Top Belfast chef to merge restaurants in £300,000 revamp
Restaurateur Niall McKenna is merging his two James Street South venues in a £300,000 revamp.
The award-winning chef is combining his James Street South restaurant with his Bar and Grill operation.
The plan will see the eatery close for five weeks in early August, with Bar and Grill shutting for three weeks as significant work is undertaken.
The all-new entity is due to reopen on September 7.
It's a busy time for the restaurateur behind the James Street South Group, who yesterday also announced plans to relocate his cookery school to grade B listed Waterman House in the Cathedral Quarter.
The Hill Street venue, which will include a large events space, will increase the capacity for the popular classes from 10 to 18.
Describing it as "another spoke in our wheel", it joins the group's other Cathedral Quarter venture Hadskis and the Titanic Quarter restaurant Cast and Crew.
Mr McKenna said both projects have been driven by demand.
"It's a really exciting time," he said.
"It's because of the amount of hotels in the area. We've got the Grand Central, the Maldron, all these hotels. It's too good an opportunity for us to miss."
The name of the new merged restaurant is yet to be finalised, but the chef said it will be a familiar setting for long-standing customers.
He added: "We're trying to keep the atmosphere of James Street South. It'll still be a really good and extensive menu.
"All our regular clientele will recognise it, but at the same time we'll be bringing in some classical dishes.
"It's a pretty extensive refit, a lot of it will be back-of-house with the kitchen moving and knocking through the two restaurants into one.
"It's a big investment - it'll be over £300,000."
Mr McKenna said a key reason for the success of the business has been the investment in people.
"We are where we are because of our apprenticeship scheme. We're training within our company, we're reinvesting ourselves. It's purely us putting people out into the industry and that's the reason why we can expand," he explained.
However, the ventures have been somewhat restrained by his own concerns over the impact of Brexit and how it may affect his ability to recruit staff.
"Yes, we are doing this, at the same time we are being cautious," he added.