PUB OF THE YEAR: The Primrose Bar, Ballynahinch
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet — especially when it’s serving food, glorious food. And this is what the Primrose Bar on the Main Street in Ballynahinch is known for.
Set in a former blacksmith's shop, the bar combines old-world charm with a lively, friendly atmosphere and deserves its reputation for great food.
The menu is extensive with the emphasis being on fresh food, simple but delicious dishes with big flavours. Probably best known for staples including steaks, burgers and prawn cocktail, the pub also boasts a wide range of slightly more adventurous dishes including seared tuna steak on a spicy Mediterranean salad, sizzling Barbary duck breast with orange, ginger, soy and spring onion glaze and warm chicken and chorizo salad with sun-blushed tomato and basil mayo.
Teacher Shaunene Flynn from Drumaness, who was there enjoying a birthday lunch, told me the desserts were to die for. “I can‘t believe you didn’t leave room for dessert — they’re fab,” she drooled.
Her mum Yvonne also raved about the food. She said: “It’s a real treat to come to the Primrose — the food is reliably fantastic and the staff are super. They’re so friendly and warm, they make this place”.
Primrose manageress Pamela Gillespie has worked there for 14 years. She told Sunday Life that because their food is a big attraction it has to be very good all the time. There is never any room for complacency and it must reach a reliably high standard.
“We’ve much more competition these days in the town from the Indian, the Chinese and pizzeria.”
Pamela explained that the Primrose is quite dependent on passing traffic and shoppers as well as their regular customers. She said: “There are some excellent shops in Ballynahinch and we’re proud that along with them we draw people into the town. We love our locals but we also rely on out-of-towners.
“One day can be quite different to the next, depending on how busy the town is. Sunday lunch is always popular and it’s great when you get a good crowd of people in who were maybe just out for an afternoon drive”.
Pamela also revealed that John Bardon (who plays Jim Branning in Eastenders) is a big fan of the Primrose. She added: “Jim and his wife were thinking of moving to Northern Ireland and they were in all the time. They loved the Sunday roast!
“We stick to what we know, which is good value, homemade, tasty food.”
Waitress Christine McVeigh holds her regulars in high esteem. She said: “You build up such a rapport with your regulars — you could nearly order for them. We’ve quite a mixed age group that come here and a lot of families. It’s a great cross-section of people.”
Heather Edgar from Ballynahinch was enjoying a glass of wine with her friend Doris Kidd, also from the town. She said: “There’s such a warm atmosphere, the staff are so welcoming and the food’s superb.”
I Wanna Be Adored by the Stone Roses was playing on the CD player as I left the bar — any bar that plays the Stone Roses and serves up top-notch grub certainly gets a thumbs-up from me.