But despite all the difficulties that come with entering the marketplace during the height of the pandemic, the eatery on Middlewood Road, Hillsborough has gone from strength to strength and is now a firm favourite of those living in the area and beyond.
It is owned by Anne Horner and Matthew Duggan-Jones, who previously worked together at one of the family of Marmadukes cafés, and their ever-evolving menus combine South African and international cuisines with a modern twist.
When I visited with a dining companion on a balmy Thursday evening, it was bustling with couples and groups, and there was a real buzz to the atmosphere.
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From the offset, we were made to feel very welcome, and the service was exemplary throughout. We visited on an extremely hot day and really appreciated the fact that water for the table was continuously replenished during our meal.
The menu is not particularly extensive, but is packed full of incredible-sounding dishes.
To start, we opted to share warm mosbolletjies, a sweet bread from the wine producing regions of South Africa, which comes with whipped rosemary butter and beer crackers, accompanied by whipped feta, onion caramel and nasturtium.
The mosbolletjies tasted divine, and had a hint of fennel, which gave it an interesting kick, and the whipped butter complimented the flavours of the bread and was utterly delicious.
The beer crackers were light, and had subtle hints of beer, giving way to the strong and moreish flavours of the whipped feta.
Moving on to the mains, I opted for the hot cauliflower, which was cooked in a decadent hot butter glaze and came with tahini sauce, OB pickles and rose pickled red onions.
As a life-long vegetarian, I feel like it can be a bit of a gamble to order cauliflower as a main dish, because without good seasoning or creative flavours it can be very bland.
I’m delighted to say that at Orange Bird, a simple dish cauliflower was transformed into a taste explosion. The combination of the hot butter glaze and the tahini sauce made for a sumptuous dish, and I savoured every mouthful.
My dining companion chose the half Peri Peri chicken, served with burnt radicchio and elderflower vinegar.
He described the dish as being very tasty, and was elevated by the ‘skilful use of herbs and spices’.
We also ordered a side salad of Isle of Wight tomatoes which tasted unbelievably fresh, and came with a wasabi & tahini dressing and purple basil. We also selected some curry butter chips, drizzled with a dill mayonnaise that we couldn’t get enough of.
To drink, we ordered a bottle of South African wine, Freedom Cross Pinotage, which had intense blackberry and coffee mocha notes and worked well with the food we ordered.
I have been meaning to visit Orange Bird for a while, and was extremely impressed with all aspects of the restaurant which is decked out with elegant and modern decor.
All of the ingredients are fresh and high quality, and the innovative and skilled use of flavour combinations elevates every dish.
Orange Bird is a real jewel in Hillsborough’s crown, and I can’t wait to make my second visit.
The bill came to £65.