Chief and owner Niall Kenna is seeking to revitalise the city with the move
Hadskis restaurant is to relocate to owner and chef Niall McKenna’s new Waterman House cookery school site.
The shift to Hill Street in Belfast will see Hadskis — which is currently based in Commercial Court, also in the Cathedral Quarter — undergo something of a reinvention and trade under the new name Waterman Restaurant, which will be a 50-seater venue.
It will be a much bigger venue serving “classic European-style cuisine with quality local produce”. The same staff will move with the restaurant while more team members will be employed once opened, Mr McKenna said.
The chef told the Belfast Telegraph he would keep on Hadskis’ current site, just off Donegall Street, and reopen it as a more “casual, purely walk-in” venue that would appeal to the student and tourist market.
The relocation of Hadskis, which has been operating since 2014, is part of Niall’s vision to turn Waterman House into something of a large-scale hospitality hub.
He said: “My plans for Waterman House are taking shape. When I got the opportunity to take over the building almost four years ago, I wanted to create a unique hub of food, drink, hospitality with a creative buzz in one of Belfast’s best and liveliest locations and it’s all happening now.
"We want to help the city to get back to its best and we think that this will make a big difference. Waterman House is in a perfect location. In fact, this amazing building is my happy place and I hope it can become as happy a place for all of our guests and visitors too.”
Waterman House is already home to Mr McKenna’s cookery school, which opened last year. It includes event spaces and private dining areas.
The Grade II listed development, which the entrepreneur acquired along with his wife Joanne in 2018, also features a retail unit.
It represented an investment of £1m for the couple and the relocation of the James Street South Cookery School, previously housed within Mr McKenna’s popular James Street restaurant.
Occupying the ground floor space of the old Bushmills bonded warehouse, the cookery school accommodates larger groups of up to 18.
A reception and first floor area were always earmarked for use as a new events and cultural space, providing a new creative hub for the Cathedral Quarter.
Mr McKenna said the corporate element of the venue will feature a small cinema to allow for hybrid work meetings and will offer rooms for hire.
Hadskis has been a popular haunt in Belfast since its launch. It was listed in food lovers’ bible, the Waitrose Good Food Guide just one year after opening.
During lockdown Hadskis operated a click and collect service allowing its foodie fans to savour the taste of the restaurant with minimal effort in what Mr McKenna called “Hadskis at Home”.
The cook and dine service offered three-course meals every Thursday, Friday and Saturday with dishes like Tomahawk steak and Sunday Roast bagged up with a step-by-step cooking guide.
Mr McKenna and his wife Joanne have continued to invest in Belfast despite feeling let down by Belfast City Council.
Earlier this year the chef hit out at Belfast councillors for what he said was a failure to keep the city centre, specifically the Cathedral Quarter, to proper standards.
At the time he said the area needed to be “re-energised, buildings need painted, and it feels like after the Primark fire the area was neglected.”
He added: “I’m very saddened because it seems like the city hasn’t moved on and we should’ve been better prepared after Covid.
“We need action from councillors, not sound bites. If you look at places like Copenhagen, Nottingham, Bristol — those are well-designed cities. We have three one-star Michelin restaurants, brilliant hotels and we are punching way above our weight so let’s make it more beautiful.”