Wednesday 11 January 2017

A Weekend in Belfast: Where to eat and drink

Last year was the 'Year of food and drink' in Northern Ireland and because of all the international press attention they got, I've been wanting to check out the food scene in Belfast for the last few months.  So to beat the January blues I booked a little weekend away with Mr. FFID and without even realising, it just happened to be the weekend of our 12 year anniversary. It was perfect timing!

We took the train from Connolly station to Belfast central (paid €43 return per person), it only takes a little over two hours and the station is just a short walk to the city centre. We didn't do anything touristy (an excuse to come back) but we ate, drink and walked around the city. 

I was delighted to see that Belfast is full of colourful street art and took pictures of lots of it. As usual I had a list of restaurants and cafes to visit but some of them were having their well deserved post-Christmas break so were unfortunately closed.

So here is my little guide of places to eat and drink in Belfast:

I booked a room at the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast which we walked to from the station. They got their 5th star after I booked it so I'm not sure if they will keep the same rates but I paid (£115, advance purchase/January rate) for a beautiful double room with a super comfy bed, a work space and gorgeous bathroom. If you're looking for a great hotel with beautiful interiors that's very close to the city centre, I highly recommend it.

Belfast has something that Dublin doesn't, and it's a proper food market! St George's market is very close to the train station and was our first stop. It's a victorian market which was built between 1890 and 1896, a gorgeous building filled with food and craft stalls at the weekend. The atmosphere is lovely with live music and people sitting at tables in the middle. There are lots of local produce on offer, including seafood, meat, cheese, vegetables and fruits.

Coppi is a spacious and sleek looking contemporary Italian restaurant located in the Cathedral quarter. A nice place to go for lunch if you're looking for something casual, I liked their 'cicetti' which are like little tapas, you can get a taste of lots of different things and share with your table. They also have small pizzas and homemade pasta.

I had a total crush on this cocktail bar with very cool décor. We visited in the early evening when it was quiet in but they had some really cool 90s rock tunes on. The cocktail menu is written in comic books, two bikes are hanging from the ceiling, it's totally quirky. I'm not sure how it is later at night but it was a good place to stop for a drink before dinner.

Ox in a Michelin-starred restaurant serving modern seasonal food. The minute I stepped in Ox I felt like I was back in Copenhagen. It looks very Scandinavian and there are definitely some Nordic influences coming through in the food too. On Saturday nights they only serve a five course surprise tasting menu (£50pp), we loved the experience and the food there. It was the perfect place for our anniversary dinner. One thing that surprised me is that it was full of couples, which almost felt a bit like Valentine's Day.

Next door to Ox restaurant there is my dream wine bar: Ox Cave. It's the perfect place if you just want to have a few glasses of wine and some tasty nibbles. The food menu is very compact but when you're having wine, then cheese, charcuterie and good company are all you really need. 

The Spaniard is another very quirky bar if you're looking to experience the nightlife in Belfast. The room downstairs was full so we ended up on the first floor. There is a red neon sign declaring 'Sinners welcome' above the stairs and you find yourself in a room filled with religious pictures an icons. I didn't see craft beer on tap but they had a few bottles of locally brewed beer in the fridge.

Another little gem of the Cathedral quarter is Established Coffee where you can get your speciality coffee fix. They use 3FE coffee beans and the cafe itself is spacious and beautifully designed. They have free wifi, a big communal table with an excess of plugs (a freelancer dream) and their food menu is simple but good. We had some delicious cheesy French toast with smoked bacon, sage hollandaise and kale but I really wanted to order everything on the menu.

This place isn't in the city centre and we ended walking quite a while to find it. Root and Branch is a tiny brew bar and roastery on the Ormeau Road. I think it was the two owners behind the bar when we visited and they were lovely and very helpful. We sat on the little benches outside where they had the heaters on; it felt like a very laid-back spot altogether!

Et voilà for now... I have the feeling there will be a second edition as Mr. FFID and I already agreed to go back. I'll leave you with a few pictures I took while walking around the city. Hope you enjoy them!