The Deerstalker Bar and Bistro Kellys Portrush
Name: The Deerstalker Bar and Bistro
Location: Kellys Complex, Dunluce Road, Portrush
Theme: Pub grub
Price: £5 – £25
It’s been a long time since I’ve ventured out on a week night, but when I got invited to attend the relaunch of The Deerstalker Bar and Bistro at Kellys Portrush, I couldn’t pass the opportunity up.
It took us a little over an hour busing it from Belfast to Portrush. Upon disembarking, we were greeted by one of the staff and led into the main foyer, where there are a myriad of local actors and sports personalities adorning the walls. From here, we were handed over to our guide for the evening, Owen. Our first stop was the Study Bar, where we were given a brief outline of the history of the complex.
It’s hard to believe that the family started by holding barn dances in their own cow sheds, but they were enterprising enough to see how lucrative the hospitality industry could be; the popularity of their dances was such, that they drew people from all over the North Coast. It wasn’t long before the family opened the first of their well-known bars, the White Pheasant Lounge. And then in 1972 the original Deerstalker bar and Nosebag Restaurant (great name!) were opened. Throughout the decades, Kellys itself has played host to big names like Thin Lizzy and more recently with their Lush! club nights, the likes of FatBoySlim. The fact that the original cow shed framework is still a part of Kellys is both amazing and endearing.
As we were allowed some time to explore around the Study bar, you could really get a feel for the atmosphere. It has a clean modernity but with all the right nods to a bygone era, somewhere you could easily visualise Sherlock Holmes in conversation with Watson. But it wasn’t until we were led round to the main bar area that you could really appreciate how much work local designer Drew Henry (who was also behind the refurbishment of Curran’s Bar
in Ardglass) has put into the project.
There is a beautiful fireplace with a lit fire blazing; you can imagine this being an even more lovely sight on a chilly winter evening. There are strategically placed TVs to capture all the sporting action, without cluttering or taking away from the look of the bar. It’s also hard to miss the wooden carving of a bear rearing up on its hind legs, which attracted a lot of attention from the guests. Given that it’s called the Deerstalker, I was almost expecting to see some taxidermy and was pleasantly surprised to see these wooden carvings instead! To me personally, taxidermy looks somewhat dated…and a little too Bates Motel!
We got to sample some food from the bar: mini burgers and chips, washed down with glasses of white wine and beer. The beef was succulent and of good pub grub quality. The waiting staff were friendly, as were the bar staff who took our orders promptly and efficiently. Having a glance at the menu, the prices are reasonable and there’s a good variety of food on offer, although I do feel like they could extend their vegetarian menu.
After we were fed and watered, the rest of the tour commenced. First to the Stables, which has to be the best smoking area I’ve ever seen! You are aware of being outdoors, but still feel nicely sheltered and the bar is only a little sliding hatch away. Heaters keep each of the good sized alcoves warm, cosy and add to the relaxing atmosphere – every smokers dream! I could happily sit out here of an evening, though I don’t smoke. All credit to local designer Drew Henry for creating a truly unique smoking area.
It was time for a tour around Kellys famous nightclub Lush!
It was so strange seeing the nightclub empty (and sober!) but I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around this iconic location and the quirky ice cream van is a real winning idea in my eyes. We finished off the tour at the Boat bar, it was also closed to the public but thankfully this gave us time to enjoy the nautical theme, and I must say the views out the porthole style windows are lovely in the evening.
Have you been to Kellys before?
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