A Peculiar Tea becomes latest fine dining restaurant to succumb to cost crisis in hospitality

TV chef says south Belfast restaurant is fully booked for months in advance “but it means nothing in this current climate”

A Peculiar Tea, University Road, Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell
A Peculiar Tea on Belfast's University Road will close on July 7. Picture by Hugh Russell

Belfast restaurant A Peculiar Tea has announced its University Road venue will close on July 7, stating that its style of fine dining has become “unfeasible” in the current economic climate.

Former Great British Menu chef Gemma Austin, who opened the south Belfast eatery in December 2021, said the business will revert to a pop-up model.

It’s the latest fine dining restaurant in Belfast to succumb to the high cost environment impacting hospitality.

Michael Deane’s Michelin-starred Deanes EIPIC has already closed, while Michelin-listed Blank in south Belfast will close this weekend.

Both said they plan to revert to lower cost business models.

Chef Gemma Austin
Chef Gemma Austin.

In a statement, Gemma Austin said she had looked for alternative premises ahead of the end of the lease at her south Belfast premises.

“The reality is that the rent being charged by landlords (along with the staggering rates bill) and a mountain of other extortionate costs, means that our style of dining is unfeasible,” she said.

“There has been a lot of tears, sleepless nights and doubt about whether this is the right decision.

“We have one of the best restaurants in the city and are fully booked months in advance but it means nothing in this current climate.

“We calculated that we would need to serve a tasting menu at £170 per person to make a profit. We would never do this.”

The chef said A Peculiar Tea could reopen in the future “when the time is right”.

She has however announced plans to open a new restaurant outside Belfast on July 17. The location and nature of the new venture has not yet been revealed.

Gemma Austin’s statement was published on A Peculiar Tea’s social media channels on Wednesday, along with a 20 minute video where she discussed the current issues in her industry with Hospitality Ulster’s Colin Neil and Jonny Taylor of Shed Bistro, who will close Blank restaurant this week.