Quails Fine Foods, Banbridge
Joseph Quail tells UG about his family business
Banbridge is a busy town with numerous butchers, both in the market town itself and within easy driving distance.
A successful outlet therefore needs a point of difference, as well as product diversity to really stand out, with Quail Fine Foods being the result. It has evolved from the original livestock business and associated shop created in 1898.
“Four generations of the Quail family have been traditionally farming and butchering for over 120 years,” says Joseph Quail. “We select our beef from our own farm and quality farmers in our area. We only use Limousin heifers as this ensures leaner, tenderer beef.”
It clearly works too, as recognised by the ‘meat trade Oscars’ the Guild of Fine Food’s Great Taste awards, year after year.
A 2014 award of three-star status is the highest accolade so far and is displayed on the smart whites worn by proprietor and butchery staff alike, for the Himalayan Sirloin Steak.
“Over the last five years, only the Duchy of Cornwall’s beef has been an equal in that particular category,” says Joseph. “In fact, all of our hindquarter beef is dry-aged in our Himalayan Salt Chamber for a minimum of 28 days to ensure extra tenderness and flavour.
“This attention to detail has helped us win many Great Taste awards and this year we picked up two for our 28 Day Himalayan Salt Aged Beef Cheek, the Homemade Gourmet Steak Burger, and the Himalayan Salt Aged Steak Burger.
“The business was also awarded one star for the 28 Day Himalayan Salt Aged King Steak.”
The company has been in business for over 120 years and has evolved from a small butcher’s shop to a modern-day food hall and delicatessen along with an in-store restaurant and a second, full service restaurant located in a nearby art gallery.
Most recently, the family business has also branched out with external butchery counters, through EUROSPAR, which Joseph says is an excellent partnership.
“We have been here for many generations,” says Joseph, who currently operates the business. “Originally, my great grandfather Matthew Alexander Quail was the founder in 1898. While dealing in property and livestock, he also had a shop which was then in Rathfriland Street, Banbridge.
“In 1900 he moved to the current premises in 15 Newry Street and there the family lived on the first floor,” he says, adding that Joe Quail (senior) was born in 1906 and, at an early age, he left school to help his father.
The family then moved to a farm at Tullyear in 1923, which is still the Quail family home today.
The meat trade is really in the blood for the family, with the genesis of butchery starting when Joe (senior) was given the job of buying and collecting calves.
“On his way to Belfast, he often brought select cuts of meat with him for a butcher in Shaftesbury Square, many ending up with the well-to-do families on the Malone Road,” says Joseph. “While he was there, Joe learned a great deal by watching the butchers at work.
“In 1930, Joe took over the reins of the business at the age of 24 and ran it successfully for nearly 40 years. When he retired in 1970, his son Jim became the third generation of the Quail family to manage the shop.
“With his strong interest in farming, he linked the farm and the shop, producing high quality Limousin meat for which Quails is well known.”
But it hasn’t always been easy. A devastating IRA bomb in 1998 closed the Newry Street premises and, while the shop was soon up and running in a temporary facility across the road, it was May 2000 before it reopened in an exciting new building.
“It now houses a butchery, deli and cafe,” says Joseph, adding that the 6,000-square-foot premises are set to expand into the same space again, upstairs from the existing facility.
Joseph wasn’t straight into the business with his dad though, spending seven years as a sales manager with the internationally-successful Foyle Meats, before graduating to running and expanding the family business.
Quails at the Gallery, a restaurant at the F.E. McWilliams Gallery and Studio, also in Newry Road, Banbridge, has since proved to be successful.
“It overlooks their sculpture garden, thus enabling diners to enjoy a view of the current exhibition, while savouring their meal,” says Joseph. “Also, the current partnership with Henderson’s led to a successful move into the grocery sector, with our own Quail’s Meat Counter in two large, very busy EUROSPARS, including one near the family store itself, on the main road into town.”
Joseph feels these, and many other offerings, mean Quails continues to excel and expand: “We are targeting fine foods alongside traditional butchery trade as well as moving into the hospitality sector and into grocery with SPAR and even outside catering for functions, large and small.
“There are many occasions when we have to entertain for a crowd such as weddings, christenings, anniversaries, bereavements, surprise parties, birthdays and retirement parties.”
Christmas is of course a busy time and Quails free range turkeys and geese, while not from the family’s own farm, are sourced from a local Co Down one.
At this festive time, the company also prepares bespoke hampers for their customers, selecting the finest local produce and presenting them in beautiful packaging.
“Even a selection of cheeses can be tastefully arranged in a gift box to provide an exceptional present for the food connoisseur,” says Joseph.
One thing that makes Quails different too is the huge range of sauces and seasonings, many produced under the Quails label: “In Quails, gifts can be found for the most discerning of food enthusiasts, from oils and dressings to sauces, spices and seasonings,” says Joseph.
However, the core business remains in the breeding, rearing and butchery of quality meat, as clearly evidenced by the ever-expanding list of awards.
“This is our really crucial ‘point of difference’ and, as well as product diversity, I hope we continue to really stand out, so that Quails Fine Foods can continue for many generations to come,” he says.
QUAILS HOLDS OVER 30 GREAT TASTE AWARDS
Himalayan Salt Aged Beef Cheek (2*) Homemade Gourmet Steak Burger (2*)
Himalayan Salt Aged Steak Burger (2*)
Salt Aged King Steak
Himalayan Salt Aged Rack of Lamb (2*)
Himalayan Salt Aged Rib of Beef (2*)
Himalayan Salt Aged Leg of Lamb
Honey Roast Ham
Dry Salt Aged Rib Roast (2*)
Flat Iron Steaks
Dry Salt Aged Fillet Steak
Himalayan Sirloin Steak (3*)
Himalayan Salt Aged Fillet Steak (2*)
Hanger Steak (2*)
Pork & Leek Sausages
Cote du Beef
Dry Cure Bacon
Beef & Caramelised Onion Sausage (2*)
Ham & Gruyere Quiche (2*)
Dry Aged Ribeye Steak (2*)
Chicken Liver Parfait (2*)
Sweet Cure Gammon
Dry Aged Fillet Steak
Dry Aged Sirloin Steak (2*)
Dry Aged Rib Roast
Honey Roast Ham