Belfast’s uniquely inviting pubs are an Irish tradition. Some of the finest watering holes can be found in the Northern Irish capital, and that’s the way it’s been for centuries.
More recently, contemporary Belfast has risen to become a top culinary destination with an array of highly rated restaurants. These bistros have earned Michelin stars that would sate any foodie who enjoys fresh, high-quality meals.
Tradition at its finest
Start with the Ulster Fry, which is a traditional Irish breakfast you’ll never forget. Your plate will be filled with eggs, potato farl, sausages, bacon, black pudding and tomato. According to James Bell, head chef of George’s of the Market, the secret is cooking everything in one pan.
Go from George’s of the Market to St. George’s Market, which is the last surviving Victorian covered market in Belfast. You’ll be impressed by the array of local produce — there’s nothing like sampling fresh produce from the green pastures of Ireland — as well as fish, meat and crafts.
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The sights and sounds of the vibrant market are particularly memorable, too.
A meal from history
It’s been just over a century since the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage, but the fascination with the ship hasn’t abated.
A popular and extraordinary experience can be had when ordering from the Titanic Menu at Rayanne House. Enjoy a recreation of the nine-course dinner served to first-class passengers which includes poached salmon with Mousseline sauce, garnished with cucumber and fresh dill, pan seared filet mignon topped with foie gras and truffle drizzled with cognac.
Riches of the sea
Shellfish lovers should experience the Mourne Seafood Bar. Start with oysters Japanese Style (shredded cucumber, pickled ginger, spiced soy). If you like shellfish with a kick, graduate to salt and chili squid, then cap the experience with grilled lobster.
Fans of creative and modern cuisine should stop in to Ox. The cod with carrots and coral butter is difficult to pass up. Blackberry compote is a must dessert.
Pubs to remember
The Muddlers Club is a great place to start to experience Belfast’s pub scene.
Like many of the city’s fine pubs, the Muddlers Club has a rich history — it was once home to a 200-year-old secret society located in the Cathedral Quarter. The secret is out these days, but you can still score a seat at the bar as well as a table. The Tempted Sweet Cider Point or a Galloper’s Golden Ale are good places to start.
The Muddler’s Club also offers an eclectic menu. The cod in squid ink and the trout with cauliflower and curry are popular choices — don’t forget the hand-cut fries.
Stix and Stones won’t break your bones or your travel budget. The large, modern restaurant is relatively new but serves traditional Irish favorites alongside contemporary libations. The menu is a cut above your average pub grub, with options like confit duck. All of the beef served up comes from Ireland and is dry aged for 28 days, a true treat for meat lovers.
Part of the charm of the Duke of York is that it is nestled along a narrow cobbled alley in an historic area. The interior is similarly lived-in — old dusty bottles, an extensive whiskey list and the bartenders who are on another level.
Ask and they’ll teach you how to properly pour a Guinness, and of course there’s no need to instruct anyone how to drink down Ireland’s famous stout.
Still a beer town
Guinness may make its home elsewhere in Ireland, but if you’re into breweries, you won’t be disappointed in Belfast.
Hilden Brewing Co. has an array of quality beers. There’s the light and crisp Belfast Blonde. Its antithesis is the Hilden Irish Stout, full-bodied and hearty. In between is the Buck’s Head, which has a distinctive hops character and a bit of welcome bitterness.
Cider has enjoyed a huge revival over recent years, and Armagh Cider Company has been at the forefront of the movement. A number of mellow and crisp concoctions turn out of its barrels, made from apples grown on the cidery’s own farm.
When it comes to dining and drinking, Belfast offers an unparalleled combination of the traditional and modern flair.