The people who live in this beautiful place have a lot of love for their culture and food – how appropriate that 2016 is Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink. Of course, I had to come and see what Northern Ireland puts on its tables. I got to experience elaborate, traditional home-style cooking and Irish-international fusion far beyond the infamous potato. Northern Ireland’s culinary scene is really up-and-coming and a true rising star to keep an eye on. When walking through Belfast there are no wrong choices to make when it comes to food – from the hole in the wall place all the way to the posh restaurants, Northern Ireland takes pride in its food and you can taste it. Many restaurants have made it their mission to cook with regional ingredients and fresh produce from Northern Ireland only. I was so pleasantly surprised with NI’s food, it was pretty hard to narrow it down to a manageable list of my absolute favourite places…
5 Bites and Sips not to miss when in Northern Ireland
1: Find a Kilmegan Cider
While this might actually be a bit of a challenge, once you do find one you will be convinced that it was totally worth it. Kilmegan Cider has won several Great Taste Awards while still being a tiny, and I mean tiny, brewery. My absolute favourite is their Elderflower Cider, it’s not too sweet at all while still having that beautiful pure juice taste. Their Real Cider is as real as it can get – it is 100% pure juice cider that has not been pasteurised or filtered, allowing a secondary in-bottle fermentation. It has a light, natural carbonation with fresh fruit flavours and a long finish. No kidding, if you usually do not like cider you will love this, and for those of you who already love cider: you will love this fresh new twist on it!
Find Kilmegan Cider here.
2: Harry’s Shack
Take a trip up to Portstewart and enjoy the coast for a day – maybe walk around town or just enjoy the long stretches of sandy beaches (this is the perfect place for flying a kite! Hello childhood!). Harry’s Shack in Portstewart was named Ireland’s Restaurant of the Year 2014 by the McKennas’ Guides – and I can’t agree more. Their seafood is divine, the view is stunning and the atmosphere so cosy and homely. Service is great and if you have time to take your eyes off the spectacular view take a closer look at their tableware, it’s handmade local pottery. So. pretty. Enjoy!
Harry’s Shack, 118 Strand Road, Portstewart
3: Meat Locker at Deanes
Welcome to meat heaven. Meat Locker only uses prime Hannan Meats which are kept stored in a salt chamber until they are aged to perfection. Deanes then grills them to divinity. Pair this with a nice glass of wine and you have got yourself a perfect dinner. I got the 250g Fillet Steak with dripping chips, tomato, mushroom & béarnaise sauce. Heaven. If you still have room for dessert after this festival of flavours you should get the steamed bitter-chocolate pudding, it is one of a kind.
Meat Locker at Deanes, 28-40 Howard Street, Belfast
4: Explore Belfast with your taste buds and your friend-buds!
Take a food tour with Belfast Food Tours! This food tour takes you around Belfast and includes everything you could wish for: markets, traditional dishes, regional drinks, yes – even dessert. Plus you get a pretty cool downtown walking tour.
Pro tip: skip breakfast. I mean it.
Belfast Food Tours provide tours once every Friday and twice every Saturday.
Check out their upcoming events and tours here.
5: Sit back and have a beer while doing something for the local community…
The John Hewitt Bar in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter is owned by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre next door. Why? They barely got by with government grants for their community projects so they thought “Why not open a pub and generate our own funding?”.
They opened their doors in 1999, have live music six nights a week and are open every day. Mumford & Sons even had their first Irish gig there! The John Hewitt Pub serves local beers, ciders and a daily lunch menu as well as snacks. Their mission however is to create a true sense of community, which they achieve by being part of the unplugged movement. They do not have TVs, WIFI or games – they actually want you to talk to people. So grab a beer and get to know the lovely Irish.
John Hewitt Bar, 51 Donegall St, Belfast
Written by Anna Iberer, destinesiac.com, while on assignment for Chronic Wanderlust in Northern Ireland