Restaurant profile

Restaurant Profile November 2017: Ocho Tapas Bistro, Portrush

Co-owners Sean and Trudy Brolly, (with Trudy also Head Chef), talk to Alyson Magee

Restaurant Profile November 2017: Ocho Tapas Bistro, Portrush

Co-owners Sean and Trudy Brolly

Restaurant Profile November 2017: Ocho Tapas Bistro, Portrush

WHEN DID OCHO TAPAS BISTRO OPEN?
TRUDY: Two and a half years ago, after a year in Coleraine before this building became available. I went to catering college and then went off to Spain, and Sean worked in hospitality in England. When I came back from Spain, we got together and now have a restaurant in the street we grew up in.

WHAT SPACE DO YOU HAVE?
SEAN: Depending on the way it’s configured, we can do up to 75.
TRUDY: We tend to do larger parties upstairs. It’s very much a social way of eating with tapas.

WHAT FEEL ARE YOU AIMING FOR?
SEAN: We just tried to get a traditional Spanish feel…
TRUDY: …without being too chintzy. We’ve got a lot of Spanish art and artefacts on the wall. It’s not heavily Spanish but it’s a theme than runs throughout.

WHAT’S ON YOUR MENU?
TRUDY: We’re using Peter Hannan’s meats. The Glenarm Estate Lamb Rump is really popular, especially with American groups. We also do the short rib of beef from Hannan, and the onglet – a hangar steak. We’re just in the process of changing the menu, and will be adding a water buffalo tartare, aged 28 days, from Ballyriff Farm. We’ve been doing slightly different things, and people are coming to us for our specials. We sell a lot of sherries in the restaurant, which used to be the perfect accompaniment to food but went out of vogue. Sherry is up and coming again, and we do pairings with local foods – small pieces of bread with toppings on little pintxos plates.
SEAN: Causeway Coast Foodie Tours come here after the Old Bushmills Distillery, which uses sherry casks to make whiskey, and they tell us they can recognise the Oloroso sherry from the whiskey. And we have all the Lacada beers; once we started pairing those with our specials, all summer they were flying.

WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
TRUDY: We get a lot of produce from Spain. We go over four to five times a year, and buy in seasonings, hams, chorizo, cheeses, sauces, dried peppers, salts, oils and smoked paprika. We do road trips around the different wine areas, Albarino, Rioja and Rueda, and the south with the sherries. You just feel more passionate about it, and you want to be able to talk about it once you’ve met the producer.
SEAN: Some things you do have to get in Spain, but we source probably 85% of our produce locally. We will do Spanish olive oil but also Broighter Gold rapeseed oil, and Spanish sea salts but also North Coast Smokehouse Smoked Sea Salt. We give the customers a chance to try both. We had a Spanish customer blind taste the Corndale Chorizo, and they chose it over the Spanish.
TRUDY: You’ll find a lot of great producers in this area like Ballinteer Farm for quails’ eggs, Broughgammon for goat bacon or Morelli’s ice cream. Yes, it is a Spanish restaurant but we’re doing Irish tapas, using a lot of local produce and bringing that Irish twist to it.

WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
TRUDY: We’re getting great repeat business now. We get a lot of American groups and the better travelled, with more money in their pocket. We had a little bit of market research done on how people perceive tapas and it seems to be that people in NI don’t particularly like to share their food, but people who live in this area are ok about it and they’ve been to our restaurant and have maybe seen a different way of eating.

HOW DO YOU DRIVE TRADE?
TRUDY: We did get help from the council, with digital marketing. TripAdvisor is the big thing; we’re number one in Portrush and, in Co Antrim, there are 650 restaurants and we’re three or four. The very day we got to number one in Portrush, our business increased.

92-94 Main St, Portrush
Tel: 028 7082 4110
Facebook: @OchoTapas

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