What to Do and Where to Dine and Stay in Belfast, Northern Ireland
The Culinary Scene
2016 is the Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland and the best way to begin your tour of Belfast is with a pint in hand. You will find entertaining pubs with great Craic (the Irish term for fun) throughout the city but there are a few that should be on your list for the experience. Kelly’s Cellars (the oldest pub in Belfast), the Duke of York Pub, The Dirty Onion, and the Crown Liquor Saloon are deeply rooted in history and provide a lively pub scene to this day. So lively that you will see the patrons out the door and on the narrow cobblestone streets with their pints in hand talking and laughing with friends and acquaintances, with politics still a popular topic leading to heated conversations for the locals. The music and mash of people create the ultimate Northern Irish experience.
On a more refined note, Northern Ireland is seeing a wave of young chefs pushing the boundariess of their culinary traditions. If you’re looking for an extraordinary dining experience, then put OX and Deanes EIPIS (both recently awarded two Michelin stars), along with Shu and James Street South on your list, however, be sure to make reservations well in advance as these are hot restaurants and a tough seat to grab.
If you’re unable to snag a seat at one of these restaurants, no worries, as Belfast has many dining options that are sure to please. It seems odd that Ireland is an island and therefore you would expect great seafood, but the truth is they export much of the best seafood. If you have your heart set on local fresh fish or shellfish, make a reservation at Mourne Seafood Bar. They have their own shellfish beds and harvest what’s best, so you’ll find great seafood on their menu. If you’re looking for updated Irish cuisine, then 4th Wall is your destination (and it’s across from the MAC theatre). Looking for modern international cuisine? Yum Bar & Restaurant is just the place. They have two locations and the one at Stranmillis is close to the Botanical Gardens.
For the vegetarian diner, Home Restaurant is an excellent choice. Even if you’re not vegetarian you’ll find exquisite meals at this popular spot that also offers healthy and gluten-free options. If you’re in the mood for a relaxed bistro setting with an affordable menu, then stop by The Ginger Bistro. Consistently ranked as one of the best restaurants in Belfast (they opened in 2004), their menu offers modern European and Asian inspired fare. And last but not least, if you’re interested in a chic, modern, and stylish setting then try Coco or Salt Bistro. Coco’s menu features locally sourced ingredients while Salt Bistro serves “local provenance food.” Many of these restaurants also offer pre-theatre menus.
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