Ronan & Jennie Sweeney, Balloo Inns, Killinchy, Co Down


A special award, given in recognition of the contribution made by exceptional individuals in Irish food & hospitality

The contribution that Ronan and Jennie Sweeney have made to standards in hospitality, and especially in the casual dining sector, is remarkable. Their ambition, when they took over the famous 19th century coaching inn Balloo House at Killinchy, Co Down, in 2004, was to restore its reputation as one of the finest country dining pubs in Northern Ireland. This they achieved with spectacular success – and it was just the beginning. Together with head chef Danny Millar, who is one of the region's culinary leaders and a champion of local seasonal produce, the couple had hardly established Upstairs at Balloo as the area’s premier dining destination when another old pub, Lisbarnett House in Lisbane, came onto the market in dire need of TLC and the team struck again…It soon became The Poacher’s Pocket, with its terrific Poacher’s Pantry selling top quality meat, fish and game in season as well as bakery, deli products and premium drinks…Next came the charming Marquis of Downshire in Hillsborough, which was renamed The Parson’s Nose and was recently given the Sweeney gold dust treatment, emerging as an even more impressive old-meets-new dining destination last year.

The three Balloo Inns sum up all that is best about Northern Ireland food and hospitality for many regular visitors, and they have become the benchmark for quality pub dining. The Sweeneys make it all seem so easy and the core team has remained in place as their employee base gradually rose to well over 100. But this was real life and there were challenges along the way, not least with health issues, which inspired them to take action in a number of ways not only to benefit themselves and their staff, but also the wider population. To this end they started to raise awareness of – and funds for - Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS) and instigated other programmes, such as an employee assistance scheme that includes counselling and a Chef Appreciation Week which, like customer feedback, must make the demanding work and long hours in a commercial kitchen much more rewarding.

All this is very typical of this caring couple, it’s just what they do. Ronan and Jennie Sweeney we salute you and commend the valued contribution of all of your team members.

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17 votes

Balloo House & Overwood

Killinchy, Co. Down
Pub / Restaurant
Denotes genuine Irish food culture, ie special Irish food products/companies/producers, and highlights the best places to shop for regional and artisan foods; the selection excludes obvious 'non-Irish' elements regardless of quality, eg ethnic restaurants and specialists in coffee, wine and other drinks, unless relevant to local production or history. Eat & Stay establishments are chosen for their commitment to showcasing local produce and Irish hospitality. Pub with good food and atmosphere Previous Georgina Campbell Guides Award Winner The "Best of the Best" - Only the very best establishments across various categories have been chosen for this accolade
This famous old 19th century coaching inn has been owned by Ronan and Jennie Sweeney since 2004 and, since then, they have achieved their ambition to restore Balloo’s reputation as one of the finest country dining pubs in Northern Ireland with sp ...

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