By Colette Fitzpatrick
Since Belfast became my brother’s home, just over a year ago, it has become the city that I visit most frequently and I have become incredibly fond of it. While the city is full of history and culture, in terms of traditional tourist attractions, it is easy to see and do pretty much everything within a few days. However, there is an endless list of excellent places to eat and drink and finding great places to get fed and watered is always my main priority when I visit. Food is very important to me and my brother and is something we are both passionate about so most of our time together is spent checking out new spots in Belfast. And we always find some gems. So, if you’re thinking about visiting Belfast, here are some perfect eateries and bars, depending on what you might be looking for in any given moment….
For A Unique Fusion – Bia Rebel Ramen, 409 Ormeau Road, Belfast BT7 3GP, UK
Northern Ireland’s only hand-made, locally sourced ramen shop, Bia Rebel was a new find for us, visited on my most recent trip north. A fusion of Irish and Asian cuisines, it had been recommended by several of my brother’s acquaintances and, on a miserable day when drizzle came and went and a fierce wind wouldn’t let up, it was the perfect place to install oneself and warm cold hands on hot bowls of delicious food. I had the bone broth pho with brisket and my brother ordered their take on a bibimbap. The pho was hearty and flavourful and comforting while the bibimbap was slightly unusual and sweeter than normal but incredibly tasty nonetheless. Service was friendly and unobtrusive and the room quickly filled up shortly after we arrived as the first customers of the day, showcasing that the place clearly has a buzz about it and for very good reason.
For An Elegant Drink – The Merchant Hotel, 16 Skipper Street, Belfast BT1 2DZ, UK
The Merchant is one of my favourite spots for a drink as I do love a good hotel bar and this five-star hotel that is located inside a Victorian and Art Deco former bank is a serious beaut. The bar is elegant and comfortable with cushy chairs, low lighting, and a pleasant rumble of sounds from customers and music that isn’t too loud, and there is an extensive cocktail menu and exemplary service. At between ten to fifteen pounds for a cocktail, it is, by no means, cheap but the overall experience is worth it IMHO.
For A Dinner Date – AMPM Bohemian Restaurant, 38-42 Upper Arthur Street, Belfast BT1 4GH, UK
This stylish gem is actually where we went for dinner as a family over Christmas and is ideal for groups too but I really think that it would make for a perfect date spot – either romantic or platonic with a beloved pal. It is decorated beautifully with faux blooms draped from the ceiling, mirrors all over the walls, mood lighting with fairylights strewn about and candles on all of the tables, and eclectic details throughout. The food is great, as are the cocktails, the atmosphere is lively, and there are even cabaret shows that can be enjoyed as you dine if you plan your visit right!
For A Great Burger – Tribal Burger, 86 Botanic Avenue, Belfast BT7 1JR, UK
Tribal Burger is a Belfast classic that began as a food truck and now has a couple of locations, with the original being on Botanic Avenue. They serve up excellent burgers at a very good price point and offer some tasty flavour combos, great sides, vegan options, delicious beers, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic milkshakes. Cheap and cheerful but still great quality eats!
For A Chilled Drink – The Loft at Ten Square, 10 Donegall Square South, Belfast BT1 5JD, UK
The Loft is the epitome of a chill hotel bar. Serving up tasty cocktails in a stylish, rag-timey setting, without blasting music (at least when I was there), and with some damn comfy couches to recline on, it is a perfect spot to have a nice drink and chat with a companion.
For Brunch – The Pocket, 69 University Road, Belfast BT7 1NF, UK
I’ve had a lot of great brunches in Belfast but the most memorable was the most recent that I had in The Pocket, which is a charming little café right across from Queens University. Flooded with sunlight streaming in through the giant Victorian windows at the front of the building, this little gem boasts some of the most pleasant and friendly staff members I have ever come across and is the kind of place where the attention to detail is incredible in the presentation of the food, the interiors, and the service. Little touches like the tea coming with a sandglass timer are plenty endearing but it is the food that will keep you coming back. My brother ordered the Buddha Bowl in an attempt to try something new and be healthy – which we knew was a gamble – and it wasn’t particularly tasty but I ordered the Cherry Pancake Stack and it blew my socks right off: fluffy golden pancakes that are almost like crumpets, plenty of cream, cherry jam, and an almond sugar crumb…utterly delicious and beautiful to look at to boot. The food was excellent and it is clearly a popular spot as it was rather busy but the relaxed atmosphere made me think that it would be an ideal spot to curl up with a tea and a good book later on in the day, after the brunch crowds had dissipated.
For Perfect Pizza – Pizza Punks, 20-22 Waring Street, Belfast BT1 2ES, UK
I’m not normally one for chains but this doesn’t really count with only three locations (Belfast, Glasgow, Newcastle), right? All I know is that they were playing The Cure as we walked in, they had a neon sign of a Joy Division quote on the wall, they had Pepsi on the menu instead of Coke (a real personal win for me), we made a perfect custom pizza that my burps tasted of for hours afterwards (surely a mark of quality, right?), and the price point was pretty damn low. Incredibly tasty and chill and not too expensive, what more could you want?
For A Characteristic Bar – Muriel’s Bar, 12-14 Church Lane, Belfast BT1 4QN, UK
Muriel’s Bar is famous for its line of underwear hanging from the ceiling right in front of the bar. A perfect spot for an Instagram shot and a not-too-pricey drink, it is a handy and iconic central Belfast haunt.
For Inexpensive Feasting – Cafe Arirang, 32 Botanic Avenue, Belfast BT7 1JQ, UK
This wee café is a small, family-run business boasting some tasty Korean treats that you don’t see on many menus in Ireland. Mostly items that are considered street food and unhealthy treats in Korea, it is really tasty, though clearly adapted somewhat for local tastes. A perfect spot for ordering a few things and sharing them. We got the bulgogi kimbap, tteokbokki, spicy noodles and fried dumplings between us and it was quite the feast.
For A Selection Under One Roof – St George’s Market, 12-20 East Bridge Street, Belfast BT1 3NQ, UK
St George’s Market is perfect for a slow, happy Sunday. Live bands play at the core of the market, there are stalls of clothes, trinkets, vintage pieces, artworks and more to browse, and there is a decent food court with baked goods, Mexican food, Lebanese food, curries, veggie and vegan options, and more in the beautiful 19th century market building.
What are you waiting for? If you really like your food then Belfast has to be your next holiday destination!
For more travel pieces, check out our tips for going to Seoul and our guide to Kenmare.