THE recent opening of the Lansdowne Hotel in the leafy surroundings of the Antrim Road and Cave Hill has got local people talking of how it was back in the day.
It was the place to go and for one businessman, the opportunity to transform the once-so-popular venue was simply too hard to turn down.
Born and bred on the Glen Road in West Belfast, Jim McLaughlin left home at 16 years old to pursue a career in the food industry.
He worked in Cavan and Monaghan and boasts a spell as a chef at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam on his CV.
Jim returned to Ireland and went to Benedict’s Hotel in Belfast city centre, working as their Head Chef before becoming manager a few years later.
When the Lansdowne Hotel was put up for sale, Jim says it was an opportunity he could not turn down.
“The Simpsons offered me the opportunity to be partners with them in their latest project – the Lansdowne Hotel – and here we are today,” he said.
“The attractive thing for me was that when I came here 30 years ago when I was young it was for a night out and a bit of fun. Back in the day, the Lansdowne Court Hotel was the place to go in Belfast. In the past year or so, the place had become a bit tired and it was put up for sale. I see it as a great opportunity to restore it to its glory days and bring something to the people of the Antrim Road and North Belfast.”
Jim and his co-owners have put a lot of money into the refurbishment and he is very pleased the way the stunning new premises have turned out.
“It is the city centre on the Antrim Road,” he added. “Everything is top class from the drink, food, garden and bridal suite. We have invested heavily and also boast around 80 staff so it is great to bring jobs to the local community.
“When we bought it last March, we thought it was going to be a quick refurb and it would be opened for Christmas but the further we looked at it, it wasn’t going to be a quick turnaround.
“We wanted to do things right and we are very pleased with the way it has turned out.”
Jim is hoping the eye-catching new surroundings and features of the Landsdowne will bring people through the door – and he hopes to bring his expertise to the project.
“Our support from the local community to date has been second to none since we opened seven weeks ago.
“Customers have been very welcoming to me and I want to welcome them too.
“I am here every day as the face on the floor. My background is in functions and food so I hope to bring a fair bit to the table knowledge-wise.
“For anyone who hasn’t been yet, come and try us – you will not be disappointed!
“We are open to suggestions for anything that can be improved.
“The bridal suite is stunning. It is the only room that hasn’t been used yet but there are a number of weddings booked for later in the year.
“The garden has been there over 80 years.
“We have invested a bit of money in it for people to sit and relax, enjoy a bit of food and drink.
“We also put a lot of thought into the food. It is served both in the restaurant and bar. The small plates are proving a huge hit with customers.
“We think our food is top end and we are not charging top end prices.”
“It is a pleasure to be here. I am really excited about the Lansdowne,” he added.
The Lansdowne Hotel
657 Antrim Road
Belfast BT15 4EF
Tel: 028 90 772 999