Until just a few years ago, dining out in Belfast meant either sitting down to an Ulster Fry, or having a sirloin steak, well done, served with a mountain of chips. Quantity was everything. Little wonder that Northern Ireland came second only to Scotland in the world league for heart disease. However, the Northern Ireland culinary landscape has now changed. If you come to Belfast you'll find every kind of restaurant you could wish for, many of which have won prestigious awards. This guide is divided into restaurant category and offers a taste of what’s available within the city.
Contemporary: Much of the credit for Belfast’s culinary change of heart goes to Paul Rankin. Rankin launched his first Roscoff restaurant in 1989 which has since spawned two cafes offering bistro dining – Roscoff Cafe & Express and Paul Rankin Cafe. Rankin completely revamped his restaurant, re-opening as Cayenne. Having discovered the joys of garlic and olive oil over the dubious delights of "a big fry" and chips with everything, the Belfast palate has not looked back.
A fine contemporary restaurant in the city is Deane's Restaurant and Brasserie, where Michelin-star chef Michael Deane (trained by Rankin) wows the local epicures and visiting celebrities alike. If you’re feeling very extravagant there’s always the restaurant upstairs, but if finances don’t stretch that far, the downstairs Brasserie offers world-class cuisine at a slightly more affordable price.
Another thriving restaurant which offers contemporary food – imaginative dishes often featuring a fusion of eastern and western styles – is the Ta Tu Bar and Grill on the Lisburn Road, located beside Queen's Film Theatre in the university district.
Seafood: One of Belfast’s best seafood restaurants is Tedford's Restaurant, close to the Custom House and the Waterfront Hall, a great venue for a pre-performance meal. There’s a huge range of fish on the menu, all wonderfully fresh and beautifully prepared in delicious sauces, French-style.
Asian: Belfast’s ethnic communities have made a vast contribution to the range of food on offer within the city. If you fancy an exclusively Japanese dining experience and don't mind paying the price, the Ginger Tree restaurant is just 30 minutes drive from the city centre and their (truly) Japanese chef will be delighted to oblige. The Suwanna Thai Restaurant on the Golden Mile is also worth a visit.
Chinese: The city’s Chinese population constitutes Belfast’s largest single immigrant grouping and there are hundreds of Chinese restaurants and takeaways. The Sun Kee is lauded as being particularly authentic and is popular with Chinese families. The décor isn’t much to talk about – utilitarian is the word – but the food is excellent. This restaurant, located in Donegall Pass opposite another good Chinese restaurant, the Manor House, is small and tables are hard to come by so make sure you book well in advance. The Imperial City and Welcome Chinese restaurants are both renowned for their huge choice of dishes. The most recent addition to Belfast’s long list of Chinese restaurants is the Red Panda, on Great Victoria Street. This establishment is doing a thriving trade. Expansive and airy, with excellent service and an eclectic menu, Red Panda is a great choice for larger groups. Check out their Sunday banquet and weekday business lunch deals.
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