British food gets an unfair rap for being a bit heavy, or worse, boring. However, the blossoming restaurant scene in Belfast is set to change all of that. Northern Ireland’s capital has undergone a culinary rebirth and is now full of bold new eateries.
Best for Breakfast: Established Coffee
Known for its minimalist industrial design and its incredible coffee, Establish Coffee is the best place for a morning meal in Queen’s Quarter. The modern coffee shop serves specialty brews roasted in Ireland and beyond, but you can also grab a seat at the long communal table to dig into the locally-inspired menu. From porridge to perfectly poached eggs, and a surprisingly tasty take on huevos rancheros, the hip coffee stop has incredible breakfast options available at a great value. There are also fresh baked goods like apple pie for a sweet start or a treat at any time of day.
Best for Seafood: Mourne Seafood Bar
Belfast is surrounded by water so it's only right to make room in your dining schedule to sample the best seafood in the city. Mourne Seafood Bar, right next to City Hall, is dedicated to letting the flavors of local fish and shellfish shine through on the menu. To ensure the very best quality, the restaurant even keeps its own shellfish beds in Carlingford Lough. The oysters here are outstanding (and a steal at 10 pounds for half a dozen), but the seafood chowder is famous beyond the city limits. For mains, the hake and salmon are both local specialties and the scallop linguine is an absolute dream.
Best for Fish and Chips: John Long’s
You can’t leave Belfast without trying fish and chips, and John Long’s remains the city’s most beloved chipper. The fast-food style joint first opened in 1914 and has stayed in business for more than a century thanks to its perfectly fried fish and salty, satisfying chips. Or for a hometown treat, try a pastie (sausage meat and potato fried into a patty). Expect the booths to be full at mealtimes, so show up early to snag a seat.
Best for Meat: Flame
As the name suggests, this busy Belfast restaurant lets fire be the star of the kitchen. The eatery features a 10-foot-long Argentinian asador grill as well as tandoor ovens for chargrilling beef, chicken, and fish with a variety of spices in the open dining room. The steaks are legendary, but there is also always at least one vegan-friendly dish on the menu like beetroot risotto. Flame also serves traditional breakfast Monday through Saturday until 11 a.m.
Best for Pizza: Pizza Punks
For the best gourmet, wood-fired pizza in Belfast head straight to Pizza Punks. The anti-establishment pizza place believes that pizzas should come with unlimited toppings for one low price. Build your own pie with a custom combination of over 50 ingredients, or try a pie from the staff picks menu like the delicious Super Thai Guy, topped with burnt chili sauce, mozzarella, sticky pork belly, and zesty lime ricotta. The cocktails are also excellent but you can’t go wrong with a cold craft beer on the side.
Best for Lunch: Made in Belfast
Designed to look a little bit like your grandmother’s favorite diner, Made in Belfast is the ideal spot for lunch the Cathedral Quarter. The restaurant focuses on locally sourced ingredients and transforms the produce and meat into modern takes on classic dishes. Start with the sustainable seafood chowder served with homemade Guinness bread, but save room for the pan-seared Thornhill duck breast with gingerbread stuffing and local greens. The seasonal menu changes so it is always worth another visit if you have been out of town for a while. There is a second location next to City Hall, as well.
Best for a Chicken Dinner: Yardbird
Located above the Dirty Onion pub, Yardbird is renowned for its free-range rotisserie chicken. The pared-down menu features dry-rubbed chicken, wings and ribs, but what you really need to order is the roast chicken. It's marinated for 24 hours in buttermilk, lemon, and paprika so it comes out unbelievably juicy every time. Order a full bird, half, or quarter but be sure to get the sweet potato fries and avocado salad on the side.
Best for Fine Dining: OX
Few gourmet restaurants have excited Belfast as much as OX on Oxford Street. The fine-dining eatery has earned a coveted Michelin star for its refined but unfussy approach to food. The waterfront restaurant serves a seasonal menu that changes based on the best available produce. This is where to splurge for a multi-course tasting menu to sample as many of the chef’s creations as possible. Expect creative pairings like cured sea trout, with mussels and pickled chervil root, or Jerusalem artichoke, with lemon, chicken skin, and soy. End the meal with a selection of three kinds of Irish cheese, though the desserts are also in a league of their own.