A reluctant celebrity chef — who swears he’d rather be in the kitchen than on a TV set — has launched his third restaurant.
Danny Millar, who already runs the acclaimed Balloo House and the Parson’s Nose in Co Down, has now acquired Lisbarnett House pub and restaurant in Lisbane outside Comber.
Lisbarnett — until now part of Bill Wolsey’s Beannchor Group —was bought by Balloo Inns, the company run by Mr Millar and partners Ronan and Jennie Sweeney, for around £700,000.
In total, the new owners say they will spend nearly £1m on acquiring the venue and revamping it.
Mr Millar, formerly a finalist on TV’s Great British Menu in which chefs compete to cook for the Queen, has hired chef Chris McWilliams for Lisbarnett House.
And he has vowed to take a hands-off approach. “I can’t be in all places at once and you have to give a chef a bit of space,” Mr Millar told the Belfast Telegraph.
“After a while I will leave him to forge his own style and see his own identity coming through.”
Despite regular appearances on BBC1 cooking show Saturday Kitchen, Mr Millar said that the kitchen was where he really wanted to be.
“To be honest, they haven’t been kicking my door down to get me back on TV and I would never be in the same bracket as the ‘celebrity chefs’.
“I love cooking, training staff and seeing happy punters. I don’t want to be on TV — I just want to be in the kitchen.”
He said he was “delighted” to open a new venue five miles from Balloo House, where he made his name as a chef.
“I think it’s a fantastic pub with a great history, and I love the surroundings and area,” he said.
“It’s very close to Balloo, which makes it very handy.
“You often find many great restaurants beside each other and they can feed off each other.
“We often have a surplus on Saturday nights so it will be great to have somewhere else they can go, instead of to a competitor.”
Promising “locally sourced food, generous portions and a lot of love”, Mr Millar said that the food offering at Lisbarnett would not be the same as in Balloo House.
The deal was brokered by Gavin Weir of BTW Shiells acting on behalf of the vendor, North Down Leisure, part of the Beannchor Group. Ronan Sweeney and Mr Millar, of purchasers Balloo Inns, acted for themselves.
James Sinton, group finance director at Beannchor, said: “The licensed trade is a key part of our business and we continuously review our portfolio and actively manage it. We wish the new owners well with their purchase.”