Chefs urged to get involved in Eel-Eat initiative

A Tourism NI supported initiative designed to promote Lough Neagh eels and encourage their inclusion on restaurant menus is to be launched at the end of this month in a collaboration between two leading lough shore bodies.

Eel-Eat, which will run from Saturday 25th June until Saturday 2nd July, is an innovative programme created by the Lough Neagh Partnership and the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative and sponsored by Tourism NI’s Year of Food and Drink Tourism Events Scheme.

Organisers of the scheme, which is also receiving support from Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, are asking participating restaurants to include Lough Neagh eel on their menus for the week to encourage consumption amongst residents and visitors and support the local fishing industry.

The initiative, which will feature as part of this year’s River to Lough Festival, aims to encourage domestic consumption of the protected – and largely exported – local foodstuff with chefs and restaurants from across the north being urged to get involved.

Leading names in the restaurant industry have already signed up to the initiative with Deane’s Love Fish and Hastings Hotels throwing their weight behind the project.

Participating restaurants will receive a range of support including a listing on the Eel-Eat website and an opportunity to promote details of their specific Eel-Eat events or menus; branded Eel-Eat point of sale display material; email artwork with Eel-Eat branding, and opportunities to get directly involved in press and social activity in NI, ROI and GB markets.

Registration for the inaugural scheme is free however participating restaurants are being asked to provide a £30 gift voucher, which will be used to promote the initiative and drive footfall to the restaurant.

Marketing manager at Lough Neagh Partnership, Eimear Kearney said they hoped to recruit up to 40 restaurants from across NI to be part of the initiative from family run cafés to gastro pubs and fine dining restaurants.

“If you offer a sit down dining experience and are passionate about quality local produce, great atmosphere and top class customer service, then we would like you to be a part of it,” said Eimear.

“Eel-Eat will include a wide ranging promotional campaign covering digital, radio, outdoor and press advertising. There will be a dedicated website featuring participating restaurants, events and competitions as well as tactical promotions and leaflet distribution amongst other activity.

“With special menus designed to suit all tastes and budgets, and food events in restaurants throughout Northern Ireland, Eel-Eat promises to be a week for food lovers from near and far.”

EelEatThe initiative is part of a bigger push at promoting Lough Neagh eel locally and encouraging more chefs to feature the north’s first ever Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) foodstuff on their menus. Organisers have teamed up with Food NI on a chef steering forum bringing chefs on to the lough to meet local fishermen, demonstrating traditional cooking methods as well as facilitating visits to the Co-operative’s facililties and contacts with local suppliers. A wider European food project is also being targeted.

“We are sourcing partners for different elements that we would like to see developed around the lough,” said Eimear, “with cookery schools, a fish restaurant on the loughshore, foraging trips and food trails among the plans. We see food as one of our key attractions to the area and have a protected designation of origin (PDO) application for Lough Neagh pollen pending as well.

“We want to show just how much eels are part of our food culture and how that can boost Lough Neagh and its Waterways as a destination.”

Chefs and restaurants interested in taking part in the Eel-Eat initiative can register at

Website can be found at, follow on Twitter @eel_eat, #EelsAreTasty and on Facebook at