Restaurant set in a 200-year-old farmhouse wins top NI accolade
A bustling Co Antrim country lodge close to Belfast International Airport has been named Northern Ireland's best hotel restaurant.
Ballyrobin Country Lodge is a 21-bedroomed hotel owned by Stephen Chick.
It has become a Northern Ireland favourite of celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, who stayed there while visiting the region preparing for the opening of his new Belfast city centre restaurant.
Ballyrobin's eatery has now been named hotel restaurant of the year at The Food Awards Northern Ireland.
Head chef James Mullholland has also cooked alongside Mr Novelli at Balmoral's Food NI pavilion.
Mr Mullholland has worked at the restaurant for nine years, when it was taken over by its current owners, and was also short-listed for chef of the year at the Institute of Hospitality Awards for Professionalism this year.
The Food Awards Northern Ireland recognise the success of the region's professionals and establishments.
Elaine Kelly, general manager of Ballyrobin Country Lodge, said: "We are honoured and delighted to have won this award in the presence of great competition including The Merchant Hotel in Belfast who won this particular award in 2016.
"This success is down to the kitchen team led by Jim Mullholland, executive chef, and Mann-Ting Chan, assistant manager, who together with their team work tirelessly to provide the best dining experience you can come to expect here at Ballyrobin Country Lodge.
"Recently we hosted celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli who came to stay and dine with us as he paid a visit to the 2017 Balmoral Show.
"He was full of praise for the team here at Ballyrobin after his own dining experience and was sure we would pick up awards soon - his words have now come to fruition and we look forward to welcoming him again soon.
"Congratulations to all the great finalists and winners who represent the Northern Irish food industry and enhance its reputation nationally and internationally."
The Chick family took over the business in 2008, extending it from a two-bedroom B&B to a small boutique hotel. The restaurant has become well-known for its cosy country cottage feel.
The original part of the building once a traditional Ulster farmhouse built more than 200 years ago from stones gathered from the surrounding fields.
Today, it is a boutique hotel with three rustic-styled rooms and 18 new contemporary rooms and also includes a beauty spa with two therapists.
And its restaurant has been recommended in several editions of the Michelin Guide.
Its success is thought to be partly down to its location beside Belfast International Airport where growing passenger numbers have helped the hotel become popular with travelling business people and holidaymakers.
The restaurant's menu includes twists on traditional Ulster dishes such as Northern Irish pork fillet, with sticky pecan and apricot stuffing, bacon and walnut dust, apple puree and red wine reduction, costing £14. It also offers Fermanagh lamb rump with 'velvet cloud sheep's yoghurt'.