the city unmolested by current events. This must be what it feels like to be a child on the TV in the 70s. But given their unique location they are suffering more than most. Restaurants run on a tight margin and even the smallest of knocks here and there can have devastating effects. If things don't break soon for the hospitality and retail sector in Belfast City Centre and beyond there'll be nothing for the fleg obsessed to fly a flag over...designated day or not.
This isn't hyperbole or grandstanding this is fact. The hospitality sector as a whole faces its greatest crisis since the advent of The Marks & Spencer Dine in for Two promotion or the Troubles...whatever. If there isn't a break in hostilities soon restaurants are going to start laying off waiters and chefs, right now hours are being cut. It won't be long until restaurants close for good.
So, like I say, solidarity isn't just a t-shirt from the 80's...it means getting out of you bubble of comfort and doing something. I'm not asking you to smuggle messages across enemy lines up yer what-what. Support the restaurants and bars in the firing line. Solidarity can be tasty and good value you know. Plus hell hath no fury like an unemployed Manuel...think on.
this was the scene two hours after lunch...sigh
**crawls back under rock, goes back to sleep, awaits death or unemployment**