A leading restauranteur has been praised by a top Irish critic for helping to turn Portrush into a mecca for foodies.
Food writer John McKenna, who along with his wife writes the influential ‘John and Sally McKenna Guides’ on the best places to eat in Ireland, said that the Ramore group of restaurants have led the way for other eateries in the resort and on the north coast.
A host of other restaurants have now followed in its wake, including 55 North, Jackman & Pye and Tides - all in Portrush.
Chef George McAlpin’s stable of pubs and restaurants include the Ramore Wine Bar, The Harbour, Coast, The Mermaid and the recently opened Neptune and Prawn - all situated in the harbour area.
Hungry customers sometimes face queues or long waiting times to get a table at the restaurants but are happy to do so because the food and atmosphere is so good.
Now food critic John McKenna suggested that Portrush has become a northern version of Kinsale, Co Cork where there are a number of excellent restaurants, cafes and eateries.
“Back a few years ago, Northern Ireland’s north coast would not have been a food destination, but that has well and truly changed,” said McKenna.
“The faded glamour of the seaside resort has been replaced with a vibrant eating scene. Food seems to be key to rejuvenation. People want to look out at the sea and enjoy a fantastic meal.
“The quality of the food is key, because businesses have to make enough in the busy seaside season and go flat out to tide them over during the winter months.
“Those who make a success of it do so on the quality of their food. Mediocre food and a mediocre experience will not keep you going through the off-season.
“So I say fair play to George and the Ramore. He opened at a time when people were less food-obsessed than they are now.
“He offers a mix of experience through the different restaurants and bars, he didn’t compromise, he stuck to his own way of doing things, he doesn’t talk to the press and he doesn’t advertise – and he doesn’t have to.
“His customers do the advertising because the experience he offers them is so good.
“He has almost singlehandedly “done a Kinsale” for the north coast and he must be congratulated for that.”