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At an event last night (22 November) Ulster University held the official relaunch of Academy: the Centre for Food, Drink and Culture which is made up of Academy Restaurant: an award winning, state-of-the-art commercial restaurant and an educational hub designed to nurture the talents of hospitality and culinary arts management students as they provide a unique first-class culinary and cultural experience for guests and private events.

Academy is a unique offer in Belfast’s vibrant restaurant scene, adjacent to the new Ulster University Belfast campus, nestled on the edge of the lively Cathedral Quarter and overlooking St Anne's Cathedral.

The beautiful 100-cover venue is forging a positive reputation for its food, which showcases the best of Northern Irish ingredients, for hosting memorable culinary events and for developing the talents of students, preparing them for future careers in hospitality.

Additionally, as one of the most public-facing elements of the new campus, it is contributing to the ongoing regeneration of North Belfast, and serving as a space in which to explore the power of hospitality to transform urban settings.

Celebration event

The evening showcased the exceptional talents of students who treated guests to a five course culinary experience featuring the finest local and seasonal ingredients crafted into dishes bursting with flavour, such as shrimp and crab bayou and filet of beef with short rib bonbon and an assette of desserts.

It was the use of these seasonal ingredients and sustainable practices that earned Academy Restaurant the prestigious Green Key certificate - the first restaurant in the UK and Ireland to awarded it, for commitment to sustainability and protecting the environment.

Welcoming guests to the launch event Professor Paul Bartholomew, Vice-Chancellor of Ulster University said: “In many ways, Academy Restaurant goes to the very heart of everything that we stand for at Ulster University - skills development, collaboration with industry and, of course, excellence.  “In this space, our students are learning and developing their skills, while from, and alongside, industry leaders, delivering the quality of food and service that you would expect to find in any fine dining restaurant. Academy is a fine dining restaurant with a difference. Not only is it a place where you can enjoy incredible food in a wonderful venue, but it is a place where we are educating and developing the skills of the restauranteurs and hospitality professionals of the future.

“Our students are involved in creating the menus, cooking the meals and serving the customers under the tutelage of some of the most experienced hospitality experts in Northern Ireland, gaining incredible insights and practical experiences. We work hand in glove with leading figures in the industry – accessing their expertise, understanding the areas of potential growth, what challenges need to be addressed and of course, the future needs of the sector, whether that be in terms of skills, research, knowledge and innovation.”

The educational hub provides innovative and truly immersive learning experiences for students including regular ‘Culinary Salon’ dinners, hosted by inspiring figures who are shaping our hospitality culture such as nationally and internationally renowned chefs and food writers. Students gain operational, management, and entrepreneurial experience; applying knowledge of management disciplines; and exploring how hospitality can support the ‘circular’ economy, through relationships with the very best local producers and suppliers.

Northern Ireland has established itself as a destination for hospitality and Academy Restaurant, as part of the Centre for Food, Drink and Culture, will play an active role in advancing Northern Ireland as a respected food, drink and hospitality destination, in pursuit of benefits for the environment and local communities.

Academy Restaurant’s charity partner for the evening was Young Enterprise NI and Carol Fitzsimons, Chief Executive, was in attendance to see the hospitality students in action and to talk to the invited guests about the 90,000 young people that Young Enterprise engaged with last year. Guests also heard from Young Enterprise and Ulster University Alumna, Gabrielle Feenan, who now runs the sustainable furniture brand, Korkki.

Academy is now open for bookings, for more information or to book a table, please visit their website Academy Restaurant