Belfast now has its third Michelin Star, as Gareth McCaughey’s much vaunted Cathedral Quarter eatery, The Muddlers’ Club, claims the coveted honour.
Two of the city’s top restaurants – Michael Deane’s Eipic on Howard Street and Ox Belfast on Oxford Street – have wielded the prestigious accolade for years and this latest announcement will now shed welcome light on the delights of the Quarter’s increasingly sophisticated food and drink offering.
Michelin announced the full roster of its 2020 winners – and deletions from its ‘red book’ guide – at a special ceremony in London yesterday (October 7).
There was also good news for Ronan and Jennie Sweeney’s Balloo House restaurant in Co. Down, which was awarded prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand status for 2020. This is the second time that Danni Barry – executive head chef at Balloo – has come to the notice of Michelin inspectors. She was head chef at Deane’s Eipic when it first claimed its Michelin star in 2016.
Speaking at the London ceremony, Muddlers’ Gareth McCaughey described the experience as ‘absolutely brilliant’.
Michelin inspectors had been full of praise for Gareth’s use of homegrown ingredients to ‘create original dishes of balance and poise’.
Many readers will be familiar with Gareth (42), whose kitchen credentials include a close involvement with a couple of the city’s best-known venues. Born in Tyrone, he trained as a pastry chef in London before returning to Northern Ireland to help set-up James Street South with Niall McKenna and former head chef, Stephen Toman, who now owns the Michelin-starred Ox in Oxford Street.
He opened The Muddlers’ Club in October 2015 with help from his new general manager, Barry Fletcher, whom he met while working as head chef at the Barking Dog.
At opening, the restaurant was a modern, bistro-style offering with room for 55 at absolute capacity and a menu that favoured quality over quantity.
‘We had this idea to create somewhere where people could come and really relax and enjoy some top-notch food and wine,’ Barry Fletcher told LCN in 2015. ‘We didn’t want somewhere that was going to feel stuffy for people, we just wanted it to be known as a place where they could get something nice to eat at a reasonable price.’
The Muddlers’ Club moniker derives from a much older venue that was once located in the same part of Belfast. Peggy’s Inn used to sit on Waring Street, next to Sugarhouse Entry and in the 1790’s it changed its name to The Muddlers’ Club. A little later, it became a regular meeting place for the United Irishmen and eventually, it changed its name to the Bambridge Hotel before being destroyed during a Second World War bombing raid.
Developments in the Republic of Ireland included promotion for The Greenhouse in Dublin, which went from one to two stars and Aimsir in Celbridge, Co Kildare, which entered the guide for the first time with two stars. Bastion in Kinsale, Variety Jones in Dublin and The Oak Room in Adare also received Michelin stars, bringing the total number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the Republic to 18.