Here’s an early look inside the plush new bar and restaurant at The Rabbit in Templepatrick, the latest addition to the Galgorm Collection’s high-end portfolio of properties in Co. Antrim.
The new Rabbit bar and restaurant provides the first indication of the direction of travel that the Galgorm Collection intends to take with the latest addition to its burgeoning collection of boutique properties.
The Rabbit hotel, formerly known as The Templeton, was purchased by the Collection in February 2019 for £7m. The property is currently undergoing a £7m refurbishment aimed at upgrading its 24 bedrooms alongside new spa and wedding facilities. The Rabbit bar and restaurant, which is now open to the public, represents around £2.5m of that investment.
With seating for around 180 guests at a time, the new eatery also has a large outdoor terrace that offers memorable views across the hotel’s newly installed garden area.
For manager Lynsey Gordon, the restaurant provided the perfect opportunity for her to advance her career within the Galgorm Collection group. Lynsey (33), joined the company nine years ago as a receptionist and quickly climbed through the ranks. She left briefly for Hasting’s prestigious Grand Central Hotel where she was front-of-house manager during its opening in 2018 but returned to manage the new restaurant at The Rabbit in July.
‘Coming back to the group was about career progression for me,’ she told LCN this month. ‘I also missed working for this company, they are very forward-thinking and heavily driven by investment. All the products they have are phenomenal and the opportunity to come and be involved with something new like this right from take-over has been great.’
Lynsey describes the new restaurant as ‘a real home from home’:
‘It has a really warm feeling, there’s a big roaring fire, comfortable seating and everything is really relaxed and informal with booths and more traditional seating, not just a big open space. There’s lots of artwork on the walls, nice low lighting and a lovely garden and terrace. It’s lovely to be able to dine alfresco as we come towards the end of the summer sunshine.’
Lynsey reports that business at the restaurant has been ‘great’ since it opened, with plenty of support from locals keen to see how the popular local venue has been transformed.
‘They’re amazed at the difference,’ she says. ‘So many of them have been Templeton customers and the Templeton has been here for 30 years so at some point, everyone has been in. They love the warmth and the feel of the place. It’s become people’s new local!’
Lynsey admits that after a strong start in July and August, buoyed by the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, trade in September has fallen back a little but that’s to be expected, she says. The Rabbit’s enviable position in the affluent Belfast commuter belt, continuing promotional activity and a lingering sense of curiosity around the changes mean that the restaurant is still busy.
The wider focus at the hotel is now on completing the new function rooms and getting those open towards the end of the Year. The Loft will be a new 140-seat function room primarily aimed at the wedding and banqueting market. It’s been available for booking since October last year and Lynsey reports that interest has been strong.
‘To be honest, the biggest concern for us is going to be consumer confidence, our customers need to be comfortable and confident in what we’re doing and we’ve been putting a lot of research and investment into getting that right,’ she adds.
Customers arriving at the restaurant have their temperatures taken and they are asked to sanitise their hands. All the staff wear masks, the tables are well spaced and the menus is delivered digitally via an app.
‘The real challenge for us comes more on the bar side,’ adds Lynsey. ‘The restaurant was always table service but creating a buzz in the bar when people aren’t able to get up and move about freely will be difficult. But we are looking forward to welcoming people back into the bar [on September 23]. It’s a challenge on top of getting the restaurant open, but the feedback is that people are very confident once they get in and see everything that we are doing.
‘I hope that by the spring, we will have all 33 bedrooms ready and our function room and spa opened. This is going to be a really iconic addition to the Galgorm Collection and I think that demand is going to be huge.’
Galgorm Collection’s managing director, Colin Johnston says that the re-development of the former Templeton Hotel in Templepatrick represents a significant investment in the local economy by the group and cements its commitment to growing NI’s tourism industry.