The culinary landscape of Northern Ireland’s capital city has come a long way from the standard offerings of wheaten bread, Irish butter and brown beer (though those things are still delicious, classic, local fare for very good reason).
The restaurant scene, food producers, shops, distillers, craft brewers, cooking schools and more have exploded, to the point where folks visit Belfast like any other destination city where the gastronomy getting is good.
Here are some places to check out in Belfast, and what you should eat and drink when you’re there.
But if you’re short on time and want to sample a cross section of tastiness, hop on a carefully curated Belfast Food Tour, an award winning company where you’re walked through select spots in the city to sample and sip.
1. Belfast Cookery School
Photo courtesy of Belfast Cookery
Belfast Cookery School, run by a former chef to the Guinness family (yep, same one that makes Ireland’s most famous beer), is your chance to try local Belfast Black beer and freshly baked wheaten bread, which the chef showes you how to make, spread shamelessly thick with creamy Irish butter. For some folks, this is hands down their ideal last meal request.
Photo by Catherine Dunwoody
Craft-chocolatier CoCouture creates small-batch confections from ethically sourced cacao, all very nice but it’s the violette and rose infused chocolates and bars that set them apart. Wary? We get that. Floral flavors can taste like eating your grandma’s guest soap if not handled with the utmost care. These candies however, are lovely and subtle, and paired with a glass of bubble, make your long flight back home that much more civilized, even if you’re sitting in coach.
3. Sawers Fine Foods
Photo courtesy of Sawers
Sawers Fine Foods, a purveyor of all-things-food since 1897, is a must-stop while visiting Belfast and likely has the best Irish cheese selection in the city (try the Irish Young Buck—more than just an awesome name). Grab some charcuterie and smoked fish from their gorgeous showcases to create your own picnic for later. Or load up on teas, local jams, spreads and candy for gifts to bring back for friends and family. No one wants that Titanic keychain. They want food.
4. Titanic Belfast
Speaking of sinking ships, at some point while visiting the city, a tour of Titanic Belfast is crucial. The landmark and modern museum offers a fascinating, interactive history lesson that goes deep, and it seems apropos to experience Afternoon Tea (pictured at top) if you’re there on a Sunday. The duplicate “Leo” staircase in the replica tearoom alone is reason to sip a cuppa and nibble on tiered treats like classic scones and Devonshire cream, finger sandwiches et al.
5. Shu Bar
Photo courtesy of Shu Bar
Thirsty for something a little stronger than tea? Belfast is certainly no slouch in the current upswing of gin cocktails, with Shu Bar’s signature Belfast Bramble holding its own featuring local Belfast 1912 gin blended with sweet local blackberries, Crème de Mure (a fancy name for blackberry liqueur) and fresh lime. Clearly, there’s a lot more you can do with gin than mix with tonic.