Belfast's Robinson and Cleaver building to be home of new restaurant
A new restaurant is due to open in one of Belfast city centre's best-known landmark buildings.
Victorian-era Cleaver House was home to department store Robinson and Cleaver, famed for its grand, sweeping staircase.
Now a number of newcomers to the restaurant trade are opening Robinson and Cleaver, the restaurant, which will include Urban Deli on the ground floor and The Terrace upstairs.
Andrew Dougan, a director of catering and cafe business Yellow Door, said he is involved in helping the new restaurateurs start up their venture.
It would be "proudly Northern Irish," he said.
"It will be very much based around local produce in a good, relaxed environment for people to come to.
"The room is absolutely fantastic and one of the best rooms in the city centre, with a terrace seating 40 directly across from the City Hall. It's a new food experience in a fantastic setting. It's a very fresh, new and young team with no established names, which gives us a clean slate."
The enterprise is being interpreted as a vote of confidence in Belfast's retail centre as the City Hall has been the scene of protests over the flying of the Union flag.
The protests disrupted city centre trade, particularly in December and January.
Alliance Party councillor Tom Ekin said: "I am delighted that people are showing confidence. We have always had ups and downs and always will as people get used to the (post-ceasefire) change."
John McKenna, a Belfast-born food critic and co-author of 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland 2013, said Mr Dougan's Yellow Door links should help the restaurant get off the ground.
He said: "The Yellow Door team ran a super restaurant in Portadown eight to 10 years back, so they know what they are doing and have the experience to hit the ground running.
"The city centre needs new energy. Along with OX, which opened in March, this is good news for Belfast eating.
"And the experience down here is that if you are good, they will come and eat, and recession be damned."
Robinson and Cleaver, at the corner of Donegall Place and Donegall Square North, became a top department store in Belfast after opening in the late 19th century, and bore such connotations of grandeur that it was known as 'The Old Lady'. It was a classy place to visit, where staff knew their usually wealthy clientele. Its most famous feature was a marble staircase, auctioned in 1984.