Farewell to “Backwards Belfast”

made in belfast

According to Belfast Telegraph, local restaurateur Emma Bricknell is, apparently, leaving us for good. It’s not her, it’s us. We are ‘a laughing stock‘. We are ‘backwards’. She has found somewhere else, somewhere sunnier. Apparently the break up is long overdue.

Bricknell is the owner of three city centre restaurants, two branches of Made in Belfast and Le Coop on Hill Street. I have been to Made in Belfast exactly twice. Personally I was not a fan. Neither was Joris Minne or Jay Rayner. They weren’t exactly on the fast track for Michelin star status, put it that way.

But now Bricknell is off to Ibiza, with a slew of acerbic words about Belfast in her wake. Our social attitudes are going backwards. The red tape and bureaucracy makes it ‘impossible’ to do business here. We are also isolated from the rest of the world:

“The US flight has stopped – you can’t fly to Sweden, Berlin or Italy. How does anyone get anywhere?”

This is not the world’s biggest island. Direct flights to the US, Sweden, Berlin AND Italy all operate out of Dublin, a relatively short trip from Belfast via a direct twenty-four hour bus link from Dublin Airport. We have direct flights to Iceland, Switzerland, Spain, France and a whole load of other places. I have never awoken deep at night with a burning need to get to Sweden that has been thwarted by no flight being available from Aldergrove, but that is maybe just me. I’m also pretty sure Jet2.com, for example, offers direct seasonal routes from Belfast to Rome, Verona, and Pisa. There is, however, conveniently, a direct flight to Ibiza, where Bricknell is planning to make her new home.

Bricknell, originally from Kent, ‘The Garden of England’, opened her first restaurant in Belfast in 2005, having moved here, apparently, after picking names of places to live out of a hat. Nine years in the local restaurant trade shows that she has at least given it a fair crack.

She doesn’t hate us all, though, just “the “scumbag minority” in Stormont”. Phew.

What do you think? Do you work in the hospitality trade locally (I’m looking at you Belfast Barman!)? Or do you run a different kind of business in NI? Are you one of the scumbag minority up in Stormont, dedicated to making lives for the local business community unutterably miserable? Are the points Emma Bricknell making entirely justified or is she chucking her toys out of the pram? The floor, as ever, is yours….