Chris McGowan’s restaurant shows the merits of combining fresh, local produce with traditional aging, curing and pickling
It’s a sign of how far the Northern Irish restaurant scene has come that when Chris and Davina McGowan set up Wine & Brine in 2015 they chose the village of Moira in County Down rather than Belfast.
Interest in good food has spread well beyond the Northern Irish capital as people rediscover the amazing produce that has always been grown, reared and fished in the country. Much of it comes from the fields and waters surrounding Moira, providing the McGowans with a treasure trove of ingredients.
After 20 years working with chefs including Richard Corrigan, Pierre Koffmann and Gary Rhodes, Chris is in his element showcasing the produce in menus that brim with seasonal ingredients and traditional techniques, such as pickling, fermenting and brining (hence the name).
Cured and torched Glenarm salmon might come with pickled mooli and a Vietnamese dressing, while whey from a local cheesemaker is used to brine Mourne Mountain lamb, served with harissa and smoked aubergine. The chef’s appearances on Great British Menu are also referenced in dishes from the show, such as ox tongue and cheek pie – a steal at £10 on the lunch menu.
Housed in a Georgian property on Moira’s main street, the dining room is a light, bustling place with an open kitchen, jolly blue banquettes and local artwork on the walls. The McGowans make the most of the space with early dinner and Sunday lunch menus, plus regular masterclasses and special supperclubs.