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No Christmas dinner for MLAs at Stormont

By Noel McAdam

Published 07/12/2015

The exclusive Stormont restaurant frequented by MLAs - which became a big hit with visitors when it opened to the public during the summer recess - is to remain under wraps over the Christmas and New Year holidays
The exclusive Stormont restaurant frequented by MLAs - which became a big hit with visitors when it opened to the public during the summer recess - is to remain under wraps over the Christmas and New Year holidays

They say turkeys would be stupid to vote for Christmas.

But now politicians at the Assembly have voted against turkeys, at least in terms of serving them up to the public.

That's because the exclusive Stormont restaurant frequented by MLAs - which became a big hit with visitors when it opened to the public during the summer recess - is to remain under wraps over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Given the shorter-than-usual yule-tide and New Year recess period of just over three weeks, the Parliament Buildings eatery is to stay shut.

That, combined with staff holidays, would have made festive fine dining tricky to organise.

But the good news is that the Members' dining room is to be restored for public use during the six-week pre-election purdah leading up to the next Assembly poll.

And the restaurant is also expected to be back in action next summer to allow people to live like an MLA - at least for a lunchtime.

It seemed the Assembly finally found a recipe for success when the restaurant opened for the first time last July and August, with tables enjoying a 95% occupancy.

Assembly support services manager Sebastien Mingout told the Belfast Telegraph the experiment had succeeded "way beyond expectations".

A report was then submitted to the Assembly Commission, on which all the main parties are represented and which is responsible for the day to day running of Parliament Buildings.

The oak-panelled room has all the class and atmosphere of a fine restaurant and the service from staff is first rate.

Prices, while not quite the full subsidy which Assembly Members enjoy, are also reasonable.

Main courses were around £9.50 over the summer, with two courses for £12 and a full three-course banquet for £15.

Starters included summer leaf salad with buffallo mozarella and smoked salmon risotto.

Then for mains, diners enjoyed dishes such as grilled supreme of chicken, tempura of hake, or slow roast pork shoulder.

Desserts such as Glastry farm ice cream or raspberry and white chocolate truffle, could be all washed down with the house Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc.

But an Assembly spokesperson said: "The initiative will not be offered during Christmas 2015 due to the shorter recess period and limited building opening times.

"However, following the success and popularity of the recent summer dining initiative, the Assembly Commission will consider the possibility of providing similar initiatives in 2016."

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