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Engineering a bright future for Brunel’s

November 1st, 2017 | by LCN Editor
Engineering a bright future for Brunel’s
Venue Spotlight

Newcastle chef, Paul Cunningham, puts his best foot forward as his restaurant project, Brunel’s, relocates to bespoke new premises in the centre of town…

Popular Newcastle restaurant, Brunel’s, opened the doors in mid-October on plush new premises at Downs Road in the town, almost doubling the venue’s seating capacity overnight and providing a fresh canvas for the culinary skills of its head chef and owner, Paul Cunningham.

Speaking to LCN some time ago, Paul indicated that the move had become a necessity in order to accommodate growth in the business, and speaking just prior to the opening earlier this month, newly-appointed general manager, Fiona Davey confirmed that the new premises would make a big difference to daily operations at Brunel’s:

“Size was one of the main reasons that we decided to move,” added Fiona, who took up the reins at Brunel’s in July. “We were very limited in our previous location and hampered badly by the fact that our kitchen was downstairs while the restaurant was upstairs. Our new place is on a single storey and much more organised and it includes excellent disabled access, so that’s going to be a lot easier for everyone to work with.”

Located three minutes from the prestigious Slieve Donard resort and spa, the new Brunel’s outlet can cope with 70 covers at capacity in a 1700 sq ft space.

The restaurant derives its name from the renowned 19th century British civil and mechanical engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who built the SS Great Britain which ran aground in Dundrum Bay in 1846.

The new venue opened on October 19, 11 days after the old premises at Bryansford Road had closed its doors. The move was described by Fiona as representing “a significant investment” which included £100,000 to kit out the kitchen and an expansion in staff numbers from eight to 25.

Brunel’s has also introduced a new brunch menu to its offering since the move.

Pictured is owner and head chef, Paul Cunningham with general manager, Fiona Davey.

“The new restaurant is very plush,” says Fiona, who has been project managing the development of the new venue.“It’s very sexy and we don’t believe that there is anywhere quite like it in Northern Ireland. It’s very ambitious, it has three distinct areas and includes a two-storey graffiti artist rendering of Brunel himself.

“We have 10 different styles of lighting throughout the restaurant, which is great for creating a shifting ambience around the inside. We also have an open path into the kitchen, so it’s very much about theatre as well. A copper-tinted wall at the front of the kitchen reflects the beam from an eye-catching roof light there and that’s a real show-stopper.”

Fiona describes feedback since the restaurant opened as “amazing” – people are describing the lighting, the ambience and the service at Brunel’s as “top notch”, she says, and she and Paul are happy with that:

“Going forward, I would like to see Paul gain a Michelin star during his first year in the new restaurant,” adds Fiona. “I think that is something that Paul is very capable of…he’s an exceptional fine dining chef and I don’t think there is anyone quite like him in Northern Ireland at the moment.”

Fiona says that key priority for Brunel’s in to ensure that consistent levels of service, particularly with the new brunch menu:

“The key objective now is to be successful every day that we are open,” she adds. “We won’t be open for fine dining on Monday or Tuesday nights, but we will be very focused on that between Wednesday and Saturday. “And we’re also offering prices that people will find very attractive by NI standards. It’s fair to say that in our old place, Brunel’s might have been considered a little expensive, but the menu in our new place comes in at prices well below quite a few of the other restaurants in the Newcastle area, so we want to dispel any myths.”

Fiona also believes that Brunel’s is now the best place in Newcastle to come for a traditional three-course dinner on a Sunday. That is something that has always been hard to find in Newcastle, she adds.

Describing Paul as “very forward-thinking”, Fiona said that she thought it was unlikely that he would be content with a single restaurant. For the moment, however, she says that their full attention is on getting Brunel’s established in its new location.

“Going forward, I just want Paul to be recognised as widely as possible for what he’s capable of doing,” she added.



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