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Jul 3, 2009 02:28 AM

4 Days in Belfast

Hi Everyone,
My wife and I will be taking our first trip to Belfast later this month. We're spending a day out at the Giant's Causeway and Bushmill Inn, but will be in central Belfast the other 3 days (we're staying at the Tara Lodge).

Any recommendations for lunch/brunch or dinner? Irish/British/European cuisine preferred, and very flexbile in terms of type (great pubs all the way to fine dining) and price (it's a short trip, so we're quite willing to splurge on great meals if needed). Basically, we're looking for the best Belfast has to offer!

Many thanks for your help.

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  1. Deanes is very good, and ate in one of Rankins new places a couple of months ago. it was on the site of the original roscoffs.

    1. Try Made in Belfast for a fun local bistro-type place, with a local flair :

      Molly's Yard is the best spot for Irish comfort food, emphasizing fresh local ingredients (on Botanic Ave, right down by Queen's University (and just down Botanic from the Tara Lodge). Book downstairs to be able to choose from the restaurant or bistro bar.

      The Mourne Seafood Bar shouldn't be missed, but requires advanced booking:

      The Avoca shop downtown has a really great cafe (

      Favorite pubs include The Spaniard, Muriel's, the Duke of York, and the John Hewitt (all google-able). Check out the Merchant Hotel for fab cocktails and setting.

      Also check out St. George's Market on Friday or Saturday morning/mid-day for local cheeses, ice cream, produce, and other tastes.

      5 Replies
      1. re: turtl_girl

        I've booked Mourne Seafood for the Thursday night we arrive. Figure we will have most other meals casually, at places like Molly's Yard, Crown, Made in Belfast, etc.
        Wanted to have one more nice meal on the Saturday night. Tried booking at Tedford's, but unfortunately they're on holiday until July 28th (the week after we're there).

        From the reviews I've seen elsewhere, opinions on Deane's are mixed. Anyone here with firsthand experience?

        EDIT: I also found Cayenne and James Street South? Any opinions on either of those two as well?

        1. re: Foodie Canuck

          I have eaten at cayenne a couple of times (though not in the last year, so take this with a grain of salt). The food was quite good, but the service was memorably slow and grumpy. I have heard this is not an uncommon experience. I have not tried james street south - but No. 27 Talbot Street could be another nice option.

          1. re: turtl_girl

            Also - another place that I have heard good things about but have not yet been able to try is called Shu, up the Lisburn Road.

            If you happen to be up in that neck of the woods, the Yellow Door is also a cute spot for lunch.

            1. re: turtl_girl

              The head chef left Cayenne about a month ago, I don't know how standards are faring since.

              Talbot Street is good. James Street South has always required a few bags of crisps afterwards... not the most generous of portions.

            2. re: Foodie Canuck

              yes, I have been to Deane's a number of times.

              its easily the best restaurant in belfast, by so far its not funny. I am not sure where you are looking to see "mixed" reviews, but I'd recommend looking away.

              Cayenne was the name of the other place that escaped me earlier.

          2. You could try Balloo House, a little out of the way but the upstairs restaurant certainly gives Deans a run for it's money (and about half the price)

            Oh yeah - And I work there :-)

            2 Replies
            1. re: Steve_K

              Any thoughts on James Street South?
              The menu looks very good - just wondering if anyone has any firsthand experiences with how it's executed, the service, etc.

              Thanks everyone.

              1. re: Foodie Canuck

                If you're able, it would be great to hear a report back on the places you try!

            2. Yes, do report back please! Those of us who actually live outside London or even in such far away places as Ireland would like to read something other than reviews of restaurants of Notting Hill and Islington :)

              6 Replies
              1. re: DublinChow

                A meal last night at Cayenne was expensive (even by London standards) and not terribly impressive. A horribly confused menu and hit and miss execution.

                The Merchant Hotel on the other hand has one of the best cocktail bars I have tried in a long, long time. It recently won three awards at Tales of The Cocktail in New Orleans and I can see why. An impressive back bar, high quality mixing and good pricing.

                Another place worth trying is The Georgian House in Comber. Newly refurbished and lovely food. Their "fry" uses some of the best ingredients from the six counties and at £5.95 represented very good value

                1. re: Simon Majumdar

                  Thanks for the help everyone - we had a great trip. Short reviews of the places we ended up visiting:

                  - Molly's Yard: had lunch downstairs, where you can order off both menus. Place was very quiet, which they said was typical of summer since the University is out. Starters of tomato basil soup and seafood chowder were both very good, you can definitely taste the freshness of all the ingredients. My wife and I both had the duck leg confit, duck was good with a nice crispy skin, but the accompanying vegetables and broth were the highlight, fresh and perfectly seasoned - would have made an outstanding soup on its own. I had their chocolate stout, which I found to be just ok; tasty, but a little thin in its consistency for my taste.

                  Mourne Seafood Bar: Probably the culinary highlight of the trip. Wife had piri piri prawn starter which she enjoyed. I had the mussels, which were the freshest I've had, prepared very simply with butter, white wine and shallots. Main of whole sole with butter, white wine and lemon might have been the best, simple piece of fresh fish I've ever had - just flaked off the bone. With a good bottle of gewurtz and apple crumble for dessert, the meal felt like a bargain at £55.

                  - Crown Bar: Stopped in for a pre-dinner drink on Friday evening. Very lively atmosphere, and the decor really is something. We especially liked the privacy offered by the different booths (each with their own door, and high backs). Looked like a mostly after-work crowd; we could only be so lucky as to call this our local neighbourhood pub.

                  - Ginger Bistro: another enjoyable meal, very cool, funky atmosphere, server was extremely helpful and friendly. My wife said the seared tuna starter was the best she's ever had; my pork belly was good (not great) but perfectly accompanied with fennel, apple, grapes and white wine so the dish was definitely a success overall. Can't recall my wife's main at the moment, but she said she enjoyed it. My crisp skinned fillet of sea bass was excellent, though the accompanying scallops were a touch undercooked. We skipped dessert, but with a glass of wine and a glass of port each, total came to £60, which we though quite reasonable.

                  - James St South: This was our "fancy" dinner on Saturday night. Had a fantastic bottle of wine (an '04 burgundy) that I will definitely be tracking down for the home collection. Wife's starter was foie gras and brioche; one of her favourite dishes, so no surprise that it was a hit - brioche was very well executed and completed the foie gras quite well. Mine was a very good (and relatively thickly sliced) venison carpaccio, with picked tomato (ok) and truffled honey (very good). Starters were both local Antrim (loin of lamb and sirloin of beef) dishes very simply, but well prepared, and cooked perfectly to medium rare. Desserts of baked alaska and lemon tarte (a special) were also good. Total for dinner was £100 (including the £36 bottle of wine), which we found acceptable given the quality. Ambience is definitely more subdued and serious and James St. South, but service was stellar (friendly, well paced, and water/wine glasses never went unfilled).

                  - Merchant Hotel: went for a drink after dinner on Saturday night - simply a stunning space. Comfortable club chairs and bench seating. Great unobtrusive service. An extensive drink menu (25 pages), but I settled on a simple Manhattan, made with care and high quality indgredients. Have to agree with Simon above, the Merchant ranks as one of my favourite cocktail bars anywhere. A perfect way to top off our weekend getaway.

                  Thanks to everyone here for your suggestions - it's a shame we couldn't get to all of them, but we were very happy with our foodie weekend in Belfast.

                  1. re: Foodie Canuck

                    Thanks for the report back! Glad you had a good experience overall...

                    1. re: Foodie Canuck

                      Thanks for the info. Leaving next week for Belfast, Bushmills. Did you have any suggestions for Bushmills/Giants Causeway/Coleraine, etc area??

                      1. re: rf6540

                        The Bushmills Inn is good and wholesome with local dishes like Cullen Skink but haven't been up north in a while and be sure and visit the distillery itself. Other than that try the Harbour Bar in Portrush for a pint, it has a half decent bistro behind.

                        1. re: rf6540

                          The Fish & Chicken Inn in Ballymena is a chip shop which was the regional finalist in the "Fish & Chip Shop of the Year" competition.

                          Might be worth a try (although my mate who edits the local newspaper says it's not as good as it used to be).

                  2. Spent a little time poking around Holywood, County Down recently (20 minutes or so outside of Belfast, on the water). A few places to try -- Panini Cafe (cute little Italian cafe) and the Dirty Duck pub, right on the water with lovely views.

                    Haven't had a chance to try it yet, but if you're looking for glorious luxury in Northern Ireland, try the Culloden Hotel in Cultra, a spectacular 5 star hotel. Nearby and also on my list is the Crawfordsburn Inn, the oldest restaurant in Ireland dating back to 1614. It comes highly recommended by friends in the area.