Muddlers Club: OX chef to open new bistro in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter
A top chef who has worked at some of Belfast's best restaurants is creating 15 jobs with his new modern bistro in the city's thriving Cathedral Quarter.
Gareth McCaughey (38) will open the Muddlers Club in the in a few weeks time, turning a large site into a 52-seat dining experience.
The chef is currently behind the stove at one of Northern Ireland's most exciting and ambitious restaurants, OX.
He's a former head chef at the Barking Dog in south Belfast, which he joined after helping stalwart Niall McKenna set up the well-known James Street South eatery in Belfast city centre.
"I've been at OX for about two years, and that's been amazing - the amount of coverage in the media has been great," he said.
"My restaurant is going to be modern bistro food, a cocktail bar and open-plan kitchen. It will seat around 52."
He said the project in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter had been two years in the making - with fitting out of the Exchange Place restaurant currently well under way.
"It's going to be funky and with a really cool vibe. Lots of local items, with nice plates and great quality. A small focused wine list and menu.
"It'll be simple. We like to look at the ingredients which are in season. If I can get the best piece of lamb, that's what I'm going to have on the menu."
The design team behind OX is also behind the new venture.
"Oscar and Oscar are doing the fit-out," he said.
"The venue will be very dark, dimly lit, with the music turned up - really funky."
The Tyrone native began his foray into top dining when he trained as a pastry chef in London, aged just 18.
He then moved back to Northern Ireland and helped set up James Street South with Niall McKenna, along with OX chef and owner Stephen Toman.
The long days are set to get longer for the chef turned business owner, who is a father-of-two.
"It's been difficult. I had to try and fund as much by myself without going to the banks - I thought, I'm going to do this by hook or by crook," he said.
Wife Eimear is very supportive of the new venture.
"It's a big risk but she is 100% behind me. We have two children as well, so it's tough trying to balance that. And the commitment is going to get harder."
He's not relinquishing control in the kitchen despite taking on the role of restaurant owner.
"It will be the end of September or start of October when we open, and we are talking about 15 new staff. It's a big responsibility. I will be in the kitchen as well - that's what I've worked for my whole life."
He'll also be accompanied by former fellow Barking Dog man Barry Fletcher, who will act as general manager.
Belfast Telegraph restaurant critic Joris Minne said: "Good chefs with successful restaurants create young chefs with ambition and the result is a mushrooming of new places to eat.
"Belfast is blessed with a seemingly endless churn of restaurants.
"Gareth McCaughey's credentials bode really well for the Muddlers Club, coming from the stable of Niall McKenna and Stephen Toman."