When eyeing up culinary destinations for a quick and greedy weekender, I’d forgive you for not putting Belfast at the top of the list. I would however inform you that you are quite wrong. 2016 is the Year of Food and Drink for Northern Ireland and so there’s never been a tastier time to visit!
A recent post covered the area’s unbelievable natural beauty with my guide to the Causeway Coast and Glens road trip, voted one of the world’s top 5! From clifftops and the shore, now I turn to the urban city of Belfast. This blog will explore how best to eat and drink this wonderful city…and oh, what eating and drinking there is to do.
Where to drink?
Now, I’d normally begin with the food but with this post being on Ireland…I figured ‘when in Rome’ so let’s drink!
No sooner than I’d disembarked the flight and reached the door of our hotel (Malmaison Belfast) was I back outside and off on a bar tour by the wonderful BelfastFoodTour.com company. Caroline, founder of the company, was leading us and told us of the burgeoning scene that has sprung up over the last few years, to rival any major city’s. Together we hit up a heady list of 6 joints ranging from the ultra-trendy, to the old man boozer. See my list of where to tipple:
3 Skipper St, Belfast, County Antrim BT1 2DZ
www.thespaniardbar.comThe Warehouse Party: The Dirty Onion. If you want to work a sneaky drink into a scholarly sight seeing itinerary, come here. This bar and live music venue is built into a 1750s warehouse – it used to store Jameson whiskey in the 1900s so order yourself a Jameson and ginger ale, sit and soak up the history!
3 Hill St, Belfast BT1 2LA
The Ultimate Boozer: The Duke of York. Picture the most quintessentially Irish pub you can fathom. You’re there. The Duke of York is just the most perfect old man’s pub on Commercial Court. It serves excellent beers and is always bustling. Commercial Court in itself is worth a visit – watch out for the art installation of 10s of suspended upside down umbrellas across the alley. Walk under these brollies and you come into a courtyard painted with colourful characters by Danny Devenny.
7-11 Commercial Ct, Belfast BT1 2NB
1 Goose Entry, Belfast, BT1 1FP
www.apocbelfast.comThe Shopping Centre: Hudson’s Yard. This gigantic bar, spreading over 4 floors and a courtyard, used to be a shopping centre until it was converted into a bar serving craft beer and whisky, along with bar food – their chicken wings are particularly famous.
10-14 Gresham St, Belfast BT1 1JN
Union St, Belfast, County Antrim BT1 2JG
www.thejohnhewitt.com/The Grande Damme: The Merchant Hotel. The Merchant is a grand old Victorian 5* hotel in central Belfast with a bar and restaurant. The cocktails served up here are delicious, and I can’t imagine a grander spot to sip them.
16 Skipper St, Belfast, County Antrim BT1 2DZ
As an asides – make sure you get hold of some Shortcross Gin whilst you’re over. This is a craft gin made right there in Northern Ireland containing botanicals hand foraged, including clover! It’s a real local treasure and one not to miss whilst you’re there.
Where to Eat?
Belfast is a fabulous destination for any foodie. You hear a lot about the rolling green hills and glens of Ireland, and what else could these breed but wonderful produce.
Below you’ll see a list of my top food spots to visit, but if you really want to dig beneath the surface of this city’s culinary scene, take the BelfastFoodTours.com tour. It lasts 4 hours and hits up tonnes of places off the beaten track you’d never discover otherwise and introduces you to the characters behind the companies. Indeed, I did it on this trip and I owe the below list to it almost entirely.
St George’s Market – For me, there’s no rapider way of cutting to the heart of a place’s food scene than visiting the local market and St George’s is a fantastic one. It’s in an old, grand Victorian covered market (the last in Belfast) and Saturday is food day (therefore the BEST time to visit). We had Caroline from BelfastFoodTours with us to take us round all the best stalls and wrangle us samples, but it’s great for an unguided potter too. This market has EVERYTHING: from the oldest coffee roasters in Ireland (SD Bell & Co Ltd.) to bespoke Suki teas, from the freshest fish and oysters, shucked right in front of you, to Lough Neagh eels, from aged beef from cows fed on beer to the beer the cows are fed on (Hills Town Farm), and to the best fry up you’ll ever have (Belly Busters). This latter point is official: the Ulster fry (Northern Irish equivalent of an English Breakfast) is regularly recognised as the best in the world and Belly Busters do an epic one!
East Bridge St, Belfast BT1 3NQ
Local Grub: The Garrick is a typical old man’s pub near St George’s Market serving up great Irish pub grub, including the best champ in Belfast! For those who haven’t tried champ – it’s buttery mashed potato with spring onion. Simple but fabulous. This pub was founded in 1870 and has a good selection too of local ales – try the McGrath’s stouts!
29 Chichester St, Belfast BT1 4JB
thegarrickbar.com/Brunch & Lunch: Coppi restaurant is a wonderful, chic Italian bistro near the Cathedral. The menu is broad and tempting, including a duck ragu with truffle, pizzas and tonnes of meat and fish. My highlight there includes their insane feta fritters with truffle honey – to die for.
Unit 2 Saint Anne's Square, Cathedral Quarter, Belfast BT1 2LR
Meat Meat Meat: James Street Bar and Grill is a sleek bistro serves up an awesome selection of local Northern Irish beef, including the famous Peter Hannan’s Himalayan Salt Aged Beef (winner of multiple awards and truly spectacular). We also tried Peter Hannan’s sugar cured pork here – they bury the pork in a pit covered in sugar, leave it to cure and then smoke it to perfect tenderness. Just insanely good.
21 James St S, Belfast BT2 7GA
1 Oxford St, Belfast BT1 3LA
2 Chichester St, Belfast BT1 4LA
www.cocouture.co.ukTime for a coffee? Established Coffee House is widely heralded as the finest coffee in Belfast and I can understand why. It's a quirky little joint in the Cathedral District, staffed almost exclusively by men that look like lumberjacks (think beard and flannels as a uniform) and serves a range of seasonal coffees.
54 Hill St, Belfast BT1 2LB