Belfast has an inclusive and open culture at least towards tourists and the city has been on a major growth spurt since the last 2 decades which has seen a boom in the tourism industry. You will find that most of its restaurants and cafes display that friendly, open and innovative vibe.
The city has seen enough of the troubles and hard times so it has got a great offering of places that serve excellent food at affordable price points. So here is a list of restaurants that will give you flavours of different cuisines, satisfy your taste buds and yet take away very little from your wallet.
Note that most eateries on this list take only cash and some are used better as takeaway joints. You can have a meal at any of these restaurants within 7 – 12 pounds.
Bites of India
This small and unpretentious eatery on Ravenhill Road does Indian food right… in the sense that this is real Indian food and not watered down versions moulded to suit the western palette. You could choose to have light food like samosa, masala chaat, Pani Puri and pakora or go for a south Indian meal like paneer masala dosa.
Or you could gorge on chilli chicken, spicy lamb or goat curry, vegetable jalfrezi, naan, kebabs etc. Their early bird menu lets you have a two-course meal at under 7 pounds. The Bites of India is the only place in Belfast where you can eat South Indian food.
The only downside is that they are not open in the evenings. The café closes by 2 p.m. max. Do drop in for the breakfast; it’s famed for its unusual variety (aloo vada, vada pav, veg sandwich etc.) and you will love the unusual taste. Don’t expect marvellous décor… the interior is bare-bones though the staff is super friendly.
Address: 97 Ravenhill Road; Belfast BT6 8DQ
Phone: +44 28 9045 3456; Website
West Gourmet Sandwich Bar
Cuisine: British casual food
This small and unpretentious restaurant on Castle Street serves one of the best breakfasts in town. Some of the best sellers on the all-day menu are Hot Harissa wraps, sesame chicken with hoisin sauce, chicken Caesar supreme and chicken goujon special with chilli garlic. It’s a relief to find a place that serves substantial lunch at around 4 pounds.
You should have the chilli chips with whatever you order… they pair well with sandwiches, wraps, baguettes, paninis etc. they have lovely takeaway salad boxes (lots of variants) that make for healthy on the go meals. And if you are in the mood then order the good old Ulster Fry… it’s priced at less than 6 pounds.
The Sandwich Bar’s near the well-known Primark Building castle so it’s pretty easy to locate. One downside of this place is that it’s really small so it’s difficult to get a table on certain days like Saturdays. There are huge queues on their takeaway section but that’s just an indicator of how good they are. These guys don’t have a website but they are very active on their Facebook page.
Address: 28, Castle Street, Belfast
Phone: +44 28 9032 5649
John Long Fish and Chips
Category: Irish, seafood
Locals in Belfast are known to set their standard of a good ‘fish and chips’ from the fare served here. If you manage to locate this eatery (it’s easy to miss as there is less signage and it stands in an alley), you won’t be disappointed. From the outside, it looks old in a decrypt way but inside its neat and clean and old/ antique in a charming way.
The beer-battered fish is always cut in huge pieces and always delicious besides being never greasy. Other items in their North Irish casual food-centric menu, are good too. You can try the chicken burger, fish supper salt and vinegar, chicken goujons etc. Bread butter mushy peas, onion rings and the crispy fish and chips is what a traditional Irish supper looks like and there is no better place to experience it.
There is a takeaway area as you enter but there is decent room to sit at the rear of the shop. You will see pictures of plenty of celebrities inside…John Longs seems to be very popular. One great thing about the menu is that you get to choose what oil your fish is cooked in (plain, chilli and lemon).
John Longs is behind the Fitzwilliam Hotel (near Opera House), look for the hotel and then locate the eatery so that it’s easier to find. It’s a bit disappointing that they open at 11.45 a.m. and close down at 6.30 p.m. every day. The fish used is haddock and not cod so that may be an issue. The owner John Longs takes pains in greeting all guests whenever he is around. They call themselves one amongst the city’s top 7 wonders.
Address: 39 Athol Street, Belfast
Phone: +44 28 9032 1848; Website
Cuisine: Japanese Fast food
Japanese fast food in Belfast doesn’t get any better than the stuff served at Rebel. The Belfast Ramen is a burst of colours and textures with ultra-juicy pork. Other Ramen varieties like the Celtic, Gyosa and Rebel are nice too. Other top picks are Tabasaki wings, Crack Chicken, Tsukidani salad, spicy beef with sweet corn and Prawns.
Vegans will also like the idea of so much choice of vegetarian items. Chef Brian and his wife who head the place are passionately invested in producing ‘the best Ramen experience’ out of Japan. That being said they use a lot of local ingredients in building the Ramen bowl and not just Japanese ingredients and that’s actually a great idea.
The noodles re always hand-rolled and salts are homemade while dressings are sourced from local small manufacturers. The beverage list is disappointing as green tea doesn’t feature in it though there are other eclectic choices like orange juice with turmeric. Be prepared to eat with chopsticks, there aren’t many spoons and forks on offer.
On the downside, do not expect much of ambience as this is a basic set up. Brian also runs food trucks of Bia Rebel at other locations like St George and Folktown Market. There are few tables and only about 10 people can sit inside. Bia Rebel works better when you treat it as a takeaway place.
Address: 409 Ormeau Road, Belfast
Phone: +44 7581 399110; Website
Cuisine: Mexican Fast food
Boojum has got several branches in Belfast and their Botanic avenue branch is the most popular. No fine dining opportunities here but you will get a wide selection of comfort food. Chilli Con Carne and Chilli Chicken Burritos in a bowl are bestsellers and the Mexican rice goes well with everything.
If you are coming with kids then order Lime rice for them… it’s mild and goes well with everything. Veg salads, hard and soft tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, guacamole and salsa are all good though the latter is not that spicy!! The portions are generous when it comes to rice and average when it comes to other items.
The fact that they serve a range of cold beers is an advantage. If you want you can choose the bread version instead of the rice version of any of their Mexican fast food items. They have 5 extras (cheese, sour cream, salad, guacamole and hot sauce) and you can combine them any which way you want.
The biggest advantage of Boojum is that it knows how to process an order fast even in the busy peak lunch hours. This works well as there is always a rush… after all Boojum’ is in the heart of the student area of Belfast. Some say that lines are a part of the Boojum experience!! On the downside, inside seating is very cramped and it’s a better away to take away a meal from Boojum. The eatery is open till 10 p.m. every day.
Address: 67-69 Botanic Avenue
Phone: +44 28 9031 5334; Website
Cuisine: Pizza, Italian fast food
The pizza here is great but the garlic bread is superlative. Vegetarians will like the margarita which is loaded with lots of cheese and meat lovers will like the meaty pizza that has ham, salami and pepperoni are both drool-worthy. If you are anywhere near Belfast City centre and are fond of Pizza then you should definitely give this a shot.
The sides are nice though they don’t serve chips. The service is always great and the counter people deal with all the public including the drunks in a graceful way. The individual-sized pizzas are about 5 pounds and can be completely customised. Usually, the base is crispy thin and there is loads of fresh cheese. You can get the half and half pizza which has two halves done up with different toppings.
The only downside is that there is always a mile-long queue outside but then that’s just an indicator of how good the place is. The location is superb…this has a taxi stand, a bar and the Great Victoria street station near it. You will find it in the little street between Brenna’s Bar and Crown’ Bar. Check their Facebook page for new offers.
Address: 13, Amelia Street, Belfast
Phone: +44 28 9031 4914
Cuisine: Irish Traditional
Holohan’s Pantry on University Road is just a little away from Queen’s University and the listed architecturally brilliant building in which it is housed will immediately catch your eye. Holohan’s serves authentic north Irish dish like goat curd, pearl barley, potato pancakes, pork belly, stone bass, and Portavogie prawns with coleslaw with a special focus on local sourcing.
If you go on Sundays then do order the Holohan’s Sunday Roast and then follow it up with sticky toffee pudding and honeycomb ice cream. And whenever you visit don’t miss the Irish staple ‘Boxty’ (potato pancake); it comes with a range of fillings like beef, vegetables, seafood etc. Staff is overall very nice and friendly and special mention must be made of Thomas and Georgia.
On the downside, the restaurant is quite small so you need to book a table in advance. The company policy is not to charge for any food and drinks that do not satisfy customers so thumbs up to that!!
Address: University Road, Belfast, BT7
Phone: 028 9029 1103; Website
Cuisine: European/ British food
Yum on Stranmillis Road is affordable and pleasant with a lovely ambience. Try getting an upper floor window seat and you can enjoy the nice view as well. Yum serves delicious steaks, fish and chips tempura of chicken, cheese Ballantine with garlic mash and most variants of British food.
The dessert menu is also great with entrees like Pavlova with raspberry coulis. You will get a great range of wines and cocktails too… the strawberry daiquiri is highly recommended.
On the downside, they don’t offer dairy-free milk. Yum is right near the Lyrics Theatre so you can use it for pre-theatre food or post-theatre drinks as well.
Address: 157, Stranmillis Road, Belfast
Phone: +44 28 90668020; Website
Michael Deane’s Love Fish and Meat Locker
Cuisine: World food
On Howard Street, you will find Love Fish and Meat Locker specialising rather obviously in seafood light dishes and heavier meat-laden delicacies respectively. Both are presided by celebrity chef Michael Deane (one of the more known chefs of Belfast)
Love Fish is an expansive white room with a largish atrium flooded with light; it’s designed to make you feel comfortable from the moment you step in. The smoked salmon, chilli salt squid and Dundrum mussels are some of the menu stars.
There are eclectic options like Chingri Malai Prawn Curry (Indian) and Fritto Misto (Japanese) and the large Sharing Platter served in the true Parisian style. The wine list is sourced from all across the world including Asia and New Zealand. You can lunch here comfortably at under 10 pounds.
The Meat Locker caters to people with heartier appetites and has a warmer ambience with red accents. The speciality here is steaks and they are invariably delicious and affordable. Tuck into braised pork with onions and the giant meat burger with chips at affordable prices. The wine and cocktail list are excellent.
Both restaurants are affordable and Michael Deane visits both frequently so it’s a treat getting to talk with the star chef.
Love Fish, 30-36 Howard Street
Phone: +44 28 9033 1134; Website
Meat Locker, 28-40 Howard Street
Phone: +44 28 9033 1134; Website
If you are in the Botanical garden area you can try the Kathmandu Kitchen that serves generous portions of Nepali/ Indian food with good service and competitive pricing.
Try dishes like onion bhaji starter, Nepal dumplings etc. and then move on to mains like lamb magarati bhansa/ meat korma with coconut naan, Kathmandu special curry all of which are delicious in a fiery way. Definitely the only place in Belfast where you can get the original Nepali Choila and Saag Ra Masu.
On the downside, you may find the décor with false ceilings and coloured paintings a little tacky. The free poppadum’s with all dishes are a nice touch, though the sauces are runny.
Address: 11 Botanic Avenue
Phone: +44 28 9024 9264; Website