Belfast Telegraph

Culinary trip down memory lane as Skandia's new eatery brings us a taste of the 70s

By Cate McCurry

Diners are to get a taste of the Belfast of yesteryear as the Skandia menu makes a nostalgic comeback.

Almost half a century after the first Skandia restaurant opened its doors in the city, the family that introduced Pavlova desserts to Northern Ireland are looking to the past to inspire their business future.

The Davis family have had a long and successful tenure in the food business, having set up the groundbreaking Skandia group of restaurants in 1969.

They have now transformed their Olio Restaurant premises on Brunswick Street into a new laid back brasserie, Acton & Sons.

The city centre restaurant has undergone an extensive £100,000 transformation, adding to the thriving hospitality area of Belfast's Linen Quarter.

The 100-seat restaurant will serve throughout the day, seven days a week, to shoppers, office workers and theatre-goers, and employ 20 full and part-time staff.

Now with a new dark wood interior, relaxing ambience and simple but high quality food at very reasonable prices, Acton & Sons is taking the family's philosophy to the next level - but they haven't forgotten their roots.

Tom Davis founded Skandia at the beginning of the Troubles in College Square.

His sons Jonathan and Andrew now run their own restaurant businesses - Neill's Hill and Papa Joe's respectively.

"Our family has long held a restaurant premises in this area and we're placing our family's heritage at the heart of this new venture," Jonathan said.

"On the walls you'll find some of the original menus dating back to the late 1960s and from the kitchen you can expect firm favourites alongside fresh fish and signature dishes of roast fillet of hake, tomato, chorizo and white bean stew and Guinness and honey glazed pork fillet, champ cake, celery and apple salad.

"The name Acton & Sons derives from the Acton Hotel and Catering School in London where my father attended and subsequently met my mother and the rest, as they say, is history."

Customers can avail from the menu with dessert specialities including their famous pavlova with strawberries, white peaches and dairy cream or hot pineapple fritters with dairy cream.

Appetisers also feature the Skandia hors d'oeuvre, frosted fruit juices and a grapefruit cocktail.

The brothers will oversee the running of Acton & Sons alongside executive chef Cath Gradwell and head chef Brian Caldwell.

When Jonathan first opened his east Belfast restaurant, formerly Aldens, in 1998, many thought a restaurant offering such high quality food would struggle outside the city centre.

But he proved them wrong as the critically-acclaimed restaurant and a fiercely loyal clientele helped sustain over a decade of success.

Belfast Telegraph