Michelin-star chef reopens Northern Ireland restaurant closed for two years

by Emma Deighan

Top chef: Danni Barry

Top chef: Danni Barry

Northern Ireland’s top chef is set to revitalise a restaurant that has been closed for two years in a sleepy Co Antrim village.

Danni Barry earned her reputation as the best at the Michelin-starred Deanes Eipic in Belfast.

Now she is behind the reopening of the once-popular Clenaghans restaurant in Aghalee.

The chef will, alongside her business partners, inject new life into Clenaghans, an eaterie three miles from Moira, when it reopens soon.

The Downing family who ran the restaurant for 20 years announced in August 2015 that Clenaghans would close ‘until further notice’.

Today, it is gearing up for a November launch with Danni and Lisburn’s Square Bistro owners Stevie and Cristina Higginson in charge. Twenty new jobs will also be created at the restaurant which is currently undergoing refurbishment.

Both Danni and Stevie are established chefs in Northern Ireland. As well as working as head chef at Deanes Eipic for three years, Dannii was also named Ireland’s Chef of the Year 2017 at the Restaurant Association of Ireland Restaurant Awards in May.

This new enterprise will add a second restaurant to Stevie’s portfolio.

The business partners said: “We are excited to bring the very popular Clenaghans Restaurant back to life with modern comfort warming the traditional stone building. The excitement and support from the local community has been wonderful.”

Belfast Telegraph restaurant critic Joris Minne said: “The new hands on the tiller of Clenaghans are probably the most anticipated news in restaurant-land this year! Danni Barry is proven as an international standard chef and the Higginsons have excellent form with the consistently good Bistro on the Square in Lisburn.

“I can only guess what Michael Deane’s reaction will have been but Danni did secure a Michelin star three years in a row before leaving and has left Eipic with his head held high. Personally, I can’t wait to see what the offer at Cleneghans will be. Mixing country charm with culinary excellence is always a great recipe.”

Councillor Allan Ewart said: “The winning combination of the chefs’ passion and talent for creating flavoursome dishes with Stevie’s wife Cristina’s attention to detail in ensuring a positive customer experience will make the reopening of Clenaghans a success.

“Social media is already a hive of activity as people look to make a reservation and no doubt this interest will continue after the opening.

“This new business venture will give a boost to the local area, offering fine food and drink to residents and visitors alike.”

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