Harry's Shack joins Belfast's Shu on list of UK top restaurants
Harry's Shack and Shu have been ranked among the best eateries in the UK, as Northern Ireland continues its restaurant renaissance.
The two have been recognised in the National Restaurant Awards held in the Hurlingham Club in London, bettering the province's offering last year when only Shu made the list.
Harry's Shack won the best restaurant in Northern Ireland award, with the Portstewart Strand eatery voted by industry experts the 86th best in the United Kingdom.
Shu, based on Lisburn Road in Belfast, celebrated its fourth year on the list where it finished 90th, down from 76th last year.
Both placed higher than celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal's three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck and the nose-to-tail eating pioneer St John.
The London tapas bar Barrafina Adelaide Street scooped the top award as best UK restaurant, the first time somewhere with a female head chef has won the prize.
The awards are chosen by 150 experts, including chefs, food writers, critics, and restaurateurs, who each cast seven votes for the favourite places over the last 12 months.
One surprise omission from the list was Belfast's OX, which has wowed diners and critics alike.
Donal Doherty, co-owner of Harry's Shack, said being voted number one in Northern Ireland came as a shock.
"We were not expecting it. It brings more and more people to us, including people flying in from outside Northern Ireland," he said.
"My team have been working their socks off and it's only going to get busier tomorrow with the holidays starting." Harry's Shack, sister restaurant to Harry's in Bridgend, Co Donegal, has gone through a rapid rise since it converted a former National Trust office on the beach last August.
With its focus on freshness, which has included growing its own herbs and vegetables, and simple cooking, it has lured diners from all over Ireland making the trail to the north coast.
In January, The Observer's restaurant critic Jay Rayner lavished praise on the restaurant.
He said that "coming to Northern Ireland now and not going to Harry's Shack would be a stupid thing to do".
Mr Doherty added he "didn't even dream" it would have such a popular first year. "I didn't picture anywhere near this response, which creates all sorts of problems but good problems," he said.
"The location makes it that extra bit special and sitting looking at that view, we knew we had just hit on something."
Shu owner Alan Reid said: "We are delighted and thrilled to have been recognised alongside the very best in the business right across the UK.
"To have been honoured in this prestigious listing for the fourth year in a row is extremely humbling for us. Congratulations must go to Harry's Shack, who have exploded on to the Northern Ireland restaurant scene, underpinning the vibrant north coast culinary landscape."