Belfast city guide

Ferment's essential guide to Belfast, for the discerning craft beer lover

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Pubs and bars

Sunflower

65 Union Street, BT1 1NF

My kind of bar: weird and careworn, adorned with socialist, sporting and punk memorabilia and, most importantly, boasting a knockout selection of beers on tap and in bottle, from a well-curated range of local and international breweries. Live music seven nights a week, with occasional movie nights, live poetry readings and other loveliness.

The John Hewitt

51 Donegall Street, BT1 2FH

While we’re on the subject of bars that wear their politics on their sleeve, The John Hewitt (named after the socialist poet) was created to help fund the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre. It’s also a lovely old-fashioned feeling pub, bedecked with dark wood and specialising in bottled Irish beers.

Bittles bar

70 Upper Church Lane, BT1 9FZ

Recommended by one of my new friends at this month’s members’ bottle share, Bittles Bar is not to be missed. Again specialising in Irish brews, the selection here is heavy on Kinnegar – a real Beer52 favourite – while the limited international line-up will suit visitors looking for something familiar.

The Dirty Onion

3 Hill Street, BT1 2LA

You might visit this former bonded warehouse for its bonkers architectural choices, but you’ll definitely stay for the brilliant atmosphere and nightly traditional folk music, hosted with cultural centre An Droichead. The beer selection has something for everyone, with a good line-up of local beers at its core, as well as some English and American favourites.

Lavery’s / The Woodworkers

12-18 Bradbury Pl , BT7 1RS

A Belfast institution and one of the last remaining great pubs on the city’s ‘golden mile’. A top selection of beers 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, that feels like they’ve sprouted organically like fronds of a giant boozy fern. The most recent addition is The Woodworkers, a perfectly formulated craft bar.

Northern Lights

451 Ormeau Rd, BT7 3GQ

I accidentally got an AirBnB just around the corner from this place, and I’m so glad I did. Formerly the site of the ill-fated Brewbot venture, Northern Lights – run by the independent Galway Bay brewery group – has probably the widest selection of craft beers in the city. There’s around eight of Galway Bay’s own beers, and another 12 rotating taps from the UK, Ireland and further afield. The food’s also decent, and there’s a packed programme of entertainment, including regular ‘meet the brewer’ events and quizzes. 


Breweries 

Boundary

310 Newtownards Road, BT4 1HE

This co-operative brewery, owned and run by its members, aims to bring modern American craft sensibilities to classic European styles. Aside from a couple of big stouts, Boundary specialises in big punchy flavours and lower ABVs. From Berliner weisse to Belgian golden ale and even a NEIPA, this is a thoughtful brewery making thoughtful beers for thoughtful drinkers.


Food

Made in Belfast

23 Talbot St, BT1 2QH

So much cool. Made in Belfast is right in the middle of the city’s hip Cathedral quarter, and serves a great-value, inventive menu featuring locally sourced food. The decor is idiosyncratically mismatched, but in a very tasteful, deliberate way, like a factory canteen designed by Vivienne Westwood. Get its pre-theatre menu before 6pm for even better value.

Holohans at The Barge

1 Lanyon Quay, BT1 3LG

Last time I went to a floating restaurant was 2003, and I got bitten by a snake. Not much chance of that here though. The sister restaurant to the equally popular Holoran’s Pantry, the barge is small and genuinely charming, with scrummy food at excellent prices. The star of the show is the ‘boxty’: a traditional Irish potato pancake, wrapped around an assortment of fillings. At around £10 with perfectly cooked veg on the side, that’s some good eatin’.

EDŌ

3 Capital House, Upper Queen Street, BT1 6FB

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.

Muriel’s cafe bar

12-14 Church Lane

Want somewhere with bags of atmosphere, hilarious staff and good, hearty food (particularly the cakes)? 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’s the kind of eatery in which you’ll want to take your time, especially on a chilly winter’s day, so book ahead because it gets busy.


What to do when you're not eating and drinking

Titanic Belfast

I mean, obviously. This is the city’s flagship (no pun intended) visitor attraction and it’s easy to see why. From the architecturally bold building to the informative, interactive, respectful exhibits, this is a model for how good big-budget, specialist museums can be. As the Titanic was built in Belfast, the main focus here is the accomplishment of its construction, and lives of the (predominantly) men who laboured on it. Give it at least four or five hours. Now, paint me like one of your French girls.

Ulster Folk and Transport museum

It’s a little outside Belfast, but the Ulster Folk and Transport museum is well worth a visit – doubly so if you’ve got smaller humans in tow. The Folk Museum in particular manages to combine fun with genuine interest, in the form of a ‘village’ assembled from traditional buildings moved from their original locations across the region. Go into homes and meet their inhabitants, attend a school lesson, visit shops and ride on a vintage bus. An important and brilliantly-executed slice of social history for all ages.

Walking tour: A history of terror

www.deadcentretours.com

Not quite as salacious as its name suggests, the award-winning History of Terror tour is a knowledgeable and sensitive look at how The Troubles shaped life in Belfast, from their historical foundations to the milestone peace accord. Visiting some of the key sites associated with this dark period, the expert guides give an unbiased but personal account of the main events, which act as a timely lesson against complacency.

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