Restaurant profile

Restaurant Profile August 2018: Poacher’s Pocket, Lisbane

Jennie Sweeney, co-owner and MD of the Poacher’s Pocket, talks to HRNI

WHEN DID YOUR RESTAURANT OPEN?
We purchased Lisbarnett House just outside Comber in 2012, carrying out an extensive £500,000 refurbishment and extension in 2014. Originally, we had no plans to change the name; however, we wanted a fresh image and rebranded to The Poacher’s Pocket to reflect our food ethos and incorporate our artisan food and wine shop, The Poacher’s Pantry.

TELL US ABOUT THE SPACE YOU HAVE
The Poacher’s Pocket has an original front pub with a history and charm that needed to be retained. We have recently refurbished an adjoining room to create a lounge bar which is perfect for live music, pub quizzes and private events. The main dining area seats around 80 people. The Poacher’s Pantry sells soups, sauces and breads from our own kitchen, alongside wine and products from local suppliers.

WHAT FEEL ARE YOU AIMING FOR?
A welcoming, comfortable country pub and restaurant with a reputation for great food, and a happy team.

WHAT’S ON YOUR MENU?
Our menu offers traditional pub classics including fish and chips and a good burger, alongside fresh fish and the best dry-aged steaks we can source. Pastas and risottos are popular, and there is increasing popularity for vegetarian and vegan dishes. Specials change every day, depending on the fresh produce sourced, with the main menu changing every two to three months.

WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
We have promoted quality local produce for over 14 years. It is a mantra that is on most menus now, but when we first opened Balloo House in 2003, local produce was not always the main feature. Food prices are rising, but it is rarely good to buy the cheapest product. Quality suffers, and the product becomes something you can’t be proud of. Poacher’s is located in the heart of vegetable and beef-producing Co Down and beside Strangford Lough, supplying some of the best seafood in the world.

WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
Poacher’s has a loyal, local customer base but we are only 20 minutes from Belfast and we regularly welcome diners from the city and beyond. We have also seen an increasing number of visitors from outside NI. In 2015, Poacher’s was named Best Gastro-pub in Ireland by the Irish Restaurant Association, bringing more visitors from the south. Strangford Lough is a beautiful area and a great foodie destination.

HAVE YOU FACED ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES TO DATE?
Apart from rising food costs, the biggest challenge is the shortage of young people entering the industry. The explosion of the restaurant and hotel scene in Belfast is fantastic, yet it has led to a chronic shortage of staff. We work hard to offer better working hours and salaries and have introduced an employee assistance programme. Our business cannot succeed without happy, motivated employees and their wellbeing is a big priority.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR RESTAURANT DEVELOPING?
We will work hard to offer a memorable experience for regulars and visitors alike. The extended pub offers more opportunities for entertainment, with traditional sessions and live acoustic music. Primarily, we are a local country pub with an authentic offering and we will continue to evolve.

181 Killinchy Road, Comber
Tel: 028 97541589
Website: https://www.ballooinns.com/the-poachers-pocket
Opening hours:
The Poacher’s Pocket: Tues-Sat, 12-9pm; Sun-Mon, 12-8.30pm
The Poacher’s Pantry: Mon-Sun, 9am-9pm

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