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£280,000 of taxpayers' money spent subsidising food in MLAs' Stormont canteen

Published 29/02/2016

Stormont Members’ Dining Room
Stormont Members’ Dining Room
Eating at work - MLA style.
A selection of the fare on offer at Stormont.

Over £280,000 has been spent on the subsidised canteen at Stormont last year, it has been revealed.

The BBC's Stephen Nolan show reported that £280,238.24 was spent in 2015 in making meals cheaper for MLAs and civil servants.

Elected representatives can enjoy meals such as grilled supreme of chicken with basil puree mash, chipotle butter, spinach and asparagus; tempura of hake with lemon and chilli orzo; and roast pork shoulder with bourguignon garnish and potato gratin.

All at a reduced price, subsidised by the public.

A slow-cooked beef brisket with the trimmings costs £7.45 while a wild mushroom polenta served with asparagus and truffle oil costs £6.85.

Some £73,000 was spent on the service during July and August last year.

The money spent on the Assembly's restaurant and cafes was up £30,000 compared to 2012.

The Assembly said this was down to reduced income during the period of the refurbishment of the roof at Parliament Buildings.

It also said it had put in place cost-cutting measures and opened the service to the public.

The Members' Dining Room will be open during the forthcoming election campaign between March 21 to May 5.

The restaurant proved a success when it was opened as an experiment last summer, with more than 1,000 people filling the 36-seat eatery to around 100% capacity.

The Assembly Commission said it was "delighted" to offer the experience for a second time to the public, which funds it.

"(We are) pleased to confirm that the Members' Dining Room will once again be open to the public for coffee, lunch and afternoon tea," a statement added.

"The Commission is delighted to offer this experience for a second time and would encourage even more people to visit and enjoy the wonderful locally-produced food in architecturally-rich surroundings.

"Parliament Buildings is a wonderful environment to work in and visit. This building belongs to the people of Northern Ireland and we are keen to share its history with as many people as we can."

The popularity of the oak-panelled surroundings overlooking the extensive Stormont lawns means booking is advisable.

Last time around, main courses were priced at about £9.50, with two courses on offer for £12 and a three-course banquet for £15.

This time, morning tea and coffee will be served from 10am until 11.30am with a choice freshly baked scones served with jam and clotted cream or Danish and pain au chocolat pastries.

Sebastien Mingout, support services manager in the Assembly said the opening last year had far exceeded expectations.

"The restaurant was booked at 95% of its capacity at lunchtime - 1,100 covers - for the first six weeks of the summer recess," he added.

A report to the Commission recommended the restaurant be opened again when the Assembly is not sitting, so it should also be available come summer recess.

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