30 new jobs on way for north coast eaterie

The former Sweeney's Wine Bar in Portballintrae.
The former Sweeney's Wine Bar in Portballintrae.

The north coast’s reputation as a mecca for outstanding restaurants has been boosted by the news of another landmark opening.

According to reports, one of Belfast’s most successful restaurant groups is set to bring its popular modern Italian flair to Portballintrae with a new eatery and the possible creation of around 30 jobs.

The team behind Coppi and Il Pirata in Belfast areto take over the former Sweeney’s wine bar in the seaside village.

The new venture is now in the process of hiring some 30 new staff, and is hoping to open its doors to the public in May.

Speaking about the development last week, Tony O’Neill of Thornyhill Restaurant Group confirmed that he’s hoping to “maintain the look and feel of an old pub” there alongside some modern Italian cooking.

“It’s early days for the development; we are keeping the feel of an old pub but have a taster of Italian influence and will be including some of the popular dishes we serve at Coppi and Il Pirata,” he said.

“At the moment we are at the early planning stages and still have to put in a good bit of investment.

“We want to focus on fish specials,” said Mr O’Neill. “There is a lot being brought in every day from the local area.”

Mr O’Neill - who owns the Thornyhill group with two business partners, said he chose the location based on its tourist draw and because “it’s a beautiful part of the world”.

“I just really love it up on the coast. In Belfast there are already a lot of places to eat - what we do would really suit Portballintrae,” he said.

Mr O’Neill said that he hopes the new business will add to the already impressive number of restaurants operating on the north coast.

The Causeway Coastal Route is now becoming as famous for its eating places as it is for its fantastic scenery.

George McAlpin’s stable of restaurants at the Ramore in Portrush has blazed a trail for many years, attracting diners not just from the north coast but right across NorthernIreland. Food writer John McKenna says: “Back a few years ago, Northern Ireland’s north coast would not have been a food destination, but that has well and truly changed.”

The north coast has now been dubbed “Kinsale of the North” for its top eateries.