Owner of A Peculiar Tea reveals plans to open a new patisserie

Belfast fine dining restaurant A Peculiar Tea has revealed plans to open a new venture next month.

Known for competing for Northern Ireland on the Great British Menu, owner and chef Gemma Austin claims she hadn’t planned to open a new venue so soon.

Chef Gemma Austin on set of the Great British Menu with presenter Andi Oliver
Chef Gemma Austin on set of the Great British Menu with presenter Andi Oliver

“I had no intention of opening anything else, a patisserie had always been the initial plan, but the restaurant just came first.

“I drive past St George’s Market to get to work every day and when that unit became available it was exactly what we wanted, the location and everything was just perfect.

“When we open, it will be two years to the day that we opened A Peculiar Tea, so it seemed fitting.”

Part of the Nightmare Before Christmas themed afternoon tea at A Peculiar Tea
Part of the Nightmare Before Christmas themed afternoon tea at A Peculiar Tea

She plans to call the new patisserie Mamó as a tribute to her nanny Betty.

“Mamó is Irish for grandmother, and we decided on the name because of my nanny Betty.

“She’s been a huge part of my life and I adore her, so I wanted to do something for her that would show that. She’s a very Irish nanny though. She’s not an emotional woman but she is thrilled.”

Mamó will offer classic patisserie found in the best specialists in Paris and other parts of France.

However, although the patisserie will be significantly smaller than A Peculiar Tea, the logistics were no less challenging.

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“The patisserie is only a serving unit, so we’ve actually had to open a prep kitchen on the Cregagh Road to prep for it because we don’t have the space in the restaurant to do it”, Gemma explains.

Although the hospitality and retail sectors are expected to be hit hard this winter with statistics from NISRA revealing output in the service sector was down by 0.8 per cent in the last quarter, Gemma says that A Peculiar Tea is no better off than any other restaurant.

“For us as a business, this is the most we’ve ever struggled at the minute, which is ironic because we’re full and I think that’s what is frightening, because there’s so many good quality restaurants and bars that just aren’t making it through because the cost is just so high.

“We’re getting a lot of people saying that we must be fine, and we must have a lot of money because we’re opening a new place, but the reality is we’re opening the patisserie because I’m taking out my own money to do it.”

Gemma’s parents lent her the money to open A Peculiar Tea in 2021 and through budgeting and managing the money effectively, Gemma and her team were able to open the restaurant for £50,000 including a full kitchen.

Chef Gemma Austin
Chef Gemma Austin

“We got everything second hand and the beauty of it is every time we make a bit of money now, we can spend it on doing something to the restaurant we always wanted to do.”

Gemma announced the new venture a week after chef Michael Deane announced his Michelin-starred venue Deane’s Eipic will shut its doors after 25 years in business as the cost of running the restaurant has become too expensive.

“I can understand why Michael Deane has closed and the reality is it would be easier for us to close, and I would say most people in the industry feel the same way.

“The rest of the UK are receiving rates relief and have done for months, we’re not getting anything.

“The south of Ireland has a VAT decrease. We have nothing because we have no functioning government to support us whatsoever, there’s nobody fighting our corner,” says Gemma.

“The only way you can make money in this industry right now is to produce low quality products with half a team and, unfortunately, when you do things like that, you’re going to get half the people coming because they’re not going to enjoy it and we will never compromise on quality or experience.

“I would sooner close before I compromise what we’re about and who we are, because that would be pointless.”

Mamó will open on December 3 and A Peculiar Tea starts serving its Christmas themed menu later this month.