Restaurant Profile December 2018: EDÕ Restaurant, Belfast
Jonny Elliott, owner and head chef, talks to HRNI
WHEN DID YOUR RESTAURANT OPEN?
EDÕ opened last September, so we’ve just celebrated our first year. Previous to last September, a lot of time and effort went into thinking about the restaurant and what it would be, so I’d say a good year and a half of planning went into EDÕ before we opened our doors.
I just wanted to cook good food – plain and simple. I saw a gap in the market for the type of food that I like to cook and eat and that was the start of it. I call our menu ‘new European’. It’s Mediterranean-based but you’ll see lots of eclectic influences in there too. The dishes are homely and are warm, comfort-food style. We don’t cook arsy dishes!
I wanted to be my own boss too – I think all chefs do. We all aspire to having our own place and cooking the food we want to eat. It’s not about the kudos of having your own restaurant because, believe me, it’s not easy, but that freedom of choosing ingredients and dishes is brilliant.
TELL US ABOUT THE SPACE YOU HAVE
EDÕ is a 60-seater restaurant right in the centre of Belfast. I felt it was a good size and, more importantly, a good shape for what I envisaged the restaurant would look like. I wanted an open-plan set up so diners could see what was going on in the kitchen. I love that we have seats on the pass for people to watch us prepare their food. I like that the chefs can see out into the restaurant and can see people enjoying the food they’ve made.
WHAT FEEL ARE YOU AIMING FOR?
The design was by Oscar & Oscar and inspiration is taken from New York restaurants. It’s minimal and simple but also very plush and classy. I chose warm colours to make it welcoming, but it’s still modern in its design.
WHAT’S ON YOUR MENU?
The inspiration behind the menu is largely Mediterranean, which I got from travelling round Europe. We do have a local twist too because I think it’s important that diners can relate to their food and obviously we mostly use local produce. Our menu comprises lots of sharing plates – little dishes that a table can order and eat between them so that everyone gets to try everything. There’s also bigger, more robust dishes for mains. It’s a menu that works for everyone. If you’re hungry, try lots of little dishes as a table and then order a main each. If you’re not so hungry, go straight for a main or have lots of small plates. And if you want something sweet, dessert’s an option too. We have a specials’ menu every day and that gives us, as chefs, a chance to stray from the main menu and show off our creativity. Depending on what the suppliers bring us in the morning, we can get our heads together and see what we can come up with. That freedom keeps the specials’ menu fresh and the chefs on their toes.
Our drinks’ menu is comprehensive whether you’re wanting a glass of wine or a cocktail. Again, there’s something for everybody.
DOES YOUR MENU CHANGE OFTEN?
The short answer here is no. We have the main menu, vegetarian and vegan menus which stay as they are, and then the specials’ menu is what changes every day. But the veg is seasonal, so it and the garnishes change periodically.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO TO IMPROVE AND DRIVE YOUR MENU?
Our menu works really well for us. We have a lot of repeat business based on the dishes we serve, so we’re not going to mess with that. Our specials’ menu is where you see the chefs having fun and mixing it up for patrons. As chefs, we’re always looking to each other for inspiration. Guaranteed you give us all the same ingredients and we’ll all come up with different dishes – we’re individuals and so are our dishes. The kitchen team works very well together and I think when you have a cohesive team, the dishes they produce are always going to be fantastic. We dance to our own beat in EDÕ and have our own vibe going on. We’re a bit different and that’s what I like. I trust my chefs to produce good specials and they do it time and time again.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
Local, fresh, quality produce – that’s the ethos behind our food. We source a minimal amount of ingredients from the Continent – olive oil, ham and Padrón peppers because they provide the best that money can buy and give us a level of authenticity.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
We have an eclectic clientele which we embrace. I love that people of all ages and walks of life visit us. Our menu lends itself very well to students because you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good meal. Equally, we get a lot of business lunches, couples and families. Friday and Saturday nights are busy with people out enjoying the weekend, and we’ve had weddings, big parties and smaller more bespoke parties.
HAVE YOU FACED ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES TO DATE?
Every day! That’s the nature of running a business. Owning your own restaurant is more than being a chef – it’s all encompassing. I’m lucky that I’ve a strong team in the kitchen, behind the scenes and out the front and everyone does their bit. We all have a good work ethic and, although it’s busy and at times stressful, there’s always room for fun.
HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR RESTAURANT STAND OUT FROM COMPETITORS?
Visually I think we’re hard to beat, and the open pass is a big part of that. EDÕ is a beautiful setting to eat in; add to that, a delicious, unique menu and a comprehensive drinks’ menu. It’s as simple as that.
HOW WAS TRADE OVER THE PAST YEAR?
Trade was good for us, although we’ve nothing to compare it to. We were lucky with the publicity we got from food critics, and we just took off. I barely remember a time when we weren’t busy. The weather this summer was very good, and I did panic a little that people would be barbecuing and letting their reservations slide, but we maintained a busy restaurant all summer. We don’t compromise on quality and diners recognise that and it stands to us. We must be doing something right because of the repeat business we’ve seen over the year.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR RESTAURANT DEVELOPING THIS YEAR?
My vision for us this year is to strengthen what we have and build on that. Our team is strong and I want to continue keeping our quality and consistency high. If you’re not growing, you’re stagnating and that’s not a good thing. We don’t want patrons to get bored, so we’ll stay on our toes with the specials’ menu and keep creating delicious dishes.
3 Capital House, Unit 2 Upper Queen Street, Belfast
Tel: 028 9031 3054
Email: [email protected]
Tue-Sat: noon-3pm; 5 to 9.30pm