Belfast city guide
There's a great time to be had
K. Mitch Hodge
Saturday 12 March 2022
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PUBS & BARS:
The owners of The Deer’s Head have restored the pub to its former glory and reinvented it as the city centre’s first modern brewpub. Visitors can grab a drink and watch the entire workings of the striking Bell’s Brewery from the comfort of your seat.
No frills, weird and wonderful, with the original security cage from the Troubles in the 1980s at the front door, walls adorned with socialist, sporting and punk memorabilia, and boasting a knockout selection of beers on tap and in bottle - the Sunflower is a firm favourite among Belfast locals. There’s live music seven nights a week, a flea market the last Sunday of every month, and occasional movie nights and live poetry readings.
Lavery’s is one of the last remaining great pubs on the city’s ‘golden mile’, and is Belfast’s oldest family-owned pub. A top selection of drinks and some real characters behind the bar, but the main interest for pub aficionados will be the building itself. Lavery’s is a warren of bars, saloons and snugs over several levels, including a pool hall and a roof terrace.
One of the most memorable pubs I’ve ever been in - located in Belfast’s own ‘flat-iron’ red-bricked building and with walls adorned with paintings of famous Irish literary, political and sporting people (including a few of my man Seamus Heaney), it’s no surprise that Bittles has been a Belfast institution for decades. The beer selection is a mix of familiar macro favourites and Northern Irish brews, and the whiskey selection is outstanding.
The Crown Liquor Saloon
Beautiful. Just stunning. There are cosy mahogany booths, loads of etched stained glass, gorgeous patterned flooring, and traditional old gas lamps. The building dates back to the early 1800s, and used to be a Victorian gin palace. It’s a Nicholson’s pub so there’s inevitably a great selection of cask ales.
A lovely cooperative brewery that’s owned and run by its staff, Boundary’s beers are a fantastic blend of traditional European styles with a modern American twist. From big punchy DIPAs and pale ales, to fruity Berliner Weisses, to Vienna lagers, to barrel-aged stouts, the range of beers offers something for everyone. The can labels are a work of art themselves, too.
Okay, it’s not in Belfast strictly speaking, but Long Meadow Cidery is well worth a visit if you’re mobile. Based in nearby Armagh - known as ‘the orchard county’ – this family business is a million miles away from those other Irish ciders with which you might be familiar, and is flying the flag for the country’s burgeoning craft cider movement.
WHERE TO EAT:
Want somewhere with bags of atmosphere, hilarious staff, tasty drinks, and good, hearty food? Then head straight for Muriel’s. Housed in a former Victorian dressmakers/brothel, expect vintage mismatched furniture, cozy lighting and frilly lingerie liberally strewn about the place. It also prides itself on being LGBT-friendly.
I had my first ever margarita here (yes, I know, but tequila and I have had a tumultuous relationship since my uni days) at the Castle Street restaurant about three years ago, so it holds a special place in my heart. The food is phenomenal, focusing on local produce and imported Mexican ingredients, so it’s properly authentic. Order a bunch of tacos and sides to share, some cocktails, and settle in for a cosy evening at this vibrant, laid-back eatery. You’ll love it, trust me.
Slightly more up-market, but without being stuffy, EDŌ is the brainchild of head chef and owner Jonny Elliott, whose extensive experience includes stints with Gordon Ramsay and Gary Rhodes. Diners are encouraged to explore the different tastes on offer through a sharing menu (though traditional starters and mains are also possible). The restaurant’s unusual BERTHA oven, on which food is cooked over apple and pear wood, gives dishes a distinctive sweet and smoky flavour. The slow-roasted ham hock is particularly wonderful.
If you are the kind of person who is flush with cash and enjoys fine dining, you absolutely must visit Muddlers Club. This Michelin-starred restaurant is widely hailed as being one of the best in the city, with innovative modern tasting menus in a very chic industrial setting. It’s also named after a secret society which used to meet at that location over 200 years ago, which I think is pretty cool.
I don’t know what the best aspect of this spot is - the giant heated terrace, the beautiful selection of Spanish wines, the delicious array of traditional tapas, or the fun, bustling atmosphere. 2Taps is definitely the kind of place that you plan your evening around - it’s not just a stop for food and a glass of wine, you’ll want to spend ages here talking and grazing and drinking. Great vegan and veggie options, too.
WHAT TO DO IN BELFAST:
There is so much to do in Belfast! From the absolutely stunning Titanic Belfast (the ship was built in Belfast) which is celebrating its 10th birthday this year with brand new exhibits, to the Game of Thrones studio tours staffed by real GoT extras at the authentic filming site in Banbridge. The city also features award-winning walking tours, and an impressive musical heritage with a constant programme of music-based events which earned the city the coveted UNESCO City of Music title; it’s no wonder Belfast has been voted one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2022 by Lonely Planet.
One of the most exciting attractions for 2022 is the huge-scale, multi-site immersive solar system sculpture trail headed up by renowned Northern Irish artist Oliver Jeffers. The region’s entry into Festival UK 2022, the six-mile installation trail aims to show our place in space and offer visitors a journey through the solar system, without having to leave Northern Ireland. So cool.
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