A familiar face thanks to his appearances on the Great British Menu, chef Chris Bell reminds us that despite the fame, he hasn’t lost his love for local ingredients….
For those of you who haven’t enjoyed the pleasure of the River Room Restaurant at Galgorm Resort and Spa, let me set the scene. Just half an hour from Belfast, amidst 163 acres of lush parkland, Galgorm Resort and Spa is the epitome of opulence and its premium dining spot, The River Room Restaurant is the icing on the cake, offering guests a delectable and discrete dining experience.
Heading up the kitchen is chef Chris Bell. Best known for his recent appearances on the Great British Menu, Chris began his career in the kitchen of Galgorm at the tender age of 16, before gaining experience in some of the UK’s most respected kitchens, including Northern Ireland’s own Deanes and Roscoffs and Paul Heathcote’s Michelin Star restaurant, Longridge.
Chris is now elated to be in charge of Galgorm’s beautifully elegant River Rooms as he explains: “I’ve got complete control over the whole River Room, front and back of house and the day to day running of the restaurant. I am very lucky that the senior management and the powers above have given me quite a free reign; it’s good that they have a bit of confidence in me.
“I think that they share the ambition I do, in the fact that they want this restaurant to win accolades and be talked about. A Michelin Star is not our priority but I do think that if we do our jobs to the best of our ability then things like that fall into place.”
It’s apparent, after a quick glimpse of Chris’s menu, with starters such as Ravioli of confit duck leg, wood pigeon, pea puree, gem lettuce and morel cream and main courses like turbot, buttered samphire, new potatoes, clams, tarragon and champagne veloute, that Chris has a passion for local ingredients. Especially with his Taste of Antrim Menu, where he has based dishes around the prominent ingredients based in County Antrim, such as Glenarm Salmon, Toomebridge Ale, and County Antrim beef and lamb.
“I wouldn’t say that I have a signature dish, I have just very much stuck to my roots. I like modern Irish cookery and using county Antrim ingredients, I have never really strayed too far away from that.
Talking about his recent TV appearances Chris says; “Events like the Great British Menu, that’s what dreams are about. I will always remember it. It was brilliant from start to finish. When I was asked to appear I was flabbergasted! I was so nervous but once I got started I forgot the camera were there, but it was a really intense kind of stress to be under.”
Pipped at the post by fellow NI chef Chris Fearon of Deanes at Queens Chris reflects on his experience: “I realised half way through the week that I wasn’t going to win but I got through to the judges so I was made up by that. It has also boosted my profile as a chef, it had six million viewers a night. I think even if you’re not a winner on Great British Menu, you still win really. You’ve done it, you’ve competed at that level, that’s what I am proud of.”