Belfast's award-winning Ginger Bistro restaurant to expand
Belfast restaurant Ginger Bistro is expanding and taking on the neighbouring former Ulster Scots Agency building.
The popular, award-winning spot is owned and run by husband and wife Simon and Abby McCance, and currently sits on Hope Street, just off Great Victoria Street.
But new plans show the business wants to expand around the corner, to the glass-clad site facing out on to Great Victoria Street.
It was formerly home to the Ulster Scots Agency, which has since set up at Gordon Street.
The Great Victoria Street building is owned by Donaldson & Lyttle Property Ltd.
The 70-seat restaurant is expanding into the much more prominent building, which looks on to the busy street.
Plans show an additional seating area for 25 people, along with a bar and new entrance accessed from Great Victoria Street.
A nearby restaurant has also expanded into the former City Reptiles shop on Hope Street.
Belfast Telegraph restaurant critic Joris Minne said: "Simon McCance is as good a businessman as he is a chef, and it's no surprise that he has jumped at the opportunity to expand.
"His neighbours in the recently bought-out Rhubarb have done the same, expanding into the former reptile shop.
"I always hoped to see the day Rhubarb and Ginger would be cheek by jowl."
Ginger serves a range of dishes, but specialises in fish.
Its winter menu dishes include roasted pork belly with sweet potato puree, scallops and tender stem broccoli.
There is also a main course of lemon sole tempura, a starter of salt and cumin fried chicken and plum and hazelnut crumble for dessert.
The restaurant started off life on the Ormeau Road in the south of the city in 2000, before moving to its current home, close to the Opera House, Europa Hotel and the Crown Liquor Saloon.
Speaking about the restaurant on his website, Mr McCance said: "When I first opened Ginger Bistro way back in 2000 on Belfast's Ormeau Road, I wanted to serve quality food in a relaxed and friendly environment. We have built a loyal local customer base and are one of the favourites with visitors to our 'wee city' and locals alike".
"With the help of our superb and long-established team, Ginger Bistro continues to go from strength to strength, receiving local and national awards, even after all these years."
In its 17 years in business, the eatery has picked up numerous accolades. Just last year it was named best casual dining restaurant in the Irish Restaurant Awards.
Simon McCance was formerly the head chef at the now closed Nick's Warehouse - one of the restaurants behind Belfast's surge as a foodie destination.
He originally opened the small and then somewhat cult Ginger on the Ormeau Road with backing from Nick Price. Several years later, in 2004, Mr McCance moved the business to its current location right in the centre of the Belfast.
In a review of the restaurant in 2015, this paper's Joris Minne raved about the popular spot's excellent dishes.
"Simon and Abby McCance have owned Ginger Bistro since the ancient Egyptians ruled Ireland," he said.
"Simon McCance is a master with fish, and the haddock was a glistening, slippery set of interlocking pearly kernels whose delicate salty flavours were well-matched to the risotto.
"Ginger is not just a great survivor. It's a Belfast institution. The wine list is clever and not expensive and the food is good. All it needs now is some area regeneration."