McKenna to amalgamate city centre venues

Niall McKenna has announced that he will be merging his iconic James Street South restaurant with the neighbouring James Street Bar + Grill in a redevelopment project valued at around £300,000.

James Street South is the current holder of the LCN Restaurant of the Year title.

Niall said recently that he would be amalgamating the venues in order to better cater for burgeoning demand from local and international visitors for a more bistro-style approach to all-day dining.

He opened 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, contemporary setting which will include a bar area and larger kitchen space.

“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, “ Niall told LCN.

“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 revealed that he hasn’t yet decided on a name for the new venue, which he hopes to open in September.

He attributes much of the success that his venues are currently experiencing to in-house apprentice scheme that he’s been operating in recent years:

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

“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 has 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 its doors.

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.

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