Niall McKenna unveils plans for James St South restaurants

Restaurateur Niall McKenna, owner and head chef of Belfast’s renowned James Street South Group, is merging his two iconic restaurants in Belfast city centre as part of a new £300,000 redevelopment project.

The leading hospitality group said it was blending its greatest assets – award-winning dining and customer service – under one restaurant roof to accommodate burgeoning demand from a growing base of local and international visitors for a more bistro-style all-day dining experience.

Among the best restaurants in Belfast, McKenna opened his first landmark James Street South restaurant in 2003, leading a local revolution in classic cooking using seasonal, local produce. His neighbouring Bib Gourmand award-winning James Street Bar + Grill, opened in 2011.

Amalgamating the entire floor space of both restaurants – which will include moving the kitchen – the newly-combined all-new restaurant will provide seating for up to 70 customers in a brand new, relaxed and contemporary setting which will include a bar area and larger kitchen space.

Niall said: “This is a really exciting time for us and the city of Belfast. Lonely Planet has decreed Belfast as the place to visit in 2018, and with many new hotels open and planned, coupled with record visitor numbers, Belfast’s potential is fast being realised.

“As a dedicated team, we are immensely proud of our achievements we have made over 15 years, but the dining experience has evolved, and the time feels right to adapt to the change in customer tastes.”

Niall continued: “We are currently working on a new name and brand for this venture, which we’ll announce in the coming weeks and we look forward to welcoming customers old and new when we launch in September.”

The new restaurant will strengthen the already thriving hub of Belfast’s Linen Quarter which has welcomed many of Belfast’s newest hotels including Hastings’ new Grand Central, The Flint, the Maldron and the city’s first EasyHotel.

With a vibrant hospitality scene that continues to flourish, there is a substantial need for skilled employees across the sector to ensure the future success of the industry.

Niall sites this as one of the main reasons for evaluating his restaurants’ offering, but also attributes his success to the investment the Group has made in its apprenticeship scheme.

“Our apprentice programme and on-the-job training is vital to the development of the next generation of hospitality professionals,” Niall said.

“There is a severe shortage in the number of skilled professionals in Northern Ireland to fill roles in the new hotels, restaurants and venues and our Apprentice Scheme provides a solid investment in our future of world-class hospitality.”

The company confirmed that work will commence on the new venture in early August and that James Street South will close for a five-week targeted fit-out. The Bar & Grill will close for the last two weeks of August, before the newly-fused restaurant opens in the first week in September.

The new venture will support up to 35 full and part-time jobs once open, which are additional to the estimated 15 jobs supported during design, building and fit-out stages.

Niall’s additional restaurants, Hadskis and Cast and Crew, will continue to operate as normal throughout the period.


James Street South Group to open Cathedral Quarter cookery school

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