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Soda & Starch aims to be a home from home

April 5th, 2018 | by LCN Editor
Soda & Starch aims to be a home from home
Venue Spotlight

Ciaran O’Neill and Raymond Moran have been showing LCN around Soda & Starch, their bijou little eatery in the centre of a resurgent Derry city…

Derry-Londonderry’s Craft Village is a jewel, hidden away in the centre of the city. A recreation of a classic 18th century street and town square, it provides the perfect setting for its collection of artisan craft shops, balconied apartments and atmospheric eateries.

The newest addition to the period portfolio at the Craft Village on Shipquay Street is the Soda & Starch Pantry and Grill, a laid-back 60-seater restaurant with an offering that’s been deliberately tailored to let visitors experience home-cooked traditional Irish fare at a reasonable price.

The vision has been shaped by the two men behind the project – Ciaran O’Neill, GM at the nearby boutique Bishop’s Gate Hotel in the city, and head chef, Raymond Moran.

The new 60-seater venue aims to create a traditional ‘home kitchen’ ambience that’s the perfect setting for a menu that showcases quality Irish food – everything from home-baked scones and hearty soups and sandwiches to steaks or a signature fish dish using produce pulled straight from the icy waters of the Atlantic at nearby Greencastle pier.

Decorated inside with caricatures of famous faces from Derry-Londonderry’s past, this is charming little city centre eatery is already making waves:

“We really want the restaurant to appeal to everyone and that’s what’s been happening,” Ciaran told LCN this month. “In our first three weeks of trading, people have been coming in with their kids for breakfast, we’re serving parties in their mid-20s and we’re getting a more mature clientele as well. We’re aiming for that kind of widespread appeal.”

Raymond Moran (left) with Ciaran outside the Soda & Starch Pantry & Grill.

Ciaran will be very familiar to most readers as the immediate past-president of the NI Hotels Federation, but what some may not realise is that he’s a trained chef himself and former head chef of the prestigious Slieve Russell Hotel in Co. Cavan. His business partner, Raymond Moran, was head chef at Harry’s Restaurant in Bridge End, Co. Donegal.

The memorable moniker of their new business venture is derived from the soda, which plays such a key role in Irish home-baking, and starch from the potatoes which feature prominently in the restaurant’s menus.

“Soda & Starch Pantry and Grill is all about the traditional home kitchen and the wonderful smells of classic soda and wheaten break baking,” says Ciaran. “We want to introduce local people and visitors to our city to the great traditional foods that we serve in this part of the world.”

The restaurant has been open since the start of March and Ciaran admits that he and Raymond were a little surprised by just how consistently busy the new venue has been:

“At the moment, we’re only open in the evenings from Thursday to Saturday, but there has been a lot interest,” says Ciaran. “The feedback has been really positive too, people have remarked on the casual style of dining, the quality of the food and the great atmosphere, You can have two main courses and a bottle of wine here for £30 and that’s the kind of value people are after, we’ve been really well received.”

Ciaran and Raymond are very excited about being part of the resurgence in tourism which, they say, is carrying Derry-Londonderry forward:

“We want to bring people back into the city again,” adds Ciaran. “We have good outside space here and we want to create the kind of pavement café culture that you see in other parts of the world, so I think we’re going to go from strength to strength. I think the Craft Village is one of Derry’s stand-out visitor attractions and we very much want the restaurant to become a must-visit destination for tourists over the next couple of years.”



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