Lough Neagh’s famous eels making a splash in Dublin and Thailand

Lough Neagh eel fishermen
Lough Neagh eel fishermen

Diners at top hotels and restaurants in the Republic are being given an opportunity to enjoy a unique delicacy from Lough Neagh.

The famous eels are turning up increasingly on menus there as a result of a link up with one of Dublin’s gourmet food businesses.

La Rousse is an ideal partner because of its vast experience of working with leading chefs and also because of the company’s high end customer base

La Rousse, Ireland’s gourmet food innovator is now marketing the delicious and rare eels from Lough Neagh, Europe’s largest wild eel fishery, to its high-end foodservice customers in the Republic of Ireland as well as across Northern Ireland.

Many leading chefs in Northern Ireland have been including the eels in their menus for many years. Michelin star chef Michael Deane, for example, included smoked Lough Neagh eel on his gourmet menu during his stint last week cooking for affluent diners at the St Regis Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.

Lough Neagh Eels, based at Toome, is one of only three Northern Ireland products to have achieved EU protected name status, the first food from Northern Ireland to achieve this status. The others are Comber Early Potatoes and Armagh Bramley apples.

The fishery is now providing fresh and frozen eels, long prized by foodies in London as well as in the Netherlands and Germany, to La Rousse for its gourmet clients. The eels have been shipped fresh to Britain and the Netherlands for decades and were smoked to provide a popular street food in Amsterdam. They are also in demand at Billingsgate Market, the biggest seafood market in Britain.

The business, a fishermen’s co-operative, is now processing and adding value to the eels at the loughside fishery and has plans to launch a smoked product in the near future.

Lough Neagh’s Cathy Chauhan says: “La Rousse is an ideal partner because of its vast experience of working with leading chefs and also because of the company’s high end customer base.

“We are learning a great deal from the La Rousse team and its network of chefs about how we can supply the products that they wish.

While we have experience in exporting fresh eels to the Netherlands and Great Britain, growing business in foodservice particularly in the Republic is a new development for us.”

And it’s business that Lough Neagh is keen to expand and has invested in processing and vacuum packaging technology and the development of innovative products for discerning chefs and diners.

Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative produces around 400 tonnes of eels annually.