Restaurant Profile October 2017: The Grouse, Ballymena
Carole Mckenna, co-owner of the popular bar, talks to Alyson Magee
The Grouse, Ballymena
WHEN DID THE GROUSE OPEN?
My husband Eugene opened The Wee Grouse in 1982 and then The Grouse in 1986, which also included an upstairs and a nightclub. Every eight to 10 years, he’s done a major restructure or refurbishment and the last one was last year, with a lot of structural work and opening areas that had been closed over the years. We also put in a new bar.
TELL US ABOUT THE SPACE YOU HAVE
We have capacity for seating 140 for food, and our nightclub upstairs as well. There are two main bars downstairs, another bar in the nightclub and the new bit we are going to expand into and refurbish next year will add another two bars. One of the biggest things we have done is make it disability-friendly, with double doors for easy access, a disabled toilet, lowered bar and some adjustments to the floor and layout.
WHAT FEEL ARE YOU AIMING FOR?
Cosy, traditional and comfortable – that Edwardian/Victorian style that never dates – with really good quality products.
WHAT’S ON YOUR MENU?
We have a range of menus, all-day lunch, an a la carte evening menu, daily specials, a Sunday menu and a Little Monsters kids’ menu. Based on feedback from customers, we also added a Pit Stop Pleasures menu with lighter options like Pulled Pork Baguettes, Paninis, Club Sandwiches, Ribs and Chicken Wings for people who don’t want a heavy lunch or dinner and a Guilty Pleasures menu with things like Scones, Croissants And Cheesecakes complemented by some ideas for drinks.
Our head chef Bobby Cahoon started working for my husband when he was 15, and has done a lot of specialist cooking. He’s very heavily into sous vide, and his menus are based on four areas with a French, Asian, modern European and Irish influence. Seafood is very popular with mussels and chowders, a lot of slow cooked beef and steaks, Barbary duck and venison and then popular choices for handiness like goujons, lasagne and stews in the winter. There’s a bit of everything.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
We try to get everything as local as we can, and Bobby is very strict about the freshness of his food. Everything is cooked to order.
We use Keenan Seafood, Carnbrooke Meats, Drumgold Quality Foods, Glen Fresh, Sydney B Scott & Sons, North Down Group, Delice de France and Dale Farm.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
A good cross-section of the community come in because we’re in the town centre – families, single people who feel comfortable coming in themselves which is nice, couples, ladies who people watch and have a cocktail or glass of wine, tourists and the characters who come in every day and give a good atmosphere to the place.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU OFFER?
General Manager Mark McIlrath: We’ve also set up a gin bar, and have over 100 different gins, 10-12 different varieties of tonic and different garnishes to complement each gin. We have had speakers in to do talks about the different gins, and Bobby does food to complement each. We also have a Prosecco promotion coming up on Friday nights, at £15 for a bottle.
74-76 Ballymoney Street, Ballymena
Tel: 028 2564 5234
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