Down in the Cathedral Quarter there’s a sense that the area is growing into its potential. There are great bars like the Duke of York and the Harp Bar and there’s also high end dining like the Merchant Hotel but what the area lacked was a more casual, laid-back restaurant.
It may not be original, but brothers Daniel and Martin Courtney’s entry into the Belfast restaurant scene at least brings some theatre to dinnertime. The pair, whose restaurant Stix and Stones officially opened in May 2014, have a heavy focus on the customer cooking their own dinner on a hot stone. It’s gimmicky and had McHugh’s not been doing it for many years in Belfast already, it’d probably have got them a lot more publicity than it did. “It’s not a new idea – Botanic Inns were doing it years ago and I’ve seen it in Portugal and lots of other places,” chef Martin Courtney told me.
When it comes to eating out, there are some great restaurants in Belfast hotels. I would rate some of them amongst my favourite restaurants in the city. Here are my top five:Madison’s HotelA locally owned hotel with a tasty restaurant is Madison's hotel on Botanic Avenue in the Queens University area. I had the pleasure of going to their restaurant
Aside from the fact that eating out fulfils the one basic human need that everyone has in common – the need to fuel our bodies - eating out is about enjoying good company and good food. However, I occasionally eat out for another reason and that is to be entertained. If entertainment is what you’re after, here are two quirky restaurants in Belfast that will intrigue and excite you.
With a deluge of bars in Belfast having built up an astounding collection of the spirit, we’re in the midst of great times for whiskey drinkers.
In early 2012 chef Will Brown came back home from several years working in kitchens across London. Having started work at Marco Pierre White’s Mirabelle restaurant aged just 17, the Northern Irish chef also worked in the Glasshouse and the two-Michelin starred The Square.
Every good city deserves a good deli and in Belfast we’re blessed with two. Given that Northern Ireland is having somewhat of a renaissance period with some superb local producers popping up over the past few years, it’s great to see local delis promoting them. Producers like Abernethy Butter whose creamy butter can be found, not just in local arti
To give recognition to the best restaurants in town, Groupon will soon award restaurants all over the world with ‘Local Stars’. In light of the Local Stars awards, we asked the bloggers who write for City Guide Magazine which Belfast restaurants they recommend as their personal favourites.Cafe Conor“The perfect place to go day or night- sumptuous d
Like an old pair of socks that should have been discarded a long time ago, most people stick to their old favourites when it comes to a takeaway. Whether it’s the Friday night chippy, pizza or an oriental takeaway, most people don’t deviate past the same phone number they used the last time they made a ravenous phone call.
I’ve eaten some major oddities in my time. Here are two of the weirdest things you'll find to eat in Belfast...
When I think of the bar at the Merchant Hotel it conjures up two words – pride and glory. The latter, well that’s self explanatory and the former is based on the gratification that a small bar in Belfast could have been voted the World’s Best Hotel Bar*. At the time, the bar was under the stewardship of Sean Muldoon, who, alongside fellow Merchant
Paul Rankin has changed the face of the culinary scene in Belfast. I asked him about his favourite 3 places for eating out in the city.
James Street South was voted best restaurant in Antrim in the Restaurant Association of Ireland awards for a reason - because it’s stonkingly good.
Celebrate good times, come on. Cool and the Gang had the right idea - celebrate and then celebrate 31 more times (well that’s how many utterances of the word is sang in that catchy tune*).
A smile tells much more than any review ever could. Sit in the corner of Ox, a restaurant that opened in early 2013, and you’ll see it happening everywhere and not just because Belfast is the ‘happiest city in the UK’.* It’s hard not to smile when dishes that are astounding in every way keep coming out of the kitchen. Whether it’s the elegant plating up that makes every dish look like it could sit in the Ulster Museum or the lightness of touch from owner and chef Stephen Toman, Ox brings pleasure with each look and bite. It’s high-end food but with a measure of casualness in the dining room that’s testament to the restaurant’s other owner and manager Alain Kerloc’h.
Belfast City Hall - it’s the heart of Belfast and a truly iconic building, so of course it’s also going to be surrounded by great places to eat for both tourists and local workers on their lunch breaks. I’m there all the time visiting some of my favourite lunch spots - some are just newly opened, others are old favourite haunts, and one is just for pure treats.
There’s little interest in Northern Ireland when it comes to Michelin. It’s now been three print-runs of the book since there was a restaurant from these shores with a star next to its name. It’s probably a fair reflection of Belfast and the North as a whole when you see nil points on the board. It’s also an indication of dining trends here that the Michelin Bib Gourmand category saw two new entries here. Gaining a Bib means a restaurant serves good cuisine at a reasonable price and that is where Belfast dining is at.
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.
Chocolate Brownie from Shu
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.
Chicken wings are the ultimate comfort food. They can be simple, zingy, sweet or even make your mouth feel like it has just visited the furthest, hottest depths of hell. A good wing needs only three things – to have come from a quality bird, to have the right texture and to be smothered in a sauce that is delicious but not so in your face that you can’t taste the chicken. Sounds simple, right? But the simple things are often the hardest to get right. And whilst Belfast has an abundance of places that serve frozen wings, mediocre wings and downright awful ones, there are some places doing a great job.
Heading out in Belfast for a night at the theatre? Why not make the most of it and grab a quick pre-theatre meal before you hit the shows? Belfast has a wealth of restaurants around its three most popular theatre venues: the Grand Opera House, The Mac and the Lyric Theatre.
It seems hard to believe that it took the Belfast food industry so long to realise what most regular patrons already knew – the city needs to up its game when it comes to all day dining. In particular, when it comes to breakfast. We’re famed for the Ulster Fry, but there are few places that serve up a decent adaptation and even fewer serving it in decent surroundings.
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.
There’s something magnificent about the humble burger. Maybe it’s the ability for it to be a deeply personal experience or the fact that it’s just a primeval urge for a big lump of meat - who knows? It just works whether you like it kitted out with all the foodie mod cons or just a simple burger with lettuce, tomato and cheese. Who doesn’t love a good burger?
There’s something about the interior of Little Wing Pizzeria that always reminds me of the past. Standing in the Lisburn Road branch, I can’t help but be transported back in time to old school places like Forte’s in Castle Street where my dad used to take me for a burger and milkshake.
Whether it’s a Saturday afternoon shopping or your lunch break, it seems easy to get a coffee at any number of chain coffee shops. However, Belfast is awash right now with delicious independent coffee shops, which in my opinion, offer the best coffee in Belfast. Here's a quick guide to some of the lovely vendors that you definitely should try next time you are in the city.
There’s nothing better than a sweet treat to pick you up when you feel down. I love a cupcake with a cuppa to make everything seem right in the world again. Whether you're stressed, out with the girls shopping or have a pack of kids dying for a post-dinner treat, my top Belfast cupcake vendors will serve all purposes.
John Ferris is a journalist of over 18 years and was previously the editor of a Belfast-based newspaper. He is the founder of FoodBelfast.com, which was recognised as Northern Ireland’s most influential food blog until it closed down to make way for Forked.ie in early 2014.