Last week I had the pleasure of joining a bus load of rowdy Northern Irish lifestyle and food bloggers, as well as local media to acquaint ourselves with the delights of Derry. Our mission to meet with local food suppliers and to dine in the award wining Browns Restaurant group. Being brought up in Strabane (a town also in the Northwest and close to the Maiden City about 15 miles away) Derry always reminds me of childhood treats, days out and lots of retail therapy.
But this time when I returned to Derry I saw it as a more sophisticated, grown up place with a friendly welcome and some of the best local dishes/ingredients on this island. After all Derry-Londonderry had just been crowned as the “Destination Delicious” in the recent NI Food and Drink Awards.
Browns in Town was our first stop on this culinary journey hosting local suppliers including Donegal Prime Fish, Kees Fruit and Veg, Northbound Beer ,Donnybrewer Butter amongst many more.This was a perfect launching pad on the Strand Road to dive into the foodie culture which has grown in the city.
Once our taste buds had been teased with a few different sensations we moved on to our next stop the gorgeous surroundings of Browns Restaurant and Champagne Bar in the Waterside area of the city. Here we met the talented Ian Orr and the charming Marcus Roulston both co-owners of the Browns group.
Both men spoke highly of their relationship with each other, their very well trained friendly staff and the bond they have with their suppliers. Before Ian gave a masterclass on how to prepare some of the dishes on the three course menu which was set in front of us.
In case you have been under a rock for a while Ian Orr is somewhat of a celebrity chef in Northern Ireland. He is Chef Patron of the Browns Restaurant Group.Ian regularly hosts cooking demonstrations at the restaurant and for Food NI at various events throughout Northern Ireland. His menu focuses on local and seasonal produce and changes with the seasons. The inspiration for his menus comes from researching new ingredients and new techniques to give his diners an unforgettable experience.
In 2016 he was chosen by Tourism Northern Ireland to promote the Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland and also traveled to New York to showcase Northern Ireland to the USA. He was part of a collective of four Northern Ireland chefs chosen to create a new signature dish for Northern Ireland which was subjected to a public vote. Ian performed the unveiling of the chosen dish at a public event in Belfast’s St George’s Market.
I have been lucky enough that this was the second time I have been fed by this talented chef and knew we were in for a treat.I was not disappointed Ian served a menu which was delicious and moreish every course being more satisfying than the next. We munched through hot homemade breads with Donnybrewer Butter, devoured the Errigal Bay Scallop with Loughview Farm Egg and Pomegranate. I felt like I inhaled the Donegal Prime crab with cucumber and apple jelly.
But the best was yet to come I have to say I was salivating when I read it on the menu having tasted it before at a year of Food and Drink banquet but the award winning Born and Braised main course was something to behold. Finishing the dining experience with an aesthetically pleasing Rhubarb parfait which was both satisfying to the eye as it was to my sweet tooth. I rejoiced to have a break from this fantastic feeding frenzy before I returned to our bus for the next leg of our journey.
We ended our gastronomical adventure in the beautiful Ardtara house just outside Maghera. The night had fallen and we were treated to a night cap of The Quiet Man whiskey the perfect smooth tipple that warms your soul (as well as some well made tea/coffee). It was a perfect ending to an amazing foodie journey.
Emer D xx
Want to know more about Browns and ongoing foodie events in Derry/Londonderry check this out:
Derry City & Strabane District Council Key Events
- LegenDerry Food Festival – Ian Orr will be hosting a cooking demonstration on St Patrick’s Day at 3.30pm
- Slow Food Festival
- Flavours of the Foyle
Some quick facts on the Browns group of restaurants:
- Established 2009 – a unique offering for Derry~Londonderry as the first fine food restaurant to open its doors in the city – a real catalyst to the foodie revolution
- Committed to local economy and employment – developing next generation of award winning chefs and front of house staff
- Committed to local produce and supporting local suppliers
- Only restaurants in Derry~Londonderry and Letterkenny listed in Michelin Guide 2017
- Winner of Best Restaurant in Ulster in 2016 and during Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013
- Winner of Best Resturant in Derry seven years in a row
- Named in Sunday Times Ireland Top 100 Irish Restaurants 2017
- Named one of the top 101 Great Irish Restaurants in Business Post 2017
- Awarded for Best Customer Service in Derry
- Ardtara Country House Hotel named as AA Best Guest Accommodation for 2016/17