5 ‘BEST OF’ BELFAST RESTAURANTS

 

With the myriad of highly acclaimed eateries on Belfast’s food scene, it can be difficult deciding where to have dinner as we’re just so spoilt for choice.

So, to help out those stumped for ideas, I’ve put together my favourite restaurants for some of your cravings and nights out. Here we go!

Best Fish And Chips – Robinson and Cleaver

Head on down to Robinson and Cleaver for the city’s most delicious take on Britain’s favourite dish. Their “Titanic Beer Battered Cod” is aptly named, as it’s undoubtedly the largest ever restaurant serving of fish and chips you’d see!

The fresh cod is ensconced in light, crispy batter and simply melts in your mouth. Served with tartar sauce, mushy peas and shoe string fries, you even get a beautiful view overlooking Belfast City Hall thrown in with your meal.

Best Steak – Hadskis

Making waves since its opening in 2013, Hadskis serves a fillet steak that is pure heaven on a plate. The smoky aroma from the grill transforms into a rich, distinctive flavour upon the first mouthful, while the thick, succulent steak is seared on the outside but tender and pink within. The peppercorn sauce holds its own against the steak too, with its creamy texture and robust flavour. With food as good as this, it’s no wonder that Hadskis has added its feature in the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015 to a long list of accolades.

hadskis

Best Place for Food and Drinks – Benedicts Restaurant

Benedicts has to be the most underrated restaurant in town as there’s little not to love about it – its food is sublime, portions are generous and their prices are unbeatable.

Just how unbeatable, you ask? Well, apart from a Beat-the-Clock Special every evening where main courses range from £5 – 7, Benedicts also offers a 3-course evening set menu daily for only £22 – and for just £17.50 on Thursdays. They even serve cocktails for a mere £2.95 daily till 10pm, meaning you can eat and drink your fill without putting a huge dent on your pocket.

Try out some of my favourite dishes – such as their duck confit starter with a rich glaze or the slow cooked, tender rump of lamp – and judge for yourself!

Best Place to Holiday without Leaving Home – 2Taps Winebar

If you’re looking for something different from the usual fare, 2Taps might just be the place for you. Nestled on a square in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, transport yourself to Spain with 2Tap’s delicious sangrias and Spanish tapas. Kick off your evening with their Pan Fresco, a selection of delectable breads, pesto and tapenade, then sample your way through their varied menu before ending with a paella of your choice. With their heated al fresco dining area and musical sessions, grab a glass of sangria and imagine yourself away on a Spanish holiday at any time of the year!

2taps

Best Value for Quality – Mourne Seafood Bar

 Famous for serving fresh, locally sourced seafood, Mourne Seafood is one of my favourite restaurants in Belfast. Visits there usually follow a familiar pattern: we begin by sharing some mussels and other starters, then I’ll tuck into a whole fish while stealing scallops from my dining companions’ main course. Stuffed by this stage, I seriously consider whether to forgo dessert – but the pull of Mourne’s sticky date pudding is irresistible and I end up having one entire portion to myself (it’s really that good!).

mourne

Each time, I’m always pleasantly surprised at the end of the visit by how little my meal cost. On my last visit, our shared starters and a main and dessert each came up to less than £30 per person, inclusive of service – that’s unparalleled value for an extremely satisfying meal.

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Ballet at Victoria Square

Dancing in public has never been on my bucket list, but I can now say that it’s on the list of things I’ve done!

My ballet class was meant to be part of a series of flash mobs at Victoria Square today, as part of their health and wellness event. Unfortunately – it being a rainy and cold Saturday in January – Victoria Square wasn’t busy enough for a successful flash mob, so our routine became a brief performance instead.

One of my classmates shared a video that her mum took, and I’m really happy with how we looked! My teacher and I had been practising a simple pas de deux – just a chasse pas de bourree and grand jete – but partnering is way harder than it looks.

We didn’t always get the coordination spot on during our rehearsals, where I jump at exactly the same moment as when he lifts me up. Thankfully, we nailed it during the performance – on both instances as well! – and achieved really good height on the jump, and that’s all that matters.

There’s also a rather thrilling sense of soaring and flying when you and your partner execute a proper lift – I can see why professional dancers get addicted to performing. The adrenaline rush is rather seductive indeed 🙂

Not too shabby for the start of 2016 – hopefully this isn’t all the excitement I’m getting this year!

 

Hello 2016

Yes I know it’s 2 weeks into the new year, but I thought it worth reiterating for my own benefit that 2016 will be a year of reading and ballet.

For reading, I’m already on my 4th book of the year, which might seem slow to some but is a personal record (I think) for me.

As for ballet, the challenge will be to work on my arms. Stronger arms, better arms, more expressive arms. And also to dance bigger than I am – as a wee shorty in an art form where extensions are key, I need to put in more effort where nature has fallen short.

That’s it for now. Onward and upward!

Looking back – October & November

I realised I have a black hole for October and November. It’s not that I haven’t been up to anything, but that I just haven’t felt like writing! I’d also missed out a few highlights from September.

Here’s what I’d been up to.

September

  • Afternoon tea at Avoca
  • Off-road Segway experience in Craigavon

October

  • Solo trip to Galway, the Cliffs of Moher and Connemara, which included 3 Japanese meals and shopping in Dublin
  • Done with viva celebration at Mal Maison
  • Dinner at Kitch

November

  • Singaporeans’ gathering in Dublin, including a visit to the exceedingly well curated Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane
  • Party at Alexandra Palace
  • Hike up the Mournes, only to get thoroughly drenched
  • Dinner at Mourne Seafood, before my first Belfast Giants‘ match against the Edinburgh Capitals
  • Go-karting experience at Need4Speed
  • Another Singaporeans’ gathering in Belfast, followed by a Thanksgiving dinner on the very same day

Changing tastes & actual cravings

I’ve been thinking lately about food, tastebuds and cravings, following a gathering with some fellow Singaporeans.

I was reminded then that I don’t eat, cook or crave Singaporean (or Asian) food as much as they do. I cook whatever is quick and simple, and choose whatever’s delicious and satisfying when dining out.

One of the Singaporeans is married to an Irish man, so that can’t be the differentiating factor. It might be because I work – both of them are housewives and hence, presumably, have more time to ponder over and recreate tastes from home.

Yet, I’m not entirely convinced that’s the main reason. I do believe that part of living overseas is allowing your tastebuds to adapt to the local food and flavours – the less you consume the familiar, the less you’ll miss it.

Or it could be that I’m just greedy and am happy with good food, regardless of where it hails from or what exactly it tastes like. But I do also think that there’s little use in craving food from home – it’s not like that craving can be satisfied completely, and I’ve noticed that I’ve started to frame my food-related unsatisfactions in the local food language.

By that, I mean that when I get those vague dissatisfactions in the pit of my belly that only a bite (or more) of a tasty morsel can dissipate, I no longer think of things like char kway teow or cai png curry. Instead, my mind throws up suggestions like crisps, snowy Joeys, and scones. My brain – and stomach – has started looking for practical, viable solutions instead of hungering for what I simply cannot have.

I realise as well that there are certain things that I’ve grown to love. And since I’ve been meaning to note these down for a while now, I thought to take this chance to list some of the things that I’ve only started eating and loving since I came here. They are:

– a proper, hearty, greasy Ulster fry
– breads: wheaten, soda, potato, Guinness
– champ
– fondant potatoes
– thick, fat, chips
– stuffing
– grilled or roast lamb
– cherry scones
– a rich, fragrant gravy
– cheese: cambozola, feta, Wesleydale

I also know what I need for a good fix when I’m wanting something from home. They include:

– laksa paste
– crispy shrimp chilli
– fried taupok
– miso
– kimchi
– hargow
– tofu
– Japanese curry

So.. I don’t fare too badly, do I?

September Update

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything exciting, since the past month has been mad, mad, mad! It’s been a flurry of packing up our things, cleaning the apartment, chasing the new flat’s letting agent to get things sorted, cleaning up the new place, moving our belongs over and unpacking all our stuff.

I’m glad it’s finally all over and we can relax this weekend at last! There’re still things to be settled – the heat doesn’t work, nor does the Internet – but those are all out of our hands for now. I missed the European Heritage Open Day that’s on this weekend as I just can’t bear the thought of heading out and dealing with crowds, but I’m very happy to be seated comfortably on the couch 🙂

There have been some indulgences amidst the madness. The other Sunday saw us at The Cloth Ear at The Merchant, making use of my Gourmet Society membership card. The starters were good-sized portions – we had the meat platter, which was decent, and the chicken wings which were very delectable in a sweet chilli sauce. The hanging skewer of beef and chicken got two thumbs up from E, especially for the tandoori-esque chicken, while the steak, though tasty at the start, got cold and dry towards the end.

On the day of the move, we round ourselves on Stranmillis searching for an Airtricity gas card and decided to treat ourselves to a sit-down lunch. So we found ourselves in Yum Bar, where we were pleasantly surprised by the well presented and absolutely delicious Asian-style starters of pork spring rolls and Thai-style fish cake. My burger main looked so mundane in comparison, although E’s fajitas still impressed as the fillings were brought out on a sizzling, smoking hot plate.

Yum Bar did a brisk business at lunch, where 2 courses can be had for just £7.95. They also serve 4 shots for £10 and 3 cocktails for £15, so I’d definitely be back to try those out!

I even managed to try frozen yoghurt for the first time today at YoggieBerrie . Froyo is nice, though definitely not as satisfying as ice cream, so I really don’t get what the fuss is about. The froyo craze has hit Northern Ireland (like, a year or two after everywhere else) and people have been raving about the various froyo shops that have been popping up around the city. My guess is that froyo appeals to those who prefer something less rich or creamy than ice cream, or to folks with a penchant for the tangy. Froyo is most likely a less guilty indulgence than ice cream, but just be sure to remember that it’s still not considered healthy, yep? 😉

But right now I’m thinking of what to have for dinner tomorrow, after having made two medium-rare steaks and wedges for dinner! The tentative plan is to visit L’Etoile for their fix price menu, otherwise it might be back to The Cloth Ear to try the desserts or St George’s Bar and Grill. Any thoughts on which we should visit?

La Bayadere – Second Chance Adult Ballet recital

The past few weeks have been busy, with house-hunting, packing, cleaning and rehearsals for my ballet’s class La Bayadere recital last Friday evening.

My teacher is thinking of doing a slightly longer show to raise funds for charity in November, so that’s something to look forward to! I’m hoping my foot will be more fully healed by then, so that I’ll be able to do the more challenging variations.

Second Chance Adult Ballet at the Crescent Arts Centre is a great class, and we especially need more dancers to join our 7pm class, which is for those with some experience in ballet.

Here’s a sneak peek at what went on at our recital – it was the first performance for some of us!:

La Bayadere – Entrance of the Shades

La Bayadere – Variation 2

St Georges’ Bar and Grill – dinner

You must think I’m mad to continue to dine at St Georges Bar and Grill after my previous review about their brunch items. But hey, it’s a different time of the day with different dishes, so things should be different, yeah?

Well, the truth was that a friend had asked me out for dinner and I thought it’d be a good chance to use the Gourmet Society Card that I’d bought earlier in the year. I was feeling poor and most places don’t accept the card on Fridays, so the 1-for-1 main course at St Georges’ Bar and Grill won me over.

One thing can be said about St Georges’ Bar and Grill – that their food looks really good. The mussels in cream sauce were accompanied by a slightly over-grilled slice of Guinness bread, but were pretty much what you’d expect – rich, tasty and leaving you hungry for the mains.

Mussels_in_a_cream_sauce_with_Guinness_bread. Salt_and_chilli_squid._Well_cooked_though_batter_wasn_t_crisp_and_kept_falling_off_squid._The_accompanying_dip_of_tomato_and_onion_however_was_extremely_good.

The salt and chilli squid, on the other hand, turned out to be slightly more puzzling. The squid was very well cooked – it was tender, firm and fresh. However, the batter wasn’t crisp and bits of it fell off when dipped in the sauce. Yet, the same kitchen that made this poor batter also made the delicious sauce – which was undeniably the star of the dish. The dip was sweet and sour, very moreish and tasted like it was made from lightly pickled tomatoes and onions. Forget the various delights that you can buy at St Georges’ Market – the Bar and Grill should just sell this dip instead.

2015-07-03 18.38.58

The rib eye steak we ordered also threw up a surprise. I usually expect the meat to take centre stage, but on this occasion, it was the pepper sauce that stole the show. It was thick, creamy and very peppery – just the way I like it and fragrant beyond words. It was so delicious that at one point I was tempted to drink the piping hot sauce so that its flavour would fill my entire mouth!

I was a lot happier with my dinner experience at St Georges’ Bar and Grill. There were elements of it that I absolutely loved, and I would return just for the chilli dip and pepper sauce. What other lunch/dinner dishes at St Georges’ Bar and Grill would you recommend? Let me know in the comments below!