The evolution of an institution
For those who enjoy the pleasures of dining out, the economic downturn has played a surprising role in ensuring you a quality experience at restaurants across the nation.
Cash-strapped consumers with less money for leisure pursuits, such as eating out, are choosing the best they can afford which means restaurants have to be at the top of their game at all times to satisfy a changing industry. Something award-winning Belfast restaurant, James Street South, has realised as it unveiled a new look and food offering recently.
Niall McKenna, the chef and owner of James Street South said: “These days you need to offer something fresh and exciting, or fall by the way side. People will vote with their feet and only the best will survive.”
The restaurant scene in Belfast has developed significantly over the last few years as top chefs move with the times, creating ever more inventive and exciting food that challenges taste buds and keeps the industry energised. McKenna has always been a leader when it comes to serving good local produce with a flair that takes it beyond its humble roots.
The city centre favourite has transformed not only its décor but its menu in a move that is both gutsy and insightful.
“I’ve been wanting to tweak James Street South for quite some time now.”, said Niall. “My goal was to create a refreshed space where people could come together to celebrate with each other; a place to take a loved one or family member to make them feel special and where the emphasis is on atmosphere and food. We’ve thought of everything and we hope people enjoy the results.”
He added: “I’ve been visiting restaurants all over the UK on a fact-finding mission of sorts. My goal was to immerse myself in the myriad of eateries out there, see what I liked and put my own twist on it. I looked at everything, from the wine list to place settings and lighting to pricing.
“In some ways, the easiest decision to make was what the menu would look like. I know how to get the best out of food and love serving the produce I get from farms and seas all over Northern Ireland in ways that enhance what’s already great about them.”
The menu includes firm favourites, some with a unique twist, like salt baked beetroot, with milk curd, charred fennel and red pepper caramel, typical of one of Northern Ireland’s most accomplished chefs.
Local food abounds and the odyssey begins in Kilkeel with Mackerel; then onto Comber for potatoes; Donegal for Sea Trout; Antrim for Beef; Mill Bay for Lobster then the Mournes for Lamb. All accompanied by the best vegetables; also grown locally, of course.
“The menu is something I’m quite proud of – it’s a reflection of where I am as a chef and where Belfast is as a city; forward looking, confident and fun and always with an eye on getting the most out of life.”, said Niall.
Changing a firm favourite brings with it an element of fear, something that hasn’t been lost of the Belfast born chef.
He continued: “I built my reputation with James Street South so this process has been daunting - however, I felt the time was right and I am thrilled with the results.”
To book a table at James Street South call 02890434310, or use the online booking service at www.jamesstreetsouth.com and see the menus and pictures fresh from the kitchen on www.facebook.com/jamesstreetsouth