In March of this year, after being told so much about how hopping Belfast's food scene was, we jumped in the car, high-tailed it up the M1 and rubbed our bellies in anticipation of three days of very good eating. That very day the ROI went into lockdown, with the North following a week later, so while we managed to stick to the food plan we weren't able to publish it, as everywhere was shutting their doors. We've been sitting on it for five long months, but can finally share our guide on where to eat in Belfast, in partnership with Discover Northern Ireland.
*As this is a fast moving and sometimes daily changing situation we'd always advise double checking with any restaurants you want to visit that they will be open at the time you're there.
The Pocket, just off Belfast's Victoria Square, has it all going on. Iced coffee, freshly baked cinnamon scrolls (do not miss), and savoury and sweet brunch dishes that will have you gladly jumping out of your hotel bed in the morning.
We really loved the Piña Colada french toast, a properly unique twist on a classic brunch dish, with coconut and vanilla toast, sweet lime mascarpone, glazed pineapple, shortbread crumb, toasted hazelnuts and basil syrup - have you booked that train ticket yet? The blackberry granola comes packed with juicy blackberries, homemade honey and spiced granola and natural yoghurt, and the chorizo brunch comes with Bara Bakehouse sourdough, a poached egg, sundried tomato sauce, crispy kale, halloumi, homemade pickles, chilli oil and dukkah - and if that sounds like too much going on, it's not. Welcome to flavour-town. The Pocket opens Monday - Saturday from 08:30 - 15:00, and Sunday from 10:00 - 15:00.
Established Coffee's pie and drip menu has become a thing of legend around these parts, mainly due to their untouchable Instagram game. We're glad to confirm that the weekly changing pies taste as delicious as they look, and the coffee, from a variety of roasters like Origin, Heart and Calendar Coffee, is first rate. There's also a full brunch menu if you're feeling less sweet and more savoury. Currently they're only back open from 09:00 - 14:00 Monday - Saturday but watch this space.
If you've got wheels (or are happy to jump in a taxi) head for Noble in Holywood, 15 minutes outside the city. You can also get the train from Belfast Victoria Station to Holywood (a 5 minute walk to the restaurant), and there's the option of a lovely walk along the North Down Coastal Path from Holywood to Bangor afterwards, to walk off all the food before getting the train back to the city. Noble's intimate upstairs dining room was shot into the spotlight in 2017 after a gushing review from Jay Rayner in The Observer, and it's been a mainstay of the Northern dining scene ever since. Owner Saul O'Connell is usually found in the dining room looking after guests and being generally charming to everyone who walks in, and it manages to feel cosy yet occasion-worthy.
Coming from the capital, the lunch menu feels like sensational value, with four courses for £25. We loved the fresh, crispy scampi with aioli, the braised beef with mustard remoulade, the gnocchi with ricotta, braised leeks and hazelnut gremolata, and the frangipane tart with plum ripple ice-cream. And the beef-dripping chips. Always the beef-dripping chips. You could also do a lot worse than ending your meal with one of their affogatos. Noble is open for dinner from Thursday - Saturday, and for lunch Friday and Sunday. Book here.