Restaurant Profile November 2019: No 14 at the Georgian House
Jim Mulholland, head chef/proprietor, talks to Alyson Magee
WHEN DID YOUR RESTAURANT OPEN?
June 10 was our first night, and we opened to the public on June 12. Lunch has been fantastic from day one, and we’re building our trade at night. We just got an award from Georgina Campbell, highly commended in Newcomer of the Year after only three months in business. That was good, and showed everybody we’re doing something right.
TELL US ABOUT THE SPACE YOU HAVE
The Georgian House dates back to the 1700s, and comprises the ground floor restaurant seating 28 and café seating 14. On the first floor, we have private dining for 28, and can seat the same again in our courtyard. We have converted outhouses in the courtyard into two additional prep spaces for baking and butchery, and have yet to develop a large walled garden space at the rear of the courtyard.
WHAT FEEL ARE YOU AIMING FOR?
John and Myrna Horner own the Georgian House and I lease it from them. They purchased it in 2003, and had undergone a massive regeneration to bring it back to the original building. Myrna had done a lot of research on the building, and what the colours should be and had dressed it with pieces of Georgian furniture and mirrors. All the fireplaces are original, and a craftsman was even brought over from continental Europe to restore the ceiling mouldings.
WHAT’S ON YOUR MENU?
It’s not fine dining. What we envisioned here from the start was contemporary Irish cuisine in nice surroundings using artisan producers and products.
The more local-based I can make my menus, the better, so that’s what we did. When I first came here, I went around all the local suppliers and now a good 85% of my menu is based locally. My pork supplier is Robbie at Stonebridge Cottage in Crossgar, Springmount Farm in Ballygowan for eggs, Buchanan’s in Kilrea for turkey and a butcher in Newtownards for beef. I have a lot of game coming in at the moment, including wild partridge and wood pigeon. We get Comber potatoes, broccoli from Ballymakenny Farm just over the border and beetroot from Mooncoin near Kilkenny. I use Indie Fude around the corner quite a lot for cheeses and other artisan products. I fell in love with the area because it’s full of artisan suppliers and producers with the Comber Farmers’ Market.
HOW DO YOU PROMOTE THE RESTAURANT & MAKE IT STAND OUT?
Social media is a big one for us, and we put our menus on there, and up-and-coming events. It’s very important you keep a couple of months ahead of yourself, and we run a lot of events to keep people interested; for example, a tasting night on October 26 when I will be cooking with guest chef Nathan Snoddon who is coming over from London. I also do demonstrations at the local market, which is a good way of embracing the public, showing them what we do and getting feedback.
I just think it’s about originality, sourcing local produce and the team here are highly trained and good at one-to-one with customers which I feel is very important. If you want the community to embrace you, you have to be part of the community.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
We get quite a wide base. We get our local customers during the day and then, at nightime, they come from as far as Bangor, Newtownards, Belfast, Carryduff or even Fermanagh. It shows that our name is getting out there. We do get quite a lot of tourism in the area, and we have had Americans and English in over the last week.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE RESTAURANT DEVELOPING?
Next year, the emphasis will be on the walled garden and deciding what to do with it. And we only ran one event in the courtyard this year, a Jazz Sunday, but we hope to do a lot more next year because it was very successful.
14 The Square, Comber
T: 02891 311106
E: [email protected]