The crowds queuing to buy local produce at the opening of the new and imaginative Between the Bridges super deli and food hall in Enniskillen’s town centre last week would indicate that entrepreneurs Declan O’Donoghue and Paul Curry are on to a winner with this new venture.
Both have brought a rich heritage in food production to the new deli and food hall.
Declan, 35, runs the successful Erne Larder, a leading producer of sauces, relishes and chutneys, and Paul, 40, produces a range of smoked meat and fish at his Northern Smokehouse, also based in the Fermanagh capital.
They are also both experienced chefs. Declan set up Erne Larder in 2016 and Paul his business in 2014.
As well as the new deli, they’ve collaborated in Flayver, a new brand of spicy sauces for a range of street food-style foods.
The current Flayver portfolio includes Buffalo Hot Sauce, Korean BBQ, Sriracha Chilli, Hot and Sauce, and Chipotle Relish for lovers of searingly hot foods.
The flavours owe much to Paul’s travels particularly in Asia.
“Flayver is an innovation-led brand we’ve been working on for about a year now: Declan explains.
“The idea came from Paul’s travels to Australia and Thailand, where street food is very popular and readily available.
“We are using the sauces in particular in our novel street bowls, which are a great light lunch or dinner alternative, from sticky rib meat and rice to sriracha glazed crispy chicken and egg noodles, and much more.
“We’ll also have our Str’eat Meat range, which will be marinated, spicy meats for cooking or BBQ-ing at home,” he adds.
The new super deli will feature other original foods they have up their sleeves as well as a very broad range of products from other artisan producers.
Local cheeses, such as Ballylisk of Armagh and Dart Mountain from Claudy, feature in the well-stocked cheese counter.
They’ve also been helped in developing the financial side of the small business by Nigel Bogle of EPOS Bureau in Irvinestown, a specialist in cash handling and monitoring systems for hundreds of farm shops and delis across the UK.
Speaking about the new venture, Declan says: “I’ve been friends with Paul for 10 years and we have always talked about doing something together.
“We saw a gap in the market resulting from how Covid is reshaping dining. Between the Bridges was born through these conversations.
“We are thrilled to have opened the store and attracted the attention of so many people since we opened our doors.
“Getting the shop set up was quite a challenge with many sleepless nights. We’ve been extremely busy since opening our doors.”
The new food hall promises plenty for those looking to tap into good food that’s locally sourced.
“The ethos behind the shop is if it’s not Northern Irish, it doesn’t get in. It’s as simple as that,” Declan, a father of two from Tempo, adds.
“We will have different sections in the shop. We have an own brand coffee section, our own home made pizzas, bakery items and artisan food section.”
The shop includes a range consisting of marinated, spicy meats.
There’s ‘Brew and Browse’, an own brand coffee, and Erne Larder’s Northern Ireland Taste Club, which promotes local artisan food and soft drinks.
Declan continues: “We’ve shaped our retail and convenience food to help increase awareness of the quality and breadth of locally sourced products among shoppers here and also to offer a new retail outlet and convenience eatery to them west of the Bann.
“We’ll also use the deli as a platform to develop our own range of food products, building on our new Flayver range of sauces.
“The eventual lifting of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown should enable us to introduce the products to thousands of tourists and other visitors to Enniskillen and Fermanagh,” he says.
“We need to see the reopening as soon as practicable. This will increase footfall and also enable us to provide the sit-in meals that we’ll be developing.”
Between the Bridges, the new deli’s identity, reflects its location between the bridges to Enniskillen spanning the picturesque Lough Erne.
The objective of their substantial investment, Paul continues, is to be a “one-stop food destination with everything for food shoppers, snackers and diners under one roof.”
“There’ll be opportunities, too, for smaller companies from other parts of Northern Ireland, especially Fermanagh, to be part of our exciting journey,” he adds.
They also hope the deli will provide a magnet for shoppers from neighbouring counties in the Republic, especially Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim. “There’s an extensive catchment area within range of the new deli and we’ll aim to draw as many people as possible from the region,” Declan continues.
An expansive menu of hot and cold ready meals has been launched by the chefs for lunch and dinner on the same basis.
They’ve also created distinctive brands for the eat-on-the-go snacks.
The food hall will have a vast range of local artisan products from established producers, including local farms, and feature butchery and bakery sections.