Head Chef - Rick Orr
WHEN DID YOUR RESTAURANT OPEN?
I joined the Horatio Group eight years ago. I wanted to join a reputable company with big ideas. Within a year, I had been given the position of head chef at The Northern Whig and the recent refurbishment has provided a great opportunity to try great new things in the restaurant here.
TELL US ABOUT THE SPACE YOU HAVE
The Northern Whig has undergone some major changes in the past few years, with a £300,000 refurbishment being completed in April 2016. The new space focuses on creating separate areas within the bar, where people can enjoy various dining experiences.
WHAT FEEL ARE YOU AIMING FOR?
With the new dining space and menu, we are aiming for a contemporary feel. The Northern Whig now offers a variety of dining experiences from a casual brunch at the coffee bar, bar buckets and small plates at the bar to traditional pub grub and intercontinental cuisine in the main dining area. We are aiming to offer something for everyone.
WHAT’S ON YOUR MENU?
The menu is inspired by the fresh local produce that is available to us; we’re inspired by what we can get from independent producers and how we can transform that into a variety of dishes to appeal to every type of customer. It’s important for me that the menu reflects the best of local seasonal produce that’s available to us in Northern Ireland
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO TO IMPROVE AND DRIVE YOUR MENU?
To ensure our menu is catering for our customers, there are a number of things that we do to try and maintain a fresh and interesting menu. We listen to customer feedback and take it on board when planning our menus, I ensure that everyone in the kitchen, regardless of the level they work at, tastes the dishes we are preparing when planning a menu and we try to identify niches in the market to help us stand out and offer something different.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
The Northern Whig gets a large variety of customers. Due to the location of the Whig, our customers range from the work crowd in for lunch during the week to people popping in for a catch up and a quick bite in the evening; business people conducting meetings over coffee and a snack and shoppers and families on the weekend. We are also noticing an increase in the volume of tourists coming into the restaurant, the recent refurbishment is definitely bringing in more of a crowd.
HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR RESTAURANT STAND OUT FROM COMPETITORS?
One of the key things for me is trying to identify gaps in the market or niche areas that haven’t been catered for yet. The focus on locally produced food that is traceable back to the field or farm is also a way that we try to stand out, it’s important to me that I know exactly where all of the ingredients are coming from to ensure quality for our dishes.