The Belfast food scene is alive and well. Find out our favorite Belfast restaurants, coffee shops, pubs and market in Northern Ireland’s capital city.
Prior to our visit to Belfast, we didn’t know much about Northern Island beyond what we had seen in movies like In Name of the Father and The Boxer, but we got a crash course on the local politics upon our arrival in Belfast.
During our stay, we were so fascinated that we could have chatted with the locals for hours upon hours about the city’s history and the current political situation. In fact, we did. But this didn’t stop us from exploring Belfast enough to fall in love with the city’s charm, history, architecture and food.
Good food abounds in Belfast. This is a city that fully embraces the locavore movement and takes pride in its culinary bounty, especially some of the freshest seafood we’ve ever eaten. Seriously, the seafood is extraordinary, but then again so is the butter.
Local restaurants buzz with people eating out in Belfast on every night of the week. This is a part of the world where every year should be a year of food and drink!
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Belfast Food Guide
We dove into the Belfast food scene and ate it all from hearty Irish& breakfasts to an elegant Michelin starred meal with plenty of coffee to keep us going. Here are our suggestions for the best places to eat in Belfast – the spots you cannot miss when you’re deciding where to eat in Belfast.
Despite Belfast’s relatively small size for a capital city, it has more than its fair share of good restaurants. While eating in Belfast, we spent a good bit of time focusing on seafood since we don’t usually have access to such wonderful fruits de mer.
But don’t think that Belfast’s restaurant selection is a one trick pony. The Belfast food options are varied with prices ranging from cheap to high-end.
Mourne Seafood Bar
Did we like Mourne Seafood Bar? Let’s just say that we liked this restaurant so much that we ate there twice in one week. And who can blame us for returning for a second installment of ultra-fresh seafood at affordable prices?
The freshness of the Oysters au Naturel figuratively transported us to a nearby Carlingford oyster farm, but it was the Mussels steamed with a Mediterranean korma sauce that we will long remember as the best mussels we’ve ever eaten. The simple yet monumental seafood stew as well the fish and chips are also menu standouts.
Prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is casual. Our only regret is not returning for a third meal.
Mourne Seafood Bar is located at 34-36 Bank Street, Belfast BT1 1HL, United Kingdom.
After a highly disappointing meal at a Michelin starred restaurant in Galway, we wondered if we were going to enjoy our Belfast lunch at Ox, a similarly starred restaurant in Belfast. Upon arriving at the industrial building on storied Oxford Street, we were quickly greeted by a friendly hostess and seated at a well-appointed table in the restaurant’s cozy, sunlit dining room.
Then, the show that was the three-course lunch menu began.
Our charming Swedish server rolled out a parade of dishes, each creatively prepared by acclaimed Chef Stephen Toman with locally sourced ingredients. We scraped each dish clean, not wanting to waste a pea pod or asparagus spear.
We needed a meal like this to restore our faith in the Michelin system and also to welcome us to fine dining in Belfast. Mission accomplished.
Ox is located at 1 Oxford Street, Belfast BT1 3LA, United Kingdom.
James Street South Restaurant
Niall McKenna is a busy chef and entrepreneur with four of the top restaurants in Belfast plus a cooking school all on his plate, yet he still can be found cooking at his flagship location which is where we found him on a busy Tuesday night. Though every table was filled, the restaurant’s staff kept the courses coming with steady pacing and good humor.
To get a good sampling of McKenna’s work, we indulged in the night’s tasting menu, a bargain for three courses and a thoughtful wine pairing. Top dishes included the scallop dish pictured above as well as grilled cod and County Antrim fillet of beef.
Ending our meal with smoked chocolate, lime sorbet with toasted meringue was sweet indeed. We left the restaurant glad for a walk that allowed us to burn some calories and reminisce about a special meal at one of the best restaurants in Belfast.
James Street South Restaurant is located at 21 James Street S, Belfast BT2 7GA, United Kingdom.
Sometimes we want a big meal, and sometimes we just want to end the night with a light snack. That’s where Love Fish comes into play.
Straying from its full-service lunch and dinner menus, Love Fish offers a late-night menu that includes tasty snacks for prices ranging from £3 to £8. During our visit, we shared Fish Scratchings, Smoked Mackerel Pâté on Toast and Smoked Salmon (pictured here) with Wheaten (a type of soda bread) and Horseradish Cream.
Love Fish is located at 36-40 Howard Street, Belfast BT1 6PF, United Kingdom.
Belfast Baking Company
**Important Update – This restaurant is permanently closed.**
We wanted a quick breakfast before immersing ourselves into the epic Titanic Belfast museum, and nearby Belfast Baking Company fit the bill. This casual café serves a wide selection of pastries as well as breakfast and lunch fare.
We indulged in a Large Ulster Fry for a reasonable £6.95. This plate came loaded with sausage, potato bread, bacon, tomato, baked beans, mushroom, a fried egg and black pudding. After sharing this hearty breakfast, we were fully energized to explore the museum with gusto.
Belfast Baking Company was located at Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Arc Retail, Unit 7, Block C, Belfast BT3 9DT, United Kingdom. This restaurant is now permanently closed.
Cheap Chinese Food
We often like to eat ethnic food when we travel, and Belfast is no exception to this rule. During our visit, we found plenty of little Chinese eateries near the University on Ormeau Road.
Eating cheap Chinese food is an excellent way to experience a city while saving money for the more special restaurants like the ones detailed above. Thanks to the power of globalization, we found some pretty good Chinese food in Belfast like the chili pepper dotted salt and pepper chicken pictured above.
Cheap Chinese food is located at numerous Belfast Chinese restaurants. Just keep your eyes open to find them.
St. George’s Market
A great city needs a great market. We have our favorite markets in cities like Barcelona, London and even our hometown of Philadelphia. Now we can add Belfast to this list with the St. George’s Market.
Located in a late 19th-century building, St. George’s is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Though open for just three days each week. the market packs a punch in its variety of fresh, local Belfast food staples like seafood and produce as well as a cornucopia of ready-to-eat foods representing local cuisine and ethnicities around the world.
St. George’s market is a great spot to shop for Northern Ireland food or eat an affordable lunch in Belfast or both. If you’re wondering what to eat in Belfast, you will surely something tasty at this market.
When planning a visit, note the following schedule:
St. George’s Market is located at St George’s Market, Donegall Quay, Belfast BT1 3LA, United Kingdom.
Belfast Coffee Shops
As world travelers and coffee lovers, we prioritize finding a good coffee shop as soon as we arrive in a new city. We did this in Belfast and came up with a good selection of specialty coffee shops to keep us happily caffeinated.
As usual, once we found our favorites, we returned to these Belfast cafes as temporary regulars. These are our favorites Belfast cafes:
We spent half of our time in Belfast at an apartment just off of Ormeau Road, less than a block from a General Merchants location. The convenience was enough to get us in the door for a laid back Belfast dinner.
But it was the coffee and breakfast scones that kept us coming back again and again. We dug the cool vibe and daytime coffee culture, not to mention the solid cappuccinos.
General Merchants has two Belfast cafes. We frequented the location at 361 Ormeau Road, Belfast BT7 3GL, United Kingdom.
Spending half of our time in central Belfast at the Hotel Europa, we found Established on our first morning in town and immediately felt at home amongst the hipster crowd drinking pourovers and working on their Apple computers. We skew a bit old to be called hipsters, but these are two areas where we would easily qualify for the dubious label.
We liked Kaffe O as a switch from the normal third wave coffee scene and a bit of a foreshadow to our trip to Sweden. Ormeau Street’s Kaffe O is unabashedly Scandinavian with its sleek design and Nordic menu.
We checked out some of the best bars in Belfast, and we were not disappointed. Our only dilemma was choosing from the many beer, cider and whiskey options.
The Dirty Onion
Located in a building dating back to 1780, The Dirty Onion is a thoroughly modern pub in the heart of the city’s Cathedral Quarter. The inside of the building is impressive both for its decor featuring wooden beams and exposed brick decor as well as for its extensive bar menu of beers and ciders.
The outside beer garden, filled with picnic tables and avant-garde sculptures, is relatively mellow in the early evening until the crowds arrive and the place truly comes alive.
Feeling hungry? No worries – Yardbird is right upstairs and offers an affordable menu with savory treats like barbecue chicken and ribs. Add in the nightly Irish music, and there really is no reason to bar hop in Belfast.
The Dirty Onion is located at 3 Hill St, Belfast BT1 2LA, United Kingdom. Yardbird is just one flight upstairs at the same address.
Crown Liquor Saloon
Located in a building built in the mid 19th century and renovated by the National Trust in 1978, the Crown Liquor Saloon building is a true gem of a pub right in the heart of the Belfast city center. The architecture would be enough to warrant a visit with its vintage booths, gargoyles and stained glass windows.
But it’s the classic pub experience that’s the true draw. Let’s face it, it’s not every day that you can order a shamrock-topped Guinness after summoning a server by ringing a bell – not unless you are lucky enough to live in Belfast.
The Crown Liquor Saloon is located at 46 Great Victoria St, Belfast BT2 7BA, United Kingdom.
Things To Do in Belfast
Belfast is a fascinating city. If you’re wondering what to do during your visit, check out our top five suggestions. Then look into the following Belfast activities:
Get a discounted quote for travel insurance to protect your trip from things like injuries, theft and cancelations. We never travel without protection!
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: August 9, 2016