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A Bright ‘Star’ Sparkles In Our Restaurant Galaxy As We Build On Our Standing As The World’s Best Food Destination

It was fantastic to hear that Muddler’s Club in Cathedral Quarter, a Taste of Ulster restaurant, has been recognised by the Michelin Guide for the creativity, quality and superb flavours of its food offering, joining OX and Deane’s EPIC among our star restaurants.

As well as being marvellous recognition for head chef Gareth McCaughey and his talented team, the third Michelin star is another significant boost for Belfast and Northern Ireland as we seek to establish a global reputation as a centre for original gastronomy for local diners and especially for visitors from Great Britain, the Republic, the US and other international markets.

The Michelin judges noted the club’s longstanding dedication to the very best home-grown ingredients…and they’ve plenty of choice here across the broadest range of fabulous foods readily available from our excellent processors and farmers committed to the highest standards of hygiene, safety, animal welfare and provenance. Muddler’s combines this focus with a refreshingly original approach to its menus.

Warm congratulations to Gareth and the team at Muddler’s on this outstanding achievement and also OX and EIPIC on their continuing Michelin successes in a fiercely competitive marketplace known for tight margins, archaic licensing rules, skills shortages and VAT rates higher than just over the border.

Our extensive promotional activities – with Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland and Invest NI – from the recognition of Northern Ireland as the ‘World’s Best Food Destination’ are benefiting enormously from the growth in Michelin star and Bib Gourmand restaurants majoring on locally sourced ingredients. I look forward to many more restaurants achieving star and Bib Gourmand status.

It was also interesting to read a recent study on what makes a Michelin star restaurant from ingredient specialists Sous Chef in Britain. The study identified the 12 most popular ingredients and cooking techniques used in restaurants which had achieved Michelin status. Restaurant chefs here aspiring to achieve a Michelin star may find this an interesting read.

The main ingredients, many of which are readily available from local suppliers here, were potato, wild mushroom, scallops, apples, lobster, onions, crab, and tomato. Chocolate was also listed and while we can’t grow it we can claim Killyleagh as the birthplace of Hans Sloan who brought chocolate to Europe. Unfortunately, we can’t grow lemons and don’t produce caviar…yet.

And the techniques most favoured by Michelin chefs are smoking, sauces, roasting, pickling, making sorbets and ice cream, producing souffles, tarts and confit, as well as poaching and toasting.
Interestingly, chocolate appeared on 80 percent of all the Michelin restaurant menus. Beetroot and mushrooms were more popular that crab and oysters. Northern Ireland, of course, is home to Andrew Rooney’s multi-award Millbay Oysters from Carlingford Lough, a stunning product which is putting Northern Irish oysters on the map.
Smoking topped the chart of Michelin techniques – it’s used as a description on 68 percent of the menus analysed, while pickling wasn’t that far behind with just over half of the restaurants offering something pickled on their menu (52%). The three star restaurants also displayed a notable classic French approach with prominent techniques including confit, puree and coulis.

The top-ranked UK ingredients were, interestingly, meat-free with seafood dominating the top spots. Pork was the most mentioned meat – appearing on 52 percent of menus – ahead of duck, chicken, beef and lamb! This follows the trend for flexitarian diets, while we still love our excellent beef, lamb and chicken it appears that diners are becoming more adventurous in their tastes here with fish appearing more frequently on menu.

With so much concern over the outcome of Brexit these Michelin stars come at just the right time and burn brightly for the future of Northern Ireland as an outstanding food and drink region.