Since opening in November 2009, Vanilla continues to provide a relaxed dining experience where exceptional food is served by an attentive and dedicated service team.  You can read about our journey below ...


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Vanilla is the brainchild of local chef and businessman, Darren Ireland. Having watched his father John and grandfather Tommy carve out successful careers as chefs, Darren was driven from an early age to follow in their footsteps.


Darren began his professional career in the Burrendale Hotel, Newcastle, where he worked from 1994 - 2000.  Having joined as a Commis Chef, Darren quickly progressed through the ranks before becoming the Head Chef at the tender age of 22.  It was the experience gained during his time in the Burrendale, working alongside Alan Foster (Tedfords & Tedfords Kitchen, Belfast) and Denis Orr, that laid the foundation for what Darren has achieved to date.


In 2000 Darren got the 'travel bug', so packed his bags and headed for Australia where he further enhanced his culinary skills at some of Sydneys most respected restaurants; Neil Perry's Rockpool Restaurant, Orange Peel Cafe, and Lowenbrau Keller.  His time in Australia introduced him to a wide range of cooking methods, with a particular focus on Fusion Cooking and German Cuisine.  Having access to the amazing range of ingredients that Australia had on offer allowed Darren to develop his own skill set even further and to create exciting dishes that he continues to use in Vanilla today.


Upon returning from Australia Darren quickly realised that he wanted to be his own boss.  He took on the franchise for dining at the Mourne Golf Club, Newcastle (part of the world famous Royal County Down) and received rave reviews about the exceptional meals being served.  This inspired Darren to open his own restaurant.


In 2003 'ZEST' opened it's doors to the Newcastle public. Located on the busy Main Street, ZEST quickly became very popular, and gained a regular customer base.  ZEST ran successfully for 4 years before closing it's doors in March 2007.


After taking a few years out of the restaurant business, Darren opened Vanilla in 2009 where he quickly built a reputation for serving exceptional dishes using quality local and homegrown produce.  This reputation is compounded by our No. 1 rating on Trip Advisor for both Newcastle and County Down, as well as our inclusion in the Michelin and Good Food Guides.


After 25 years in the Hospitality Industry, Darren is still as driven as he was watching his grandfather Tommy (former Head Chef, Slieve Donard Hotel) cook all those years ago.  It's this drive that ensures that Vanilla will continue to provide it's customers with a fantastic dining experience.

© Vanilla Wine & Tapas 2019 | All Rights Reserved | Tel:  028 437 22268

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