Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland eateries to serve up meals to those home alone this Christmas

By Michelle Weir

One of Belfast's best-known Indian restaurants will open its doors to serve dinner to those who are alone on Christmas Day.

Bengal Brasserie on the Ormeau Road will be hosting a charity dinner that will be dished up from 5pm.

Invitations have also been sent to 21 care homes.

Owner Luthfur Ahmed said that he had noticed a number of elderly customers who sometimes ate alone.

"Probably there are some people who do not have families," he added.

"I just think it would be nice to help them by giving them a complimentary meal."

Mr Ahmed said that he will be asking his family to roll up their sleeves and help out.

Elsewhere, two big-hearted Co Antrim families are getting into the festive spirit by providing Christmas lunches for those in need.

Pol Shields, head chef at the Marine Hotel, Ballycastle, promises to make it an even bigger event this year.

This is not the first time that he and his family, who are from Larne, have reached out.

Last year the Shields supplied more than 120 lunches to those in need on Christmas Day, and this year he anticipates this number will increase to around 200.

Mr Shields said: "We are probably talking near the 200 mark, between deliveries from the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle where I'm head chef and my cafe in Cushendall, Wee Joe's.

"We get turkey portions supplied free of charge by our supplier Brakes and we put everything together with help from my wife Sinead and my kids on Christmas Eve.

"Collum McLornan and Claire Hunter, owners of the Marine Hotel, have been brilliant letting me do this at the hotel this year."

Mr Shields, who has six children, is also assisted by local volunteers including SDLP councillor Anne Marie McKillop, who supplies a list of recipients to make the initiative possible.

Mr Shields said he felt it was vital to provide his outreach in the community.

"It's important because there's a lot of people who won't have a Christmas lunch because if they live on their own, they think: what's the point?"

In Whitehead Noel and Gillian McKee will be hosting Christmas lunch at the town's Methodist Church hall.

Mr McKee said: "We're cooking Christmas dinner on December 25 for people in the Whitehead area who would otherwise be alone during the festive season or who, for whatever reason, would struggle to have a special meal that day."

It will be provided free of charge.

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