Belfast is one of my favourite cities. I’m not sure if it’s the red brick buildings or the friendly people but it reminds me of my home place in Canada and I always feel really comfortable there.
For a food-filled weekend getaway with your best friend or significant other, Belfast ticks all the boxes: fantastic global cuisines; fresh and locally caught seafood; comforting pub favourites and hearty breakfasts.
Combine these tasty culinary experiences with a splash of history and cultural events and you’ve yourself a winning combination for the perfect getaway.
Titanic Hotel Belfast
I hadn’t stayed in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter before and I’m so impressed at how this part of the city’s waterfront has been revamped.
Families were out walking along the boardwalks, old ships are docked and gorgeous stained glass artworks are dotted about as part of the Glass of Thrones walking trail to celebrate 10 years of the show being filmed in Northern Ireland. All of this effectively tells the story of this quarter’s shipbuilding, maritime past and its more recent claims to fame.
In this part of the city, the Titanic Hotel Belfast is located at the famed Harland & Wolff headquarters and drawing offices (where the Titanic was famously designed). The building has been tastefully restored; combining modern comforts with old-style charm and heritage. Guests are free to wander the rooms of the building to admire the many artefacts on display from the area’s shipbuilding past. This was our home base for our Belfast stay.
During the festive season, the hotel is elegantly decorated and a great spot for a historically-themed afternoon tea (just pretend it’s the early 1900s).
My husband and I are tired parents and could have happily stayed in the confines of our hotel room for the entire stay but greater Belfast beckoned and – luckily for us – the sun was shining. We set off along the waterfront, taking in the sights and sounds of the Titanic Quarter. As we crossed the footbridge over the River Lagan, a familiar smell filled my senses – poutine.
This is Canadian comfort food at its finest: double-fried French fries, squeaky cheese curds and hot gravy. It’s hard to find good poutine in Ireland, particularly because cheese curds are not readily available. Montreal native Kylah Dittmar moved to Belfast eight years ago and missed the dish (which originated in her hometown) so much she decided to build a business around it. She has been running Oui Poutine for five years now and it’s been so successful she’s added a second location.
We tried two poutines: her classic with curds, fries and gravy and “Quebecois-style”, which also features sautéed mushrooms and bacon. I fancy myself a poutine connoisseur and this is the best I’ve had on the island of Ireland.
St George’s Market
St George’s Market is the heart and soul of the Belfast food scene. I love ambling up and down the aisles, meeting different vendors, chefs and artists and trying new foods. Aside from vegetables, cheeses and sourdoughs, there are also loads of prepared food options for an on-the-go snack or even a full-on meal while in the market.
The breakfast baps on offer are always delicious but on this particular trip I picked up an Indian-style pakora (vegetable fritter) which was nearly the size of my head – the perfect snack to fuel me for a long walk around the city centre.
The finer things in life
The food scene in Belfast is eclectic and fun and the city is home to many talented chefs. If you’re planning a trip to the North and want to indulge in some fine dining while there, it’s always best to book well in advance (in some cases, months in advance – especially if you’re visiting over a weekend).
On this particular trip, we indulged in a multi-course tasting dinner at Titanic Hotel’s main restaurant The Wolff Grill, which was named Ireland’s Hotel Restaurant of the Year by the Irish Hotel Awards. Head chef Nigel Mannion makes good use of local ingredients and creative flavour profiles with dishes like seabass, confit chicken wing, chorizo and sweetcorn and the decadent beef fillet with onion textures, potato and slow-braised beef terrine.
If you enjoy Michelin guide dining, OX Belfast, Deane’s EIPIC and The Muddler’s Club all have stars, offer unique dining and flavours and are all fantastic options if you’re looking for a real taste of the North.
I like to indulge in world flavours when I visit any city because these are the foods and flavours I miss the most living in rural Ireland. Belfast doesn’t disappoint when it comes to international cuisine. For Korean food, try Café Arirang on Botanic Drive. If you’re new to Korean flavours, try Bibimbap (a mixed rice bowl, often served with beef, vegetables and a fried egg), mandu (pork or kimchi-filled dumplings) or bulgogi (sweet soy-marinated pork or beef).
The Cuban Sandwich Factory at Queen’s Arcade specialise in its namesake – the always-delicious Cuban sandwich, which traditionally features roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on a panini-style roll. The sandwich spot also has other Cuban-inspired sandwich flavours.
If you love Indian flavours but want to try something different, Kathmandu Kitchen on Botanic Avenue makes delicious Nepali cuisine, including momos. These are dumplings, usually filled with spiced chicken, steamed and served with a curry-style sauce.
That perfect pint
Years before I moved to Ireland from Canada I watched Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations as he visited Belfast for the first time. He visited The Crown Pub for stew and pints of Guinness. When I subsequently made my first visit to Belfast, I made sure to go there too. I know it’s touristy, but I’ve made it a tradition to visit this cosy, iconic locale whenever I’m in the city.
A local friend recommended we try The Spaniard pub (Skipper St) for a pint while strolling the downtown region and also claimed Madden’s Bar (Berry St) pours the best pint of Guinness in the city, though we didn’t make it there on this trip.
If pints aren’t your thing, the cocktails at Titanic Hotel Belfast’s watering hole The Drawing Office Two are tasty (we sampled several) and have a vintage feel, which suits the historical ambiance of the building.
The iconic Ulster Fry
You can’t visit Ulster without having an Ulster Fry – it is the breakfast of champions and keeps you going all day until dinner. The addition of potato farls sets it apart from the fry we generally have in the south, and potato farls are some of my favourite things.
In Belfast, Maggie Mays serves up a hearty fry (among many other items) from early morning until later in the evening, meaning you can satisfy your farl craving any time of the day. They have two city centre locations and since late August have had a no-reservation, walk-in only policy in place.
Their full fry is said to be the ultimate hangover cure – ideal if you’ve spent any time at the aforementioned pubs and watering holes. J
Janine was a guest of Titanic Hotel Belfast during this stay