| 10.2°C Belfast

Revamp at Mourne Seafood will keep fish fans hooked

Close

Bob McCoubrey, owner of the Mourne Seafood Bar, with Karen Hoey, business manager at Danske Bank and Oonagh Murtagh, head of Danske Bank’s business centre

Bob McCoubrey, owner of the Mourne Seafood Bar, with Karen Hoey, business manager at Danske Bank and Oonagh Murtagh, head of Danske Bank’s business centre

Bob McCoubrey, owner of the Mourne Seafood Bar, with Karen Hoey, business manager at Danske Bank and Oonagh Murtagh, head of Danske Bank’s business centre

One of Northern Ireland's best-loved seafood restaurants is hoping to tickle the taste buds of golfing fans and "put the Mournes back on the map" after undergoing a major expansion.

Mourne Seafood Bar in Dundrum, Co Down, has grown its restaurant to meet increasing demand - adding space for an extra 40 covers.

Owner Bob McCoubrey is also planning to add new staff during the busier summer months, and hopes this year's Irish Open will help bring in the crowds.

He first opened Mourne Seafood in the coastal village back in 2005, and has since followed with similar eateries in Belfast and Dublin.

"The expansion will allow us to deal with busier times, and provide more room for those who want to come in and just have a snack and drink," he said.

"The extra covers will make the business more viable, especially at weekends and in the summer."

He's now planning on hosting small wedding parties and private functions.

And with the nearby Royal County Down Golf Club playing host to this year's Irish Open in May, Mr McCoubrey is braced for a busy weekend.

"We are already booked out for the Friday and Saturday nights, and are hoping for a busy week before and after," he said.

"I'm also hoping it will help put the Mournes on the map - it's an area which has been largely ignored over the years, with the focus mainly on the Giant's Causeway and Titanic Belfast.

"The hospitality sector is in a state of recovery and with events like the Irish Open in May and the proposed lowering of corporation tax, it puts us in a good position."

And next on the cards will be the addition of a small hotel, located above the restaurant.

"It's an idea which we are looking at adding, with around six rooms in the future," he said.

Over the last 10 years, Mr McCoubrey's restaurant empire has grown substantially, with a similar seafood venture opening up in Belfast in 2007.

The restaurants now employ around 120 staff. And the popular eateries have earned a number of plaudits over the years, and most recently, gained the attention of the respected Observer food critic Jay Rayner.

On a whistle-stop tour of Belfast's restaurants in 2013, his dinner of "pristine rock oysters" and "hefty seafood chowder" helped the gourmand savour his time here.

And the public's demand for simple and fresh flavours of the sea drew Mr McCoubrey to Dublin - where he opened another branch of his chain last year.

He also runs restaurant Home in Belfast city centre, and a cookery school at Mourne Seafood in the city.

His successful Belfast outlet has recently welcomed an influx of Chinese tourists - making up around 10% of trade in the last few weeks.

The latest deal has been financed by Danske Bank.

Karen Hoey, business manager at Danske, said it was "dedicated to supporting businesses from all sectors".

Background

Mourne Seafood opened its doors in Dundrum, Co Down, back in 2005. The restaurant focused on high-quality fish and seafood, caught off the Co Down coast - often bought directly from the fishermen from boats at Portavogie and Kilkeel.

Following its success, owner Bob McCoubrey opened up a sister restaurant in Belfast city centre just two years later with chef Andy Rea.

Since then, he's also added a cookery school to his Belfast eatery, and opened up Home restaurant in the city. He's also started up a venture with chef Chris Bell.

Belfast Telegraph