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Brexit could be 'disaster' for celeb chef Neven Maguire


Chef Neven Maguire outside MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion, Co Cavan

Chef Neven Maguire outside MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion, Co Cavan

Paul Sherwood

Chef Neven Maguire outside MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion, Co Cavan

His high-end restaurant in Co Cavan could not be busier, with weekend sittings all but booked out for the next two years.

But celebrity chef Neven Maguire has conceded the border town location of his culinary mecca gives him more reason to fear the implications of Brexit than other Irish restaurateurs.

He said the possible reintroduction of customs controls on the island of Ireland would "be a disaster" for his eaterie, MacNean House and Restaurant, because of its location in the border village of Blacklion.

A significant number of the restaurant's 60-strong workforce are from just across the border in Co Fermanagh, while thousands of Ulster-based diners fill up the business's tables and guestrooms every year.

And with a return of a hard border on the island of Ireland not yet ruled out, the 43-year-old Cavan native said he would be keeping a watchful eye on the implications of Brexit once Article 50 is triggered at the end of March.

He added: "I think it could be a disaster for us if border controls came back. Obviously, as things stand, the border is completely open now, and that's been great for the business.

"A lot of our staff come down to work from up the road in Fermanagh, and we get a lot of customers who travel down from Belfast and other parts of the North to have dinner and stay over."

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But despite his fears over Brexit, the award-winning TV chef said the past year has been one of his busiest to date, with nearly all weekend sittings booked up until the end of 2018.

And to help cater for the huge demand at the remote culinary destination, he said plans were under way for a €1.2m (£1m) refurbishment of the premises, which will add up to six more tables to the 14-table dining room and increase the number of guestrooms from 19 to 25. Neven added: "There's always a waiting list, and although we now take bookings two years in advance, it doesn't mean people won't get in, because we do get a lot of cancellations.

"But the expansion will mean we will be able to take more people in. It's not a massive expansion, because I don't want the restaurant to lose the personal and intimate feel that customers love."

Aside from running the restaurant, guest house and the popular cookery school, the energetic chef has somehow found time over the past year to film television shows, develop his 13th cookbook, host cookery demonstrations across the country, work as a brand ambassador for Dunnes Stores Simply Better Range and spend quality time with wife Amelda and their four-year-old twins, Connor and Lucia.

And although he will close the doors of MacNean House today for a six-day Christmas break, the workaholic chef revealed he would not be hanging up his apron. "We're entertaining 44 people on Christmas Day, and I'll be doing all the cooking," he said.