The coming week promises to get a little crazy in our home town of Newcastle as the eyes of the golfing world descend on Co Down as the Irish Open arrives to Royal County Down. With tens of thousands expected to flock to the town over the next seven days, we decided to put together a little guide to dining out in Newcastle for those of you visiting the area for the first time.
Plenty of food for thought in Newcastle
We’re pretty lucky here in Newcastle when it comes to food hangouts. Fine dining, pub grub, chippies and pizza shops line the street with the tastes of the world well catered for. Here are just a few of our favourite places for eating out in Newcastle, although during Open Week we’d highly recommend booking a table well in advance.
Brunel’s is the latest fine dining experience to hit Newcastle and is run by talented local chef Paul Cunningham. Paul heads up a small team in a cosy restaurant located above the popular Anchor Bar in Newcastle. Booking is recommended and with a lunch menu and new early bird, dinner and cocktail menu, you can expect Brunel’s to attract a crowd over the coming week. It’s up there with one of the finest restaurants we’ve dined in recently and while service isn’t the quickest, it’s certainly worth the wait and the staff are incredibly friendly. With craft beer on tap and a real rustic feel to the room, this is one dining experience you simply must try out in Newcastle.
Highly recommended: If the duck main is on the menu be sure to try it out. Read all about our last visit to Brunel’s here.
Next on our list is another of Newcastle’s fine dining restaurants, Vanilla. Located along the main street, Vanilla is owned and run by popular local chef Darren Ireland. Like Brunnel’s, Vanilla offers a variety of menus including lunch, early bird and dinner, and also serves some amazing cocktails which we can attest to first-hand. A small, narrow restaurant with limited seating we strongly recommend booking although your best bet will be during the day. We’ve dined in Vanilla on a number of occasions and each time the food (and service) delivers on many levels.
Highly recommended: Be sure to try the roast pork belly and the steaks are amazing. Read about our lunch at Vanilla here.
Another popular restaurant in the town is Villa Vinci which is located at the top end of the main street about a 2 minute walk from the Slieve Donard Hotel. With a real Italian feel to the menu, pizza, pasta and seafood are popular for those calling in. If the weather holds out this week, you may even be able to dine outdoors as some tables are placed outside during the summer months. Once again, booking would be recommended during Open Week and if you want a dining experience with great entertainment, head to Villa Vinci on Friday evening where the talented Finbar Keaveney performs a range of classical Italian numbers.
Highly recommended: Villa Vinci has a reputation in the town for great pizza. Be sure to try this on your stay.
Located a short walk out of the town centre towards the harbour area of the town is popular deli Olive Bizarre. Owned and run by husband and wife team John and Ciara, this is a great venue for a spot of lunch as you take a break from the course or the busy town centre. Enjoy a light lunch and follow it up with a short walk to the promenade area. The deli has a popular bistro night every month and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a bistro night this coming week. Be sure to get your name down early though as the spaces fill up quick.
Highly recommended: The daily specials change on a regular basis but the pulled pork slider is tasty and the chicken liver pate is nice and light. Read our bistro evening review here.
Located in the grounds of the Slieve Donard Hotel, the Percy French will likely be one of the busiest areas in Newcastle over the next seven days although there have been some whispers that it will be closed to the public (we think these are only rumours). It has a menu that mirrors the neighbouring Slieve Donard Hotel and prides itself on locally sourced food. A great setting with views of the beach, you can dine indoors or outdoors.
Highly recommended: The steaks at Percy French are fantastic and if you’re a fan of curry be sure to try out their Murg Malai Curry.
Percy French holds a special place in our hearts as it was the venue of our first date and four years later the Slieve Donard itself played host to our fairytale Christmas wedding. Read our review on Percy French here.
Just a short drive outside Newcastle is the popular Burrendale Hotel which enjoys wonderful views of the Mourne Mountains. The Burrendale offers many different menus and has a number of rooms in which guests can enjoy a meal. From afternoon tea to a three course meal, there’s plenty of choice when dining in the Burrendale.
Highly recommended: The Burrendale steaks are among the best around. Read about our afternoon tea experience here.
The best of the rest
O’Hares / Hugh McCann’s – located at the end of Newcastle’s main street, O’Hares / Hugh McCann’s is a popular family run bar and restaurant. You’ll get tasty pub grub here with a great view of the sea all without breaking the bank.
Anchor Bar – the Anchor is one of Newcastle’s most popular bars and stocks a great range of craft beers. The bar has recently launched a new menu and if it’s a quick bite you’re after during the golf, be sure to pay the guys at the Anchor a visit.
The Harbour Inn – our local bar, The Harbour Inn is located just down from the town’s harbour and along the main road from Newcastle to Kilkeel. Seafood has a big influence on the menu here with the lobster and cod dishes both work trying.
Quinns – it’s been a while since we’ve dined in Quinns but the bar is Newcastle’s busiest and will likely see many visitors over the next week. Pub grub is the order of the day at Quinns which is only a short walk from Royal County Down along Newcastle’s main street.
Hunters – a licensed restaurant, Hunters is located just across the road from the Slieve Donard Hotel and offers a tasty and affordable menu for visitors of all ages. The Hunters Burger is well worth trying out.
John Macs – for that real seaside experience get yourself along to John Macs fish and chip shop on the main street. Our favourite is haddock and chip and has the nicest chips around (in our opinion). If it’s a we snack you’re after, sit along the promenade enjoying chips with salt and vinegar and watch the golfing world go by. If you don’t have a ticket for the main day you can even watch the main event on big screen in the neighbouring Newcastle Centre.
Castlewellan and Dundrum
The neighbouring towns of Castlewellan and Dundrum also have many popular eateries and will give visitors an even greater choice over the next week. Here’s just a few of our favourites.
Located a short drive from the Burrendale Hotel, Maghera Inn has earned a great reputation for food in recent years, and it’s a well-deserved one. It’s our favourite hangout when it comes to pub grub although the food on offer at Maghera Inn would be closer to gastro-pub than standard country pub. Nevertheless, it’s stunning setting and relaxed atmosphere continues to make it popular for visitors and locals alike. It’s also a bar that has been frequented by Rory McIlroy during past visits to Royal County Down, so who knows who you’ll bump into if you visited the Maghera Inn for some lunch or an evening meal.
Highly recommended – steaks are a bit of a theme here but the steaks in Maghera Inn are up there with the very best. Their sizzling chilli chicken is also tasty. Read all about our review of Maghera Inn here.
A family run bar that is approaching 100 years in business, Maginn’s is a bar that Nial worked in for almost 10 years. Much like Maghera Inn, Maginns has earned a reputation in recent years for quality pub grub. It would be considered by many as the most popular bar in Castlewellan (and maybe even the surrounding area) and certainly has many characters. Expect the weekend to be busy as Maginns often gathers a crowd from Friday through to Sunday.
Highly recommended – the salt n chilli chicken for starter and something from the specials board.
Mourne Seafood Bar
With popular restaurants in Belfast and Dublin, the Mourne Seafood Bar in Dundrum is where it all began. As the name suggests, seafood is the order of the day and fresh seafood at that. Don’t be surprised to find something on the menu that has been freshly caught in Dundrum Bay that same day and with local craft beers and cider also on the menu, the Mourne Seafood Bar delivers on so many levels.
Highly recommended – be sure to try out the popular lobster dish. Read about our trip to Mourne Seafood Dundrum here.
Another popular restaurant in Dundrum is the Bucks Head. With a small bar area that you can relax in, the Bucks Head offers a range of popular traditional lunches in dinners and much like the Mourne Seafood Bar, expect to see plenty of seafood on the menu. Currently listed on the Michelin Guide for Down, the Bucks Head is a great setting if you want to get out of the busy Newcastle area during this busy golfing week.
Highly recommended – try out the trio of pork or ribeye of beef.
So there you have it. Just a snippet of some of the great local eateries to enjoy when visiting Newcastle over the coming week for the 2015 Irish Open. If you’re visiting The Open and try out any of these haunts we’d love to hear what you think. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to let us know your thoughts and also to follow us as we highlight much of what’s happening around Newcastle this week.
Main image via Discover NI