Whether you're after pumpkin ravioli, haddock risotto, or roasted lamb rump, Belfast is a surprising bastion of top-quality restaurant options. With easy access to fresh seafood and produce, as well as a constant drive to keep up with nearby hubs like London and Edinburgh, Northern Island's capital on the River Lagan offers all the big-city flavors without as much big-city faffing. Here are the 10 best places to eat.
Sugar RaysAddress and Info
Meat is the name of the game here, and the owners really took that whole "Americana" thing to heart, with lots of old-school-style posters, neon, and exposed light bulbs. Yes, it's a touch contrived, but after you eat your way through a meat platter of fried chicken, pulled pork, ribs, and brisket, we doubt you'll be complaining.
Best understated local ingredients:
Howard StreetAddress and Info
Putting seasonality and locally sourced ingredients at the forefront of his program, chef Marty Murphy puts together plates that are as visually stunning as they are delicious. Surrounded by exposed brick, dark wood, and other rustic touches, you'll find a menu full of dishes like pork belly with crispy champcake, black pudding, and celeriac purée. The pre-theatre menu is a great way to check out this award-winning spot while keeping an eye on your pennies: three courses, plus a cocktail, for under £30.
Best tasting menu:
OXAddress and Info
With bare-wood tables, whitewashed brick, and a stunning view of the River Lagan, this Michelin-starred spot offers fine dining that's simultaneously elegant and easy. The concise and regularly changing a la carte menu often features only one meat, one fish, and one veggie option, so jump in with both feet and go for the tasting menu -- five courses for £50.
Best pop-up gone legit:
HomeAddress and Info
What started life as a pop-up has taken Belfast by surprise, settling into a permanent fixture and picking up a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin Guide along the way. High ceilings, exposed structural elements, chalkboard menus, and plenty of up-cycled bits help to create an atmosphere you might find in one of those "best-designed home" magazines. Order a pumpkin ravioli with spinach, sauce vierge, and pine nuts, and imagine just how much better your life might be if this actually was your home.
Best dinner and a show:
ShuAddress and Info
Named for the Egyptian god of atmosphere (because why not), this French restaurant housed in an old Victorian mansion is stunning from start to finish. Start off by unwinding at the basement cocktail bar, then move on to the flawless plates -- like Clandeboye wild pigeon with lentils, glazed chicory, and pomegranate molasses -- coming from the theatre-like open kitchen.
Best old-school Italian:
Villa ItaliaAddress and Info
This is one of those places that could easily fall into hokey, try-hard territory, but the fact is, it's been rocking those red-checkered tablecloths and fake grape trellises for nearly 30 years. It feels like a slightly more authentic version of a Disney Italian restaurant, which actually makes it kind of perfect when you're wrangling a large group to take over the joint with massive pizzas, or trying to hide away in a candlelit corner for a date. If it's the latter, get your Lady and the Tramp on with some of the fresh pasta on the menu.
Best beer pairing:
Molly's YardAddress and Info
Housed in a converted stable on the edge of Queen's Belfast Uni, this place has a small menu that changes day-to-day -- meaning the chefs have the freedom to really experiment, giving diners a reason to come back over and over. If beer is your thing, this place also specializes in beer pairings by partnering with local breweries, so you can either join in on the special tasting menus or just grab a few pints of delicious brew. Either way, you're in for a treat.
Mourne Seafood BarAddress and Info
The name says it all: fish, oysters, crab, lobster, and all of the tasty treats from the sea are available in myriad combinations, and all of it remarkably fresh. How fresh, you ask? Well, considering Mourne sources morsels from its own dedicated shellfish beds, pretty damn fresh. The restaurant might not look especially fancy from the outside, but you're not there for the architectural detailing, so maybe focus on eating your beer-battered fish and chips instead.
The Barking DogAddress and Info
Sometimes you just want the kind of home-cooked meal you'd make yourself -- y'know, if you could actually cook. The whole menu is solid, but you'll want to pay special attention to the beef shin burger with onion marmalade and cheese on a fresh sourdough bun, or the pan-roasted lamb rump with Pommes Anna, chervil root purée, asparagus, and red wine jus. The vibe here is super chilled out as well, especially if you can snag a seat and unwind on the AstroTurfed seating area out front.
Best modern European:
Ginger BistroAddress and Info
This understated spot has been pulling in hungry locals and awards lauding its easygoing attitude and delicious food for over a decade. While the menu is extensive, it's the fish dishes that get people dreaming: ultra-fresh mussels, haddock risotto made to order, and picture-perfect sea bass, just to name a few. The restaurant does get pretty busy, though, so you'd better wise up and book ahead.
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1. Sugar RaysEastpoint Entertainment Village, Belfast
2. Howard Street56 Howard St, Belfast
3. OX1 Oxford St, Belfast
4. Home Restaurant22 Wellington Place, Belfast
5. Shu253 Lisburn Road, Belfast
6. Villa Italia39-41 University Rd, Belfast
7. Molly's Yard1 College Green Mews, Belfast
8. Mourne Seafood Bar34 Bank Street, Belfast
9. The Barking Dog33-35 Malone Rd, Belfast
10. The Ginger Bistro7-8 Hope Street, Belfast
An American-style BBQ joint in the middle of Belfast, Sugar Rays is a blast of Deep South heat in the fog of Ireland. Big smokehouse flavor accompanies everything this restaurant, which smokes its own meats in-house. As befits an American joint, the menu is packed with meat, everything from ribs to burgers, pork, chicken, and sausages, often served piled on top of one another as a juicy protein mountain. This is the kind of place where beer comes in buckets, wine is just red or white, and it's completely acceptable to eat with your fingers. Larger, cleaner, and less tacky than many American restaurants of the same vein, Sugar Rays is better than the real thing.
Putting seasonality and locally sourced ingredients at the forefront of his program, chef Marty Murphy puts together plates that are as visually stunning as they are delicious. Surrounded by exposed brick, dark wood, and other rustic touches, Howard Street has a menu full of dishes that emphasize local meats, like the stunning pork belly or rib-eye. The set pre-theatre menu is a great way to check this award-winning spot out while keeping an eye on your pennies: 3 courses, plus a cocktail, for under £30. Cocktails here are as lovingly crafted as the food, with a list of original signature drinks and classics updated with a modern Irish twist.
With bare-wood tables, whitewashed brick, and a stunning view of the River Lagan, this Michelin starred spot offers fine dining that's simultaneously elegant and easy. The concise and regularly changing a la carte menu often features only one meat, one fish, and one veggie option, so jump in with both feet and go for the tasting menu—five courses for £50. A relaxed atmosphere makes this charming restaurant unintimidating, and the polite staff are only too eager to help you make a decision about either the menu or the carefully-selected wine list. With a fine dining menu that doesn't insist on stuffy patrons, OX is a one-of-a-kind spot.
What started life as a pop-up has taken Belfast by surprise, settling into a permanent fixture and picking up a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin Guide along the way. High ceilings, exposed structural elements, chalkboard menus, and plenty of up-cycled bits help to create an atmosphere you might find in one of those "best designed home" magazines. The menu continues that vibe, with a list of beautifully crafted dishes that have an Asian influence in flavor and plating. Home is invested in serving even the pickiest of eaters, and has such crafted a number of different menus for different dietary restrictions—vegan, gluten free, even "skinny"—to keep their upscale clientele happy.
Belfast's Shu is a French-influenced restaurant that's a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Set within a gorgeous Victorian mansion, Shu seats 90 in a dining room that features an open kitchen, so the meal becomes almost a show. Serving a seasonal menu of local flavors, the chefs at Shu use a French style to bring elegance to Irish cooking. Foie Gras and creme fraiche are definitely on the menu, but they're used to complement the heart of the menu: U.K.-grown vegetables and locally-raised meats. A basement cocktail bar serves fruity concoctions before and after dinner, and a private patio is available to rent for special events.
The decor at this Italian pizzeria could easily come across as tacky and dated, but Villa Italia has been rocking those checkered tablecloths and fake trellises for decades. Offering the Irish a taste of authentic Italian pizza and fresh pasta, the Villa is a sprawling, family-friendly spot that's proven to be a hit with locals, tourists, and students. The menu of Italian classics changes with the seasons to take advantage of local ingredients, so there's a new flavor of pizza every time you go. Equally comfortable for groups of friends as it is for couples on date night, this neighborhood staple is a casual getaway from the city hustle.
Housed in a converted stable on the edge of Queen’s Belfast Uni, Molly's Yard has a small menu that changes day-to-day—meaning the chefs have the freedom to really experiment, giving diners a reason to come back over and over. Utilizing the best of local ingredients, including Belfast Hills-raised goat, Molly's Yard serves upscale bistro food in a relaxed atmosphere. Couples and young professionals are the main clientele here, but the Yard is a welcoming spot for everyone. And If beer is your thing, this place also specializes in beer pairings with local breweries—lucky you.
The name says it all: fish, oysters, crab, lobster, and all of the tasty treats from the sea are available at the Mourne Seafood Bar in myriad combinations, and all of it remarkably fresh. Mourne sources morsels from its own dedicated shellfish beds, and gets the rest of its plentiful seafood from local fishermen. An unpretentious kind of place housed in an old tavern, the Mourne keeps prices low (especially at the raw bar) and patrons happy. You can pair the freshest seafood around with a selection from their extensive list of alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, ports, aperitifs, cocktails, and sherries.
For a comfortable and casual dining experience in Belfast, you could certainly do a lot worse than The Barking Dog, which boasts a rustic, candlelit interior and upscale comfort food. The signature dish is the decadent beef shin burger, which packs slow roasted, tender beef shin into the center of a local beef burger. The rest of the menu is similar—popular comfort foods reimagined with new ingredients and techniques into something mouthwatering. Committed to using the best of local foods, all of The Dog's dishes are locally sourced and there are several local beers on tap.
This quirky, understated spot has been pulling in hungry locals and awards for over a decade with an easy-going attitude and delicious food. While the menu is extensive, it’s the fish dishes that have earned the restaurant its fame (and a spot on the Michelin guide): ultra-fresh mussels, haddock risotto made to-order, and picture-perfect seabass, just to name a few. Locally sourced meats and vegetables are the basis for the hearty menu, which favors proteins but has plenty of options for vegetarians. Reasonably priced wines are available, but no cocktails or beer. The restaurant gets pretty busy, even on weeknights, so it's best to book ahead.