Belfast Telegraph

New lease of life for restaurant following its 2018 closure of Bull and Ram

Higginsons taking over site of Bull and Ram in Co Down

Great news: Colin Neill
Great news: Colin Neill
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

Two restaurant owners will breathe new life into the home of a former award-winning venue in Ballynahinch that closed last year.

Cristina and Stevie Higginson, who also own the Square Bistro in Lisburn and Clenaghan's in Aghalee, will open their third hospitality business at the site of the old Bull and Ram restaurant in the town.

They will name it Coulter, which is believed to be the name of the original owner of the Grade 1 listed building.

Cristina Higginson told the Belfast Telegraph that she couldn't give any more details on the restaurant.

But according to the couple's social media, the pair believe the site has "great potential". It's expected to open in December.

The move to open a restaurant on the site of what was one of Northern Ireland's most critically acclaimed restaurants in recent times has been welcomed.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said the couple's decision is an "encouraging" one for the industry.

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He said: "It's great news to see this site reopen as a restaurant. The Bull and Ram was a great restaurant and that means the site is associated with a decent food offering. The fact that it has that history should give the new business a good start.

"Around 50% of all restaurants fail so it's important to get the product and offering right and the people opening this restaurant have that pedigree already. I look forward to visiting it when it opens."

Belfast Telegraph food critic Joris Minne said: "Cristina and her husband are incredibly knowledgeable about hospitality are and great restaurateurs. The proof is in the consistency of quality at their Lisburn Square and Clenaghans venues.

"This is very good news for Ballynahinch, a charming market town well served by the Primrose but in need of more critical mass.

"The reopening of the Bull and Ram site is great news for the town, particularly as it's being taken on by professionals with such a strong track record."

Chef and businessman Kelan McMichael opened Bull and Ram at the site on Dromore Street in Ballynahinch in 2016.

In October that year top food critic Jay Rayner described his dining experience at the restaurant as an "utter joy" in a review in The Observer.

That review beckoned an influx of bookings and its popularity grew.

Awards followed and Mr McMichael then opened a second Bull and Ram on University Road in Belfast in October 2017. However, there was disbelief among fans of fine dining scene here when both restaurants closed in 2018.

The move marked a setback for the fine food sector at a time when other reputed establishments also shut their doors, blaming industry pressures including high rates and small margins.

Among them was Armagh restaurant The Moody Boar, which shut after a rent hike by its landlord, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council .

And earlier this year 4 Vicars restaurant, also in Armagh, closed. The owners blamed the closure on a rent hike by their Church of Ireland landlord. It was located across from St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral.

Belfast Telegraph

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