Restaurant Profile January 2017: Square Bistro, Lisburn
Stevie Higginson, chef and owner of Square Bistro in Lisburn, talks to HRNI
WHEN DID YOUR RESTAURANT OPEN?
Together with my wife Cristina, our restaurant opened in October 2006 and we have just celebrated our 10-year anniversary this year. My inspiration came from my late father who passed away in 2005; he always taught me to work hard and your rewards will be forthcoming so I thought if I applied that to my passion (food), then I could make it work even though I was only 25.
TELL US ABOUT THE SPACE YOU HAVE
We have a 58-seater restaurant, it is an intimate space and we have utilised every inch with a recent £120,000 refit and extension. In May 2016, we embarked on the project. My wife Cristina designed the front-of-house space and I redesigned the kitchen. Within two weeks, we had transformed into an upmarket Bistro with the help of amazing contractors and staff.
WHAT FEEL ARE YOU AIMING FOR?
It’s all about feeling comfortable; we have customers who come two to three times every week so our main objective is to make the customer feel comfortable and relaxed but professional. We do not pretend to be something we’re not.
WHAT’S ON THE MENU AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU?
We try to keep as much local on the menu as possible and seasonal; you will not find asparagus on our menu in December! I love using the best quality and consistent products from amazing suppliers; over the last 10 years we have developed great relationships with our suppliers. My favourite products around right now would be Peter Hannan’s salt-aged lamb rump and Walter Ewing’s organic Glenarm salmon.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO TO IMPROVE & DRIVE YOUR MENU?
We are constantly trying new dishes, visiting suppliers to source new products and the best part is eating out in really nice restaurants to steal some ideas; most of the time this is in London, a great example of this is our flat iron steak. We visited a restaurant in London a number of years ago which only sold flat iron steak and we both fell in love with it.
DOES YOUR MENU CHANGE OFTEN?
Our menu changes at least four times a year with the seasons, and we have a seafood night every Friday and that menu changes every week.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
We buy as much local as possible and buy from local reputable suppliers. Our meat comes from Peter Hannan, Andrew Mulholland, Carnbrooke Meats. Seafood comes from Walter Ewing. Fruit and veg comes from Down Wholesale. Potatoes come from Fred Murphy in Hillsborough. Milk, cream, butter and ice cream all from Draynes Farm, Lisburn.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
Our customers appreciate great food, consistent quality, great service and realistic prices; a well varied menu, fresh food cooked properly and well presented.
HAVE YOU FACED ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES TO DATE?
Our challenges are the same every year, spiraling costs of utilities, labour, taxes etc but the biggest challenge for us in the hospitality industry is VAT. A drop in the current 20% would be a real game changer.
HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR RESTAURANT STAND OUT?
Our food is really great in the restaurant but, for me, it’s the service which really makes our restaurant stand out. My wife Cristina and her girls do an amazing job and don’t get enough credit for the job they do. The service they deliver is quite amazing; it’s not over the top, it is pitched just right so nothing is ever too much trouble for them. I go to so many restaurants, the food is very good but the service plays second fiddle and completely ruins a great eating experience. Enter as strangers and leave as friends; that’s our motto.
HOW WAS TRADE OVER THE LAST YEAR?
We continue to get busier year on year and, if we continue delivering the best food and service we can, then hopefully this will continue.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR RESTAURANT DEVELOPING THIS YEAR?
We always try very hard to improve the restaurant and 2017 will be no different. We had quite a few really successful tasting nights in 2016 and plan to make them a more regular occurrence in 2017. We would really like to start pairing wines with our dinner menu.
18 Lisburn Square, Lisburn
Tel: 02892 666677
Facebook & Twitter: SquareBistroNI; @squarebistro
Fri-Sat: 9.30am-3pm; 5pm-9pm
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