Harry's Shack: Portstewart beach restaurant is named Ireland's top eatery
A Portstewart beach hut has been named Ireland's Restaurant of the Year by an influential food guide - after only a few months in operation.
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John and Sally McKennas' Guides rated Harry's Shack as the top eaterie for 2014, even though it only opened at the National Trust-run strand in August.
When proprietor Donal Doherty, who also runs Harry's at Bridgend in Co Donegal, spoke to the Belfast Telegraph on New Year's Day, he revealed that he had already had to turn away 300 people.
The citation from John and Sally McKenna reads: "Harry's Shack got hammered twice in 2014, firstly, by its customers who - literally - ate every piece of food the restaurant had until there was none left to serve. Harry's had to issue a warning for people to stay away.
"Secondly, the big waves of December 10, 2014 hammered this beautiful beach shack. Harry's had to issue another warning for people to stay away.
"Warnings aside, the Shack has basked in critical acclaim, and customer clamour, both of them at unprecedented levels, for an enterprise which is quite unprecedented."
Such has been the success of the Shack, with menus from Harry's chef Derek Creagh, Mr Doherty has revealed that he is in talks with the National Trust to open further premises. "We only got planning permision in late July and opened at the end of August, but the minute we opened the door, people started flooding in," he said.
"We thought winter would be a challenge, we even considered closing for part of the year, but when I arrived on Tuesday there must have been 3,000 people on the beach. Even on the worst day, this beach is spectacular. Even on December 29 in the freezing cold, people still want coffee or fish and chips."
He said that support for the venture has been overwhelming.
"It's non-stop. There are people from all over Ireland coming here, on Thursday morning I had to turn 300 people away. I'm getting phone calls at all hours of the day and night.
"The locals are brilliant, we're getting to know them, we're getting to know their friends and families and their likes and dislikes.
"The National Trust has been brilliant also. I did wobble towards the end and wonder if I was doing the right thing, but they have been so supportive and their vision has paid off.
"Food is attracting people here. Our next step is to move to serving food outside, and we are in discussions about opening further premises, because this has been such a success story. They want to bring people to the north coast and I can confirm that the north coast is buzzing."