Belfast is a large and busy city with a huge range of places to eat. It is particularly strong on cafés, bars and restaurants charging low to mid range prices for some really interesting food.
At the higher end Belfast is blessed with some remarkable chefs, notably Michael Deane and Paul & Jeanne Rankin. Known for their innovation, energy and also their knowledge of their market – they don’t confine themselves to a wealthy clientèle but have cafés or brasseries where even those on a modest budget can enjoy their superlative food.
Ulster Frys by flippinyank
St George’s Market is foodie heaven every Friday, when the restored Victorian Market place is filled with stalls selling everything from fresh seafood, organic meats and vegetables straight from the soil to gourmet coffee, Spanish tapas and home baked treats.
It’s the perfect place to pick up the makings of a gourmet picnic, or just graze from the stalls selling freshly cooked hot food.
The restaurants below are vaguely but not strictly ordered according to price, and cover everything from good places for a quick lunch to push to boat out places for dinner.
A. Bishops Chip Shop
With its marble tables and open fires this doesn’t look like an ordinary chipper. Tradtional chip shop fare is served alongside more healthy options like wholewheat quiche, but for a traditional Belfast feed, have the cod with mushy peas!
It’s not fancy but it’s food and it is filling, tasty and cheap. When money is really tight it’s hard to top take away fish and chips.
B. Lunches to Go
This place does exactly as the name suggests to an amazingly high quality for the prices charged, which are rock bottom cheap. It is straightforward lunch time fare – baguettes, panini, sandwich and baked potato with a variety of fillings, along with pies, sausage rolls, excellent soup and an exceptionally good salad bar.
It is a tiny place, there is no seating and there will be a line outside at lunch time, but if you want good quality filling food in the middle of the day without spending much, this is where you’ll get it.
C. Boojum Burrito Bar
Small, efficient, cheap and with food that is really very much better than you would expect in this price range. It’s a sort of build your own dinner concept – you choose a burrito, a fajita or a taco, then choose from a range of fillings and salads and finally from a selection of dressings and sides.
While it has the feel of a place that could easily be a part of a chain, and there are two branches in Belfast and one in Dublin, it is in fact owned and run by a husband and wife team who are often seen behind the counter. It is almost always busy and is wildly popular with Belfast’s students.
Website | 028 9031 5334
D. Common Grounds Cafe
If the cast of Friends lived in Belfast this is probably where they’d hang out. With its wooden floors, homely furnishing and relaxed atmosphere, you get the feeling that it’s fine to linger and chat over a coffee for hours.
Lunch is a choice of freshly made gourmet sandwiches, paninis, filled bagels, salads and soups, while excellent coffee is perfectly accompanied by delicious home baked cakes, cookies and cinnamon scones. The cafe is very community oriented and hosts a wide variety of activities – from knitting clubs to live jazz – and the walls display the work of local artists. It’s a non-profit venture, with all profits going to charity.
E. The Hawthorne Coffee Shop
Though not too many visitors get this far out of the city centre, shoppers in Belfast are well aware of the simple but nicely prepared dishes served at this cafe,. It is located rather improbably in a furniture store in a not terribly attractive retail park. It is however close to the start of the M1 motorway heading south, so a good place to stop as you leave Belfast.
The food is unpretentious and delicious – soups, quiches, pies and casseroles as well as a great selections of salads and very tempting desserts, all freshly prepared on the premises. Go early at lunch time, there will be a crowd.
Website | 028 9038 4705
The speciality here is ‘one pot dishes’, made fresh daily and including such favourites as Thai chicken curry, Irish stew, chorizo sausage stew and a choice of soups, all served with rice or bread. It is winning formula, with quick meals that hot, very tasty, filling and reasonably priced. There is also a massive choice of sandwiches, baguette, wraps, melts and salads.
There are tables inside – and free wifi – but everything they serve is suitable to take away also. It’s a bright and clean place, decorated in a vibrant green colour scheme, and has very enthusiastic staff. Grub prides itself on its ethical and eco credentials – coffee, tea and other ingredients are all fair trade and each day’s leftovers are given to Belfast’s homeless.
Website | 028 9031 4925
G. The John Hewitt
Frequented by a somewhat artsy crowd, this otherwise traditional pub beside St Anne’s Cathedral is unusual in that it is owned and run by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre as a non-profit enterprise.
The menu is short but tempting, comprising well prepared and better than average pub grub. There are daily specials, including a really delicious chowder that for some reason is only served on Fridays. In the evenings there is often good music sessions here, which you can enjoy while sampling some of their very wide range of local and imported beers.
Website | 028 9023 3768
H. Rocket & Relish
If a really good burger is what you fancy, there is no better place to get one than here. The owner is a regular on the festival circuit (you’ll find Rocket & Relish at large music like Oxygen) and has won awards for his efforts – and you can see why.
The choice ranges from a basic cheeseburger to ‘gourmet’ options such as Goat’s Cheese and Jalapeno or Feta and Black Olive Tapanade. All are made from local beef and served generously garnished in good buns. Chicken burgers, veggie burgers and excellent chips are also available and there is a great value lunch time deal on weekdays.
Website | 028 9066 5655
I. Hakka Noodle
A modern Chinese noodle house with a slick contemporary interior that has deservedly won a huge following since it opened in 2010. The food is lighter than that found in a traditional Chinese, with a tasty selection of starters followed by many variations on the theme of noodles. Everything, noodles included, is freshly prepared, tasty and served in more than generous portions.
The drinks menu includes alcoholic and tasty fruit based non-alcoholic cocktails. Much the same menu is served for lunch and dinner, with smaller portions by day at an even keener price than the already good value available in the evening.
Website | 028 9031 3270
J. The Crown Liquor Saloon
Few people visit Belfast without dropping in to this justly famous pub at least for a drink and they also serve pretty decent food. Pork and leek sausages with champ and onion gravy is as hearty a dish as you could wish for and the menu is full of such simple but wholesome fare.
It is pricy enough for what is basically pub grub, but it’s worth it for the simply wonderful surroundings. This is a genuine Victorian bar, in a listed building that is exuberantly decorated inside and out. There are intricately painted ceilings and walls, mosaic tiled floors, brocaded walls, patterned tiles, woodcarving and everywhere you look colourful painted and etched glass -minimalist it is certainly not. Settle into one of the chapel-like booths and enjoy.
Website | 028 9027 9901
K. Mourne Seafood Bar
Everywhere should have a Mourne’s – an affordable seafood restaurant which serves perfectly fresh fish and shellfish in simple but extremely well prepared dishes. The menu is extensive and changes daily based on what fish was landed that morning at the local ports of Kilkeel and Annalong. The restaurant owns its own shellfish beds in Carlingford Lough.
Mussels, oysters and lobster are menu staples with less well known fish such as gunard, ling and john dory joining more familiar fishy favorites like salmon, cod and monkfish. The seafood casserole is legendary. You’d expect such attention to detail to mean very high prices but you’d be wrong. If you love seafood – and even if you think you don’t – get along there. There is also a fish monger and a fish cookery school on the premises.
Website | 028 9024 8544
L. Molly’s Yard
Tucked away in a converted Victorian stable yard, this small restaurant serves classic bistro style dishes during the week, with a more adventurous dinner menu on weekend nights. Dishes such as Confit of Irish duck leg and Linguine with Spinich and Walnut are well prepared and available in either starter or main course sized portions.
Ingredients are local as is some of the beer available, brewed by the restaurant’s own independent brewery. It is a small, relaxed and comfortable restaurant and although not an expensive place to dine there is a sense of occasion about eating here.
Website | 028 9032 2600
M. The Ginger Tree
This is the place to head if you are looking for serious sushi fix without breaking the bank. The menu is long and varied, with a huge and tempting array of very tasty sushi, sold individually or as various mixed platters. It is fairly inexpensive but beware, you will probably eat – and spend – more than you intended!
Aside from sushi there is a good range of noodle and other main course dishes. The restaurant holds occasional sushi making classes, which are enormous fun and worth looking out for.
028 9032 7151
N. Nick’s Warehouse
When this big bustling place in a converted Whiskey warehouse opened in 1989 it took Belfast by storm. That is it still in business and still as popular as ever is a testament to the quality of the food served as well as its great atmosphere. The regular menu is supplemented by several specials each day and makes good use of local and artisan ingredients. The seafood dishes are especially good.
There is a well chosen range of inexpensive wines on house wine menu, all of which are available by the glass, with a more extensive and very interesting wine menu if you want to splash out. Prices are keen at lunchtime but climb higher in the evening, when eating a la carte can be pricey enough, but a good set dinner menu is available for those who need to stick to a budget.
Website | 028 9043 9690
O. The Ginger Bistro
Taking its name from the red har of its chef/owner, this pleasant bistro serves a varied and interesting menu where seafood has a central place and there is always a good choice of vegetarian options. There are dishes influenced by a variety of international cuisines, from Pacific rim to Italian, Mexican to Japanese, but all have in common high quality and fresh local ingredients.
The athmosphere is cool and laid back, with good music played at just the right volume to encourage conversation, and the love of food is evident. It sneaks into the middle price range by dint of the pre-theatre menu – eat later from the a la carte menu and you start to inch into higher end prices, though it’s worth what you pay.
Website | 028 9024 4421
This is the flagship restaurant of celebrity chefs Paul and Jeanne Rankin, and if you are in any sense a foodie, you should make it your business to eat here when in Belfast. It really is an experience, a varied, interesting and constantly changing menu with excellent use of seasonal local ingredients and a sure hand in the kitchen producing sensational flavours.
While the food is serious, and seriously good, this is by no means stuffy or somber fine dining. The interior is chic, the atmosphere buzzy, the service friendly and laid back but very professional. While prices can get pretty high, the set dinner menu is very good value.
Website | 028 9033 1532
Belfast’s only Michelin starred restaurant – chef/owner Micheal Deane has had his Michelin star for 12 years – and a destination restaurant for serious foodies. The food in innovative, memorable and beautifully presented.
While the menu may read like fairly simple bistro fare, everything is so perfectly prepared and with such great ingredients that the food you get is in a different league entirely. For those who want a real taste of what this kitchen can do, the 6 course ‘seasonal menu’, which changes daily, is highly recommended.
It is expensive by Belfast standards, though not excessively priced for food of this quality. For those whose budgets won’t stretch so far the Seafood Bar in the same building or the Bistro & Vin Cafe (R) in nearby Bedford St will allow you to sample Deane’s food at a more affordable prices.
Website | 028 9032 3123
S. James Street South
A cool and sophisticated restaurant in an old linen mill on, you guessed it, James Street South, with a bright, modern and inviting interior. An exciting menu is based on the very best in-season local produced ingredients cooked in a classic French style.
This is high end food – quail, fois gras, lobster, scallops, venison and fillet beef are mainstays on the menu – and they are particularly good at creating interesting vegetarian options, often a weak spot for such places. Desserts defy description (gingerbread biscuit with amaretto mousse may be the nicest thing I ever tasted) and will tempt even those who profess not to have a sweet tooth.
As you might expect prices are steep, but the pre-theatre dinner menu is extraordinarily good value and no less accomplished. Highly recommended.
Website | 028 9043 4310
T. Harbour View Restaurant
Eating in this stylish and upmarket Japanese restaurant is certainly an experience. Teppinyaki chefs stir fry your food at your table over flaming grills – a performance that is much a part of the occasion as the food. The food though is terrific, stir fried meat, vegatables and seafood of the highest quality. Don’t miss the tempura!
The surroundings are opulant, even decadent, with great views over the harbour and the River Lagan. Surprisingly for an Oriental restaurant there is a particularly fine wine list. It is very expensive however, which is probably why it is favoured more by expense account diners than any other group. The set lunch is better value.
Website | 28 9023 8823