Belfast restaurant OX named Northern Ireland's finest
Delight as it wins chef and restaurant double while also landing Ireland-wide commendation
Belfast restaurant OX is basking in the glow of culinary acclaim after scoring a double whammy for their eatery.
The Oxford Street venue was named the best restaurant in Ulster, in an Ireland-wide round-up of the creme de la creme.
The culinary prowess of chef Stephen Toman, who jointly owns OX with Alain Kerloc'h, earned him the gong for Best Chef in Ulster.
The accolades further cement OX's reputation as one of the most exciting dining experiences in all of Ireland – after the judges also bestowed a commendation on Ox for the overall title of best restaurant.
That ultimate award, conferred by Food & Wine Magazine, went to record six-times winner Chapter One in Dublin's Parnell Square.
Graham Neville of Restaurant Forty One, Dublin, was named Ireland's best chef, in an establishment which took the regional Dublin title for best restaurant.
The awards come as OX aims to grow in size to allow diners to move from their tables to comfortable surroundings where they can enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine.
Their plans haven't yet been committed to the drawing board but the business is set to expand into an adjacent property.
Mr Kerloc'h said: "We won't be increasing the number of covers we offer.
"We don't want to dilute the quality of the food and service but want to be able to offer people a quiet and comfortable place to sit after dinner to enjoy their coffee or have a glass of wine.
"The restaurant will stay completely the same but it's the quality of the food that we really care about so we won't be expanding the restaurant that way – we're just looking for a bit more space.
"And with our very big windows, it looks as if you're dining on the water."
John McKenna, food critic and co-author of the McKenna's Guides, said Ox deserved the accolades.
"I think it's the most exciting restaurant in Belfast since Roscoffs opened in 1989," he said.
"Their focus on putting vegetables to the forefront rather than meat protein is quite radical, and something no one else has done before."
Ireland-wide, it was "right up there with the very best," Mr McKenna added.
Miriam Atkins, editor of Food & Wine magazine, said the judging panel "had a difficult task this year, with so many incredible restaurants and chefs deserving recognition".
The awards, now in their 14th year, are considered among the most authoritative culinary awards in the Irish calendar.
Foodies from all over Ireland were invited to nominate their favourite restaurants and chefs, with the top entries going forward for deliberation by a national culinary panel of judges, made up of industry experts and national food critics.
After much deliberation on each category, each judge votes in secret for their top 10 in each category, including the top 10 restaurants and chefs from all four provinces, with Dublin treated separately.
OX joined Belfast's epicurean landscape in March 2013 when it opened at Oxford Street.
With whitewashed walls, timber floors and clean design lines, the simplicity of the interior provides a backdrop for show-stoppingly presented food.
The critics have been effusive in their praise for Ox since it opened its doors.
One gourmand said, "A new star is born at this relaxed Laganside restaurant," while Mr Toman and Mr Kerloc'h have been praised for their "impeccable service".