We all have a favourite restaurant and Linda O’Sullivan has chosen her top 10 across Northern Ireland.
Husband and wife team Glen Wheeler and Zara McHugh had previously been Head Chef and front of house at Neven Maguire’s MacNean House & Restaurant before opening their own restaurant in Enniskillen three years ago, and subsequently relocating last year to their current more spacious premises. Well-pedigreed, Glen’s background, Gordon Ramsay’s 3-Star Royal Hospital Road in London, Alinea in Chicago and Noma in Copenhagen on his culinary repertoire.
This is a four in one recommendation, for Ian Orr is chef patron of Browns Bonds Hill Collection which includes the fabulous Ardtara Country House in Maghera, Eighteen Ninety Four in Portstewart, Browns Bonds Hill and Browns in Town in Derry. Browns in Town is the more casual option of the four and is always buzzing and good value. Think great local seafood chowder, or pan-seared scallops with a black pudding bon bon and cauliflower puree, followed by Sugar Pit Pork with toffee apple puree and sprouting broccoli.
The dumpling craze is alive and well in Belfast, and the Dumpling Library in Belfast’s Cathedral quarter is top of the pile for those seeking a fab dumpling fix and more. An offshoot of the House of Zen Chinese restaurant, it’s going down a storm. The menu focuses on exquisite small Asian dishes; Chinese, Korean and Japanese, and frankly I could sit there all day picking and choosing. Try the hoisin duck bao buns; Korean spring rolls: and soft-shell crab salad with lychee & pomelo. Great cocktails too.
Legendary chef Michael Deane has held a Michelin Star for 13 years, employs more than 100 people and has 7 restaurants in his stable. However, if it’s the creme de la creme you’re after, it has to be Deane’s EIPIC, currently featuring Co. Down chef Alex Greene at the stove, which has had its own Michelin Star for six years. As well as evening Tasting Menus, they do a good value 2/3 course lunch – sometimes the best way to try a Michelin restaurant.
This is the name everyone shouts when talking about excellence in Belfast restaurants. Having met in Paris while working in the crème de la crème of restaurants, including the 3-star Taillevent and Alain Passard’s 3-Star L’Arpege, Chef Stephen Toman and sommelier manager Alain Kerloch knocked the socks of locals when they opened their own place in Belfast. The 6-course Tasting Menu includes offerings such as celeriac, parsley, Perigord truffle and lardo, or maybe scallop, Arbois, oyster mush and gnocchi. It’s conveniently close to Belfast’s Lanyon train station for out-of-towners.
Danny Millar has been to the fore of Northern Ireland’s restaurant scene for almost 25 years. I’ve always loved his food and his latest brasserie Stock Kitchen & Bar on the mezzanine level in St. George’s Market in Belfast is a terrific destination for lunch or dinner. He’s a man who knows how to get flavour out of food without over fancifying it – he lets the ingredients speak for themselves – which is an art in itself. There’s always whole market fish on the bone, maybe sole, maybe turbot, with a roasted fish bone sauce. You can kick off a seafood feast with Killough oysters, shallot & Armagh apple dressing, scallops, or the Market Fish & Shellfish soup with Ballyhornan crab toastie and garlic aioli. Plenty for the carnivores too including Peter Hannan’s Cote de Boeuf for two, red wine roast shallots and Proper Chips.
Named after the secret society that met there over 200 years ago, Gareth McCaughey’s Belfast restaurant has been a big hit since it opened in 2015. It just got better and better with each passing year and now holds a Michelin Star. A seasonal tasting menu is the format here, and might include courses like scallop with Iberico ham and white bean, or salt aged beef, short rib, and bone marrow. Veggies needn’t worry, there’s a delicious menu for them too – think salsify, truffle and egg yolk.
Executive Chef Noel McMeel has been delivering the goods here for a number of years now. The setting, overlooking Lough Erne in Enniskillen, is stunning, the restaurant is plush, and the service top notch, as is the food. Kilkeel scallops, are paired with an Irish oyster, elderberry & smoked turf vinegar, while roasted halibut is with leek & smoked red pepper, and Goatsbridge trout roe.
The fact that it looks like the gorgeous half-timbered thatched houses of Deauville, Honfleur, and other regions of Normandy makes sense once you learn that the kitchen of the Watermill Lodge Fishing Lodge & Restaurant at Kilmore Quay, Co. Fermanagh, is under the baton on French chef Pascal Brissaud. Good value, the setting and ambiance, on the shores of Lough Erne is an experience in itself. Think maybe pan-fried sea bass, carrot and celery fricassee, beurre blanc vanilla sauce, or pan-fried 10oz 27-day matured Hereford beef sirloin with peppercorn sauce. All dishes come with Gratin Dauphinois.
After almost 20 years in London, where he worked for both Pierre Koffmann at La Tante Claire, and at Richard Corrigan’s restaurants, and also represented Northern Ireland on the BBC’s Great British Menu, Chris McGowan and his wife Davina returned home in 2015 to open the fab Wine & Brine in Moira, Co. Armagh. Chris’s Tasting menu snacks might include pigs head doughnut, smoked eel, malt vinegar, followed by foie gras, fig Madeira and walnut, while dry aged beef might be with braised cheek, artichoke, black garlic, and beer pickled onions. They also do a 3-course Sunday lunch menu.