The past year has been a challenging one across the hospitality sector, but Ian Orr, chef and patron of Browns Bonds Hill restaurant , is taking a proactive approach to adapting his business in response to the pandemic.

Between closures, reopening and takeaway options, Ian has seen significant changes for his restaurants in recent months. He explains that, similar to other hotels and restaurants, he has had to be dynamic in how he operates his business.

Ian purchased Ardtara Country House in Maghera, Co Derry, with fellow chef Marcus Roulston in 2014. It is part of Ireland’s Blue Book of Irish country house hotels, manor houses, castles and restaurants, which are located in both rural and urban areas all over Ireland.

Valentine’s Day Boxes

Like many other restaurants and hotels, Browns Bonds Hill is providing takeaway options for people to enjoy at home and are currently preparing their Valentine’s boxes ahead of the romantic weekend.

“We started making these ‘dine at home’ boxes last year and they were very popular,” Ian explains. “The selling point is that it is restaurant-quality food at home.

Browns Bonds Hill are providing takeaway options for people to enjoy at home for Valentine's Day.

“You’re technically getting a four- or five-course meal with very little preparation and people are loving that,” he continues. “What we would offer in the restaurant is exactly what we’re offering in the boxes.”

He says a service like this takes the pressure off people to cook an elaborate meal.

“People get their instructions with the box and, often, you just have to pop it in the oven or microwave.”

He recalls how challenging the past year has been for so many and hopes a service like this makes life that little bit easier. Their Valentine’s boxes include a bottle of prosecco and flowers for an added romantic element.


Ian describes how the first lockdown gave him and his staff members the opportunity to renovate one of their restaurants in Derry city.

“Lockdown was different to usual but we got through it,” he says. “We did a complete renovation of Browns in Town and when we reopened, it was brand new for our customers – which was great.”

Ian says, during lockdown, their time was used effectively to re-evaluate business and see where adjustments could be made.

“Everything had changed but we didn’t sit down, it has been great to try new things we hadn’t thought of before.

“We were proactive and looked at making these dining boxes for Christmas and Valentine’s Day. It’s a product that we are hoping to carry on for Mother’s Day and Easter too."

Celebrating love through food

Despite restrictions, Ian feels it is important to make our loved ones feel special this Valentine’s Day.

“It’s romantic; it’s making someone feel extra special,” he says, “It’s like sitting in a restaurant with an amazing flavour of food from the comfort of your own home.

“And there are no dishes to wash up - apart from the plates!” he concludes.

Ardtara Country House will be taking orders for collection for their Valentine’s Day boxes up to Friday 12 February. Phone 02879644490 or visit their Facebook page for more information.

Other options on offer this St Valentine’s Day

Dax Restaurant, Co Dublin

Dax Restaurant are offering a “Dax at Home” collection service for Valentine’s weekend. Collection is available from 5-pm each day from €48 per person. A premium selection of wines are also available. Visit for their home menu.

Castle Grove Country House, Co Donegal

Castle Grove Country House are providing a three course takeaway option followed by with chocolate dipped strawberries and shortcake. A selection of wine, prosecco and champagne is also available for the romantic occasion. From €40 per person, this offer is available from 12 to 14 February with collection from 6-9pm. Call 074-915 1118 to order.

Ghan House, Co Louth

This St Valentine’s Day, Ghan House are offering a takeaway three-course menu. From €32 per person, last orders are 3pm on 10 February for pick up on Friday 12 or Saturday 13 February. All items are picked up cold with full instructions to finish off in the oven/under the grill. For all details visit

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