“It’s a great honour to be included in a guide which is recognised internationally for its focus on quality and good food,” Jim, who opened his first restaurant at the heart of the popular Co Down market town in 2019.
He brought to the restaurant and impressive career in hotels and other eateries here including a very successful stint at the prestigious Jean Christophe Novelli’s restaurant in Belfast’s AC Hotel, explains.
The influential guide describes the successful restaurant as standing “proudly in the heart of this pretty town”. It continues: “You can come for breakfast; tea and scones – perhaps containing cherry or white chocolate; pizza and pasta in the lovely walled garden, but the main draw here are the carefully executed ambitious dishes on the main menu.”
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It’s a thoroughly justified endorsement of Jim’s culinary skills and the dedication of his outstanding team following a rigorous assessment by highly experienced inspectors from the Michelin Guide global organisation.
The guide’s mission is “to foster a culture of travel and eating out”. Guide inspectors - their anonymity is protected by the organisation - base their decisions on food quality; mastery of flavour and cooking techniques; the personality of the chef represented in the dining experience; the harmony of flavours and consistency between inspectors’ visits.
Jim (54), one of Northern Ireland’s most respected chefs, is quick to acknowledge the devotion of his immensely talented team at the restaurant to great food and exceptional service and the loyal support from people from many parts of Northern Ireland attracted by a longstanding reputation for really great tasting and creative dishes.
The fine restaurant, located in the historic Georgian era house that dates back to 1722, is now featuring prominently in the guide, the essential reference for visitors seeking consistently excellent food and drink.
He also appreciates the support from a host of local food and drink suppliers who continue to benefit from his love of quality and outstandingly tasty ingredients from here especially fresh seafood.
The restaurant, a Taste of Ulster member which is part of Food NI, is among a number of local eateries recommended by the guide. These include three in Belfast retaining coveted Michelin stars – Deane’s EIPIC, OX and the Muddlers Club.
Around 20 also retained Bib Gourmand status as offering good value at ‘pocket-friendly prices’.
The Michelin recognition is a major boost for The Georgian House and other restaurants across Northern Ireland at what has been – and continues to be - an immensely challenging period for the hospitality sector here.
“Business has been recovering steadily following the ending of many of the coronavirus restrictions since Christmas and the New Year,” Jim continues, a native of Lisburn.
“While we’ve seen diners returning especially during those occasions and Valentine’s week, conditions are still very challenging. I am very grateful for the very many loyal supporters who regularly ordered meals from us for takeaway and delivery during the lengthy and discouraging lockdowns. The team here helped me keep the business going and to be in a position for growth in the months and years ahead.”
Jim, in common with others in the hospitality sector, invested extensively in safety measures for diners and staff including restructuring the restaurant’s layout in line with social distancing guidance and installed hand sanitising stations.
An extensive and paved courtyard behind the restaurant was transformed into an attractive outdoor venue for customers to enjoy drinks and snacks. There’s a walled garden too for growing courgettes and other specialist vegetables. In addition, Jim introduced a counter serving fresh fish and other seafood such as local lobsters for customers to takeaway.
He brought to the restaurant a wealth of experience here and five years in Guernsey, where he developed a passion for French cuisine. Top chef posts held here included stints at the old White Gables in Hillsborough, with Paul Rankin at the famed Roscoff in Belfast, and as head chef at the Ballyrobin Hotel, near Belfast International Airport.
He subsequently met French celebrity chef Jean Christophe Novelli at the Ballyrobin during the culinary wizard’s visit to Balmoral Show. Novelli enjoyed his meals at the Ballyrobin, where Jim held the head chef post for nine years, and offered him the top role in the kitchen, the chance to build his own team and to create a quality menu at the restaurant he was helping Novelli create overlooking Belfast Port.
Married to Joanne and with a 22-year old son, Jim counts top chefs in Britain such as Nathan Snodden among his friends.
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