Belfast

Jawbox Gin embodies the spirit of Belfast

Gerry White has spent his career in the bar trade and has been manager of the John Hewitt (thejohnhewitt.com) for the last 12 years. He has pulled many a pint of Guinness and poured countless shots of Black Bush. “But the only spirit I've ever enjoyed,” he says, “is gin.” He is, in fact, passionate about gin—and about his native city of Belfast. For several years he had been mulling over a project to create his own gin. He even had the taste profile he was seeking in his head. “Two and a half years ago, I told myself I'll kick myself if I didn't try,” he recalls, taking a seat at our table at the John Hewitt to relate the story. “Belfast is a...Read More

Pub crawl reveals Cathedral Quarter riches

After falling on hard times, Belfast's Cathedral Quarter has been enjoying boom years of late. The district is named for St. Anne's, a grand structure of the Church of Ireland though not technically a cathedral since it is not a bishop's seat. The church anchors the 18th century warehouse district north of the city center. The “cathedral” was erected 1899-1903 as an expression of Belfast's industrial wealth and power at the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries. These days the Cathedral Quarter is an area more for fun than the backbreaking labor of teamsters and longshoremen. Its atmospheric warren of narrow streets, alleys, cul-de-sacs, and byways is studded with small shops and pubs. Ancient city walls are splashed with colorful murals (like the Dali-esque...Read More

Made in Belfast’s pork belly dish delivers pig ecstasy

We dream of returning to restaurants around the globe just for one dish. Made in Belfast is one of those restaurants, and the dish (above) is the “crispy outdoor bred pork belly.” It's on the menu in every season. Only the accompaniments change. In early November, the pork belly came on a bed of mashed potato and roasted squash with two kinds of croquettes. One contained black pudding (blood sausage) and apple. The other had roasted pulled pork. Pieces of broccoli and cauliflower nestled beside the meat, while a cabbage-carrot slaw in creamy sauce puddled on one edge. The garlicky pork jus pulled all the flavors together. This was a brilliant 21st century adaptation of traditional Irish fare. The veggies were fresh and bright. The...Read More

Jeffers Home Bakery bakes Irish staff of life

Whenever we travel in Ireland, Pat's mother always requests that we bring her home some soda bread farls. Now in her 90s, she still remembers her own mother, a native of County Armagh, cooking the four triangular pieces on a hot griddle. For us, it's a good request since it guarantees that we seek out a homey traditional bakery. In Belfast, that was Jeffers Home Bakery (4-6 College Street, 028 9032 7157, www.jeffersbakery.co.uk), right across the street from Sawers in the downtown shopping district. The operation started small in East Belfast when William Jeffers bought a van in 1937 and began delivering bread from Thompson's Bakery. By 1950 he had purchased the first bakery of his own and the little business began to grow. Andrew...Read More

Co Couture embodies the artistry of chocolate

Deirdre McCanny had never made a chocolate in her life when she decided to leave her job in international sales and marketing to start a chocolate shop in Belfast. From modest beginnings in her apartment, she moved into her cozy shop with a big workroom in back in December 2009. It's just a few steps down from the sidewalk on the corner of Donegall Square East, literally around the corner from Belfast City Hall. It has become, as Deirdre calls it, “a chocolate oasis in the city center.” The first time we visited, a regular customer had just stopped in for a cup of hot chocolate and a cherry-sencha truffle as a treat at the end of the work day. (The tart cherry and herbaceous...Read More
Hadskis hits sweet spot of great casual bistro fare

Hadskis hits sweet spot of great casual bistro fare

Chef and restaurateur Niall McKenna bet on Belfast's revival and won. After opening the posh James Street South in 2003, he got hammered with the economic downturn of 2008. So he transformed the upscale dining venue into a great-value steakhouse, The Bar and Grill. As Belfast began to climb out of the economic doldrums, he followed up in October 2014 with Hadskis (33 Donegall St., 28 9032 5444, hadskis.co.uk) in the suddenly desirable Cathedral Quarter. Once again, he hit the sweet spot of serving the kind of food people want to eat at a price they're happy to pay. You might have to do a little looking to find Hadskis. It's off Donegall Street in Commercial Court, one of those alleyway cul-de-sacs in the Cathedral...Read More

Enjoy a millionaire’s tea at a pauper’s price

Aptly named Good Food & Wine is a gourmet treat shop and casual cafe that serves afternoon tea all day long. It's tucked into the Queen's Arcade shopping center between Fountain Street and Donegall Place, Not only is it steps from Belfast City Hall and the Linen Hall Library, it's also handy to the central shopping district. Mind you, afternoon tea here is not the lifted pinkie, fine porcelain, hushed ambiance formal tea. For that experience, visit the nearby Merchant Hotel (16 Skipper St., 28 9023 4888, themerchanthotel.com), the poshest address in the city. But at £7.50 per person, it's hard to beat Good Food & Wine for a tiered tray of finger sandwiches and sweet treats and a pot of brewed looseleaf Belfast Blend....Read More

Sawers gourmet shop in Belfast champions Irish flavors

Sawers was established in 1897 to bring gourmet foods from around the globe to the people of Belfast. It is the oldest deli in Northern Ireland. The purveyor even provided the R.M.S. Titanic with game, seafood, cheese and other delicacies for its infamous maiden voyage. The people of Belfast can still rely on Sawers more than a century after that ship's larder full of caviar and pheasant ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic. They can stop by to shop for Spanish hams, Italian pastas, French pâté and escargot, Greek olives, and Turkish candies. At the holidays, the place buzzes with people filling gift “hampers” with exotic gourmet goodies. But Sawers also cherishes great Irish foods, making it a must-stop for overseas gourmands. The...Read More

John Long’s serves apotheosis of fish and chips

Owner John Copeland is fond of calling John Long's Fish & Chips (39 Athol Street, 028 9032 1848, www.johnlongs.com) one of the “seven wonders of Belfast.” That puts his modest eatery right up there with Titanic Belfast (which relates the tale of the doomed ship built in the local shipyards) and the Crown Liquor Saloon (the 1820s bar known for its ornate decoration). But Copeland is onto something. John Long's is a Belfast institution. Founded in 1914 by its namesake to serve fish and chips to the workers in the city's thriving linen mills, it's the city's longest established fish and chips shop. Located five blocks due west from City Hall, John Long's is a little off the beaten path. But we knew we had...Read More

Belfast’s OX treats Irish food with hugs and kisses

We weren't surprised to eat foie gras and truffles at OX in Belfast, which won its first Michelin star last spring after opening in March 2013. (It's one of two starred restaurants in Belfast.) Restaurateurs believe that foie gras and truffles must appear on a menu before Michelin will award even one star. No doubt there are exceptions, but we haven't encountered them. What was a delightful surprise was that such highfalutin ingredients were the exception rather than the rule at OX (1 Oxford Street, 28 9031 4121, oxbelfast.com). The truly defining moments in the spectacular autumn tasting menu were those dishes where humble, local ingredients sang. OX aims to serve brilliantly conceived, highly seasonal food. The price is low for fine dining (£50 for...Read More