Growing hospitality group buys landmark building on Hill Street to accommodate new culinary venture
James Street South owner and award-winning chef Niall McKenna is to open a new cookery school in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter later this year.
The leading chef, restaurateur and entrepreneur has confirmed that his James Street South Group has purchased the Grade B listed Waterman House building at 5-23 Hill Street to accommodate the new venture, with support from Bank of Ireland UK.
The dedicated new cookery school, which will accommodate groups of up to 18 at any one time, forms part of a new and extensive regeneration development within the area currently spearheaded by Commercial Court Inns Limited, which owns the adjacent Harp Bar, and the nearby Duke of York and Dark Horse pubs.
Niall and wife Joanne already operate the successful restaurant Hadskis in the Cathedral Quarter.
A champion for Northern Ireland’s growing tourism and hospitality sector, Niall said the Cathedral Quarter provided the perfect location for the new culinary venture which will offer food enthusiasts the best environment to enjoy an exciting learning experience using the finest local ingredients.
Niall said the group’s focus was to bring its greatest asset – an award-winning dining and customer service experience – to greater numbers across Belfast.
“As a dedicated and committed team, we’re immensely proud of our collective achievements and the positive impact we have made in developing Belfast’s growing international tourism reputation and success over 15 years.”
The group currently employs a team of 85 full and part-time staff.
“Our business is based on providing the highest quality food, drink and customer service in the best surroundings. Location is key, which is why we have made the strategic decision to open an exciting new cookery school in the Cathedral Quarter – an increasingly vibrant and bustling part of the city,” Niall said.
Since opening in 2003, restaurants within the James Street South Group of restaurants have been recognised for food and service excellence by the Michelin guide, the Waitrose Food Guide, Food & Wine Magazine and in the prestigious Georgina Campbell awards.
“We’re delighted to reaffirm our commitment to developing and sustaining our award-winning hospitality offer with renewed vigour and passion and we look forward to seeing customers old and new in the months and years ahead,” said Niall.
James Street South Group is a key investor in the development of talent and skills in the Belfast’s hospitality sector and currently manages two apprenticeship programmes, training chefs and front-of-house staff in association with Belfast Met. Since 2014, 34 recruits aged between 16 and 24 have signed up.
“Belfast’s tourism growth has been remarkable, but the sector continues to face a significant challenge from constraints in the availability, recruitment and retention of skilled and experienced staff and it needs to be addressed. For tourism growth to continue as it has, this requires more focus and we look forward to continuing to play our part in providing solutions.” Niall added.
Bank of Ireland UK is supporting James Street South Group in its plans.
Mark Cunningham, Regional Business Development Manager Northern Ireland at Bank of Ireland UK, said:
“Through this investment, combined with the group’s offer, experience and quality reputation, James Street South Group is well-positioned to further contribute to the city’s status as an award-winning destination for local, national and international visitors.
“We are delighted to be the funding partner for the acquisition of the new premises at Hill Street and to be working with James Street South Group as it continues to realise its business vision and growth ambitions and I wish Niall, Joanne and the team continued success for the future.”