After enjoying a delicious dinner, I always want something chocolatey to round off the meal. So, when choosing a restaurant, one of the first things I do is check out their dessert menu. If there's no chocolate item on the list (which is more common than you’d think), I keep looking until I find a place that can deliver. Here are my favourite places in Belfast for getting a cocoa hit.
A warm brownie usually hits the spot and one of my favourites is served at Shu on the Lisburn Road. Anywhere that uses Valrhona chocolate in their desserts gets top marks from me and Shu’s Valrhona and hazelnut brownie, served with vanilla ice cream, is a dreamy moment indeed.
One of my favourite things to do when I’m visiting a city is to have a rummage through their best vintages shops – a vintage dress to wear and treasure is a much more fabulous souvenir than a trashy ceramic ornament! Vintage shopping is a huge trend in Belfast with an iconic vintage fair flying the flag for nostalgia and style, to vintage stores packed with treasure to uncover. Here the best vintage shops Belfast has up its sleeve:
From shopping centres to independent fashion boutiques, Belfast's city centre is packed with shopping gems.
There are also some great independent retailers nearby. A quick walk across Royal Ave and down Rosemary Street you’ll see Liberty Blue on Lombard Street. This independent boutique has been a stalwart on the local fashion scene starting off life on the Lisburn Road as a vintage store specialising in vintage Levi’s to the current version in the city centre. Its vintage roots still have a strong presence with the interior décor and the affordable, quirky, vintage-inspired fashion.
Fresh Garbage is also just around the corner – a Mecca for alternative fashion stacked high with hippie skirts and scarves to studded baseball caps, glitter eyelashes and neon gas masks - all with the light scent of patchouli. It’s a shopping experience to dazzle the senses so you may need to have a sit down with cuppa afterwards and luckily there are few great coffee shops nearby including local café chain Clements.
No trip to Belfast is complete without stepping into the wondrous delight that is Co Couture. Around the corner from Arthur Street, tucked away in a basement store on Chichester Street, tip-toe down the stone steps and through the arched doorway that makes you feel like you’re about to enter a hobbit home in the Shire! Turn right and the smell of chocolate takes you straight to your happy place. The chocolate delights are handmade on the premises and there’s always sample of high quality chocolate to taste. I highly recommend ordering a hot chocolate and taking a quiet moment to savour the chocolatey goodness served with homemade marshmallows! Take home a box of truffles and a few ‘Temptation Bites’ to nibble on - chocolate heaven!
Now nicely in a chocolate induced haze – float around the corner to Una Rodden’s boutique at 50 Upper Arthur Street. Una is Northern Ireland’s fashion star and her couture atelier is located at the back of her boutique. The Buncrana-born fashion designer shows her collections on the catwalk at Belfast Fashion Week and recently created a fashion film and art-style fashion installation of her AW13 collection.*
London, Paris, New York, Milan… Belfast doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as a fashion capital of the world but, as the saying goes, ‘tall oaks from tiny acorns grow!’
It may been considered a humble side order but, for me, the standard of the chips (or fries for our American friends) in a restaurant is a barometer of everything else served in the establishment. A bowl of chips that have been dunked in the deep fat fryer straight from a plastic bag from the freezer say the chef thinks "That’ll do" - there’s no love there. A bowl of golden chips, hewn from a locally grown spud, chopped and fried until soft and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside is what I’m looking for. A great serving of chips says “you deserve the best” and the best chips are what I’m after.