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Harry's Shack restaurant fired up for expansion

Popular restaurant on the beach to open a new branch in Londonderry

By Rachel Martin

Published 01/04/2016

Chef Connor McGuigan in the beachfront restaurant
Chef Connor McGuigan in the beachfront restaurant
Harry’s Shack
Donal Doherty

He has already scored a hit with a wooden hut on the beach, and now the man behind the award-winning Harry's Shack is set to unveil his latest eaterie.

In January, Donal Doherty told the Belfast Telegraph he would be opening a further three outlets.

Now, just two months later, he has signed a lease for a unit in Derry Craft Village.

The new site in the maiden city will be the third bricks and mortar restaurant run by Mr Doherty.

However, he admitted his original plans may have been over-ambitious and said that he would spread his time between setting up the new restaurant and working on product development.

While the award-winning restaurant boss would not give much away, he said he hoped to develop a product suitable for export and hinted at the possibility of another new restaurant in 2017.

The family's first restaurant, Harry's Bar and Restaurant, was founded in Donegal 25 years ago by Donal's father.

The family's second establishment, Harry's Shack, saw whirlwind success. The beach-based restaurant was named 2014's top eaterie by John and Sally McKenna's Guides just months after opening.

Mr Doherty credited much of the hype around Harry's Shack to Jay Rayner's glowing review in the Guardian and Observer, which also named the restaurant Newcomer of the Year.

Earlier this year, Mr Doherty said he had planned to open a "wagon" along the Portstewart strand to cope with demand.

He joked that his wife found out the full cost of the project while reading the Belfast Telegraph.

Speaking about his latest venture, he quipped: "My wife will go mental if she hears the full cost of it, so I'll have to be careful with what I say. But it will take at least £65,000 to get the Derry restaurant up and running."

The new 65-seater restaurant will be based in the unit formerly used by Cafe del Mondo in a pedestrian area of the city.

Donal said: "It doesn't feel like its in the city centre. There's this fantastic outdoor area that is heated and that has us really excited about bringing the Harry's brand into the city."

He added that the new eaterie, which he expects to open within two months, would have a "slightly different feel" than the previous two but would continue to reflect the "same laid-back, casual dining experience".

The restaurateur has also bought two acres of land in Donegal, doubling the garden space used to grow vegetables and plans to convert some of the Donegal restaurant's floor space into a larger production area to prepare ingredients for the other outlets.

As a result of the changes, he will take on eight extra staff in Donegal and a further 15 in Derry.

Critic John McKenna said he had high expectations. "Donal Doherty's great gift is conceptuality," he added. "He knows what you want before you even know yourself. Harry's Shack is a bit like a dream. You think 'Okay, you might find that in the south of Spain but you certainly wouldn't expect to find it in Portstewart'."

He also put the restaurant's success down to diners' appetite for the new and quirky.

"I don't think the novelty will wear off as long as the restaurant keeps providing excellence in its food, but if you slip up you're gone," Mr McKenna added.

Belfast Telegraph

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