Danni Barry, one of Ireland’s best chefs, recently joined the team at Balloo House, so we had a chat with her to find out what she has planned for 2019.

Danni is a real star in the Irish food industry, beginning her career as a chef in 2003 at then Michelin-starred Deanes restaurant on Howard Street in Belfast, before travelling for a few years. She then worked at famed l’Enclume in Cumbria, before heading up the kitchen at Rogan & Co in Cartmel. Finally, when Michael Deane called her about taking the head chef position at his new restaurant Deanes EIPIC, Danni knew it was time to come home. Helming the team from March 2014, Danni was head chef when EIPIC won a Michelin star for 2016.

“EIPIC had 30 covers and was only open for dinner, so it was very controlled, consistent and we had the other more commercial Deanes’ restaurants to support us. I was very fortunate to be there and to have that creative space. You can really focus on the detail when you have the time.

When Michael approached me to open EIPIC, he made it clear they wanted the star back, so we worked towards it. I was still quite young when we got the star and it was the dream. I was there for three years with the star and it was a huge professional and personal achievement, but there are other things that I’d like to achieve in my career now, I want to learn about business and be more flexible with ingredients and time.”

Award-winning gastro-pub group, Balloo Inns, welcomes renowned chef Danni Barry as Executive Head Chef at Balloo House, Killinchy, County Down. Danni is pictured (L) with the Balloo House team including Managing Directors and Founders, Jennie & Ronan Sweeney (Centre).

Award-winning gastro-pub group, Balloo Inns, welcomes renowned chef Danni Barry as Executive Head Chef at Balloo House, Killinchy, County Down. Danni is pictured (L) with the Balloo House team including Managing Directors and Founders, Jennie & Ronan Sweeney (Centre).

Read more: Danni Barry joins Balloo House as head chef

New beginnings

In 2017, Danni handed the reins to EIPIC over to Alex Greene, formerly of Petrus and the Cliff House, and moved on to help open Cleneghan’s, before stepping into her new role at Balloo House. Danni’s new menus, which will heavily focus on local produce and seafood, will run alongside Balloo House’s classic pub dining, offering diners a chance to sample her elegant, upscale options. Danni has taken on the role of Executive Head Chef with creative responsibility in the kitchen at Balloo House, while Danny Millar’s Executive Chef role in the group will continue as he works on other projects for the Balloo Inns Group. Speaking about the new challenge, Danni told us that she was excited to cook at a gastropub that’s a ‘regular’ for people.

“I’ve been here a couple of months and now I feel really settled in. There are lots of changes happening at the minute with the refurbishment taking place upstairs. Our focus is on local produce, like the fish we get from Strangford that we then use in classic pub dishes like fish pie, but we put our own little twist on them too. Gráinne and Johann, the two chefs that work with me, have been here for a while and they’re so good at what they do. We’re making some changes as we go, but only small ones.

We have 180 seats in Balloo House and we know that people are coming here for a good time. The food might not bring them here, but we want it to bring them back. I’m not aiming for a Michelin recommendation, I’d be delighted if it came but I just want to cook good food for a full room of people and see them enjoy it.”

Food from Balloo House. Image from @balloo_house Instagram.

Food from Balloo House. Image from @balloo_house Instagram.

Read more: Interview With Chef Matty Matheson On Life, Food & His Book 'A Cookbook'

Plans for 2019

With so much already on her plate, it seems that Danni has a jam-packed schedule for the rest of the year. Balloo House is undergoing an extensive refurbishment that looks set to cost the company around £150,000 which will see the upstairs area focused on a brand new wood-fire grill.

“The wood-fire grill, which we’re hoping to have ready by May, is going to be the main focus of our upstairs dining room. We’ll seat 45 people for lunch and dinner Thursday through Saturday, as well as Sunday lunch. The menu will be a bit smaller than downstairs so that we can change it weekly to focus on a different producer or ingredient. We’ll definitely be working with Finnebrogue Artisan to use their wagyu beef, so we want to focus on premium products like that. Our hope is that we’ll have lots of new options for people to try, so it will be a busy few months.”

It looks like Danni is set to bring a whole new aesthetic to Balloo House, so we can’t wait to see what she has planned. For more info about Balloo House, click here.