Restaurant Profile September 2019: Overwood at Balloo House, Killinchy
Ronan Sweeney, managing director of Balloo Inns, talks to HRNI
WHEN DID YOUR RESTAURANT OPEN?
Overwood at Balloo House has been open since the end of July. The inspiration for Overwood came out of conversations with Danni Barry about a mutual love of beautifully-cooked meats and fish using charcoal and wood, and a longstanding respect of the great grill restaurants of the world that serve the freshest shellfish, cured meat starters and knockout side orders with delicately-crafted sauces that complement the main backbone of the menu.
TELL US ABOUT THE SPACE YOU HAVE?
We are fortunate to have one of the most beautiful coaching inns in Ireland in Balloo House and the building dates back to the early 1800s. Overwood upstairs in Balloo House is a two interconnected-room restaurant with a feature bar, rich in brass and aged glass and mirrors. Oak and copper fronted wine displays set the tone for the customer’s evening, and we have added an outdoor cocktail terrace featuring Danish teak furniture and a roaring Austrian glass-fronted stove to take the chill off the cool Co Down nights. The space is all covered by a large marquee, rendering it perfect for drinks before or after dinner.
WHAT FEEL ARE YOU AIMING FOR?
In developing the concept of Overwood, the fabric of the building isn’t something we wanted to hide; rather we wanted to add to it, to build a decadent, moody space with a relaxed vibe. It’s a building people already love and feel at ease with, so the new design had to respect the building. I feel our design has achieved that, we are delighted with the end result and our initial feedback from our client base echoes this.
WHAT’S ON YOUR MENU?
We feature local cured meats from Ispini Charcuterie, the best fish and shellfish from Strangford Lough and aged steaks from Hannan Meats, Lisdergan Meats and Wagyu beef from Finnebrogue Estate. We are the only restaurant in NI to use Mill Bay Oysters from Carlingford Lough, which have again been awarded three gold stars in the Great Taste awards and feature in the world’s top 50 foods; they’re expensive, but they are just stunning. Local veg and fruit is delivered to us daily.
DOES YOUR MENU CHANGE OFTEN?
One of the benefits of only being open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights is that the food is always prepared freshly and Danni insists on changing the menu weekly.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO TO IMPROVE AND DRIVE YOUR MENU?
We offer a six-course tasting menu which gives guests a chance to experience the expertise of the kitchen, in manageable course sizes. From the autumn, we shall also be offering a family-orientated Sunday lunch menu accompanied by live jazz in the background. We will showcase the best hearty roasts and delicate fish courses that we know our customers love.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
Food NI’s maxim of Grown here not flown here is a great starting point; it means we are using produce when in season, at its best and isn’t ruining the environment getting here in the process. This supports our local farmers, fishermen and artisans, who in turn form part of our loyal customer base; simple really.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
The backbone of our customers are the locals from North Down and Strangford Lough, and at weekends we also have a large customer base who travel the short distance from Belfast. Increasingly we find RoI visitors are keen to spend time here and are discovering the beauty of North Down and Strangford Lough. But mostly our customers are those that want the best possible food from a historic local pub.
HAVE YOU FACED ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES TO DATE?
Our business is presented with challenges on a daily basis, but none more pressing than the skill shortage in our industry. Because of our drive for excellence, we tend to pay more than our city competitors and it’s very important to us that our employees have a better work life balance. Our industry is tough but rewarding, and in order to attract a young motivated workforce, we need to put the negative connotations of long hours, tough treatment and poor pay well behind us. Our sector is now the second biggest contributor to NI GDP and our industry needs to behave like it. But continual tax and rate hikes are pushing great hospitality businesses beyond breaking point; government needs to appreciate that we can’t keep generating more and more taxes without negatively impacting on customers and staff. Something has to give.
HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR RESTAURANT STAND OUT FROM COMPETITORS?
Respect your roots, continually strive to be excellent and never fear positive change.
1 Comber Road, Killinchy
t: 028 97541210
Thur-Sat: 6pm to 1am
Sunday lunch from September