Restaurant Profile December 2019: Stock Kitchen & Bar, Belfast
Danny Millar, co-owner & head chef, talks to Alyson Magee
WHEN DID YOUR RESTAURANT OPEN?
I took it over in July. Before that, it was Mount Charles (George’s of the Market) and then before that, it was Oxford Exchange. We’re open nearly five months and going great; it’s been well received.
TELL US ABOUT THE SPACE YOU HAVE
Sixty seats in the restaurant, 30 seats out on the balcony and 25 seats in the bar. We did a total refurb apart from the floor and the roof, with all new furniture, a wine cabinet and bar going in. The actual frame of the building is beautiful; the architecture with the Victorian windows and that stainless steel coming in from St George’s Market.
WHAT FEEL ARE YOU AIMING FOR?
Comfortable, and not too posh. I don’t want people to come up the stairs and feel it’s too fancy. I think restaurants should be cosy places where you can feel at home, and I want it to be relaxed with the busy market on next door.
WHAT’S ON YOUR MENU?
When I took on the restaurant, the aim was to keep things simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves. It makes such an improvement to what you’re buying when you can just go down to the market and pick the fish yourself. We’re using whole fish with the head and tail on and, likewise with animals, we’re using all the off-cuts like heart, cheek, liver and tongue – the kind of cuts I like because they take a wee bit of love and care. People don’t realise there’s a whole animal there to be used and, if they’re only using certain cuts of it, what happens to all the rest?
DOES YOUR MENU CHANGE OFTEN?
Currently it’s game season so we have venison, pheasant, pigeon and whatever fish I buy on a Friday, which changes from week to week. Normally it would be sole and, at this time of year, monkfish, John Dory, turbot and brill. We have a seafood casserole, which varies each week depending on whatever fish I bring up from the market, and uses all of the fish with crab, prawns, mussels and oysters in a bouillabaisse-type base and that’s proving very popular in the restaurant.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO TO IMPROVE AND DRIVE YOUR MENU?
We have pre-theatre on a Thursday and Friday night. I’m not greedy to please everybody, and don’t want to have a restaurant that’s doing hundreds of covers. I’m happy to have a restaurant full one night a week with 60 or 70 covers; that’s more than enough for me.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
When I can and it’s good, I will buy it downstairs in St George’s, and then there are suppliers I’ve used in the past like Peter Hannan, and I’m using Wagyu beef from Finnebrogue.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
During the day, it’s a mixture with the market open. We get tourists, and locals from the courts – barristers and solicitors – and then, in the evening, it would be mostly locals with the odd tourist.
HOW WAS TRADE OVER THE PAST YEAR?
December’s looking very strong and Christmas bookings are brilliant so hopefully that will be good advertising for us, and people will come back. I’m very happy to be back in Belfast cooking, and to have people round me who care and want it to succeed.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR RESTAURANT DEVELOPING THIS YEAR?
I’m going to get photographers in to set it up as a wedding venue, as I’d like to do weddings, christenings and events. With the bar and the shape of the room, hopefully it will lend itself to funkier weddings. We are closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so if we can do one or two events on those days, I would be happy.
St. George’s Market, Oxford Street, Belfast
T: 028 90240014
Fri & Sat: 9.30-11.30am; 12-9.30pm
Sun: 9.30-11.30am; 12-4pm