I’ve recently returned from the ultimate food filled weekend in Belfast. I was invited as a guest of Tourism Ireland along with Kacie from The Rare Welshbit to check out the first year of Belfeast Food and Drink festival.
Held in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, Belfeast celebrated the best of local food and drink. We sat through fascinating food demonstrations, strolled around the artisan food market and ate at Michelin starred restaurants…oh and I may have eaten the best ever Pork Crackling that exists anywhere.
The day started with a very early flight from Cardiff, the sun was shining, I had a window seat and the day had a good vibe about it. And coffee…lots of coffee.
On arrival in Belfast we checked into The Bullitt, a too cool for school boutique hotel right in the centre of Belfast. Every aspect of the hotel has been carefully considered with both style and comfort in mind and I’d love to return. The rooms are modern, airy and the bathrooms whilst missing a bath are huge with gorgeous rainfall showers – for once I actually enjoyed the shower experience. Breakfast in the Bullitt is slightly different to other hotels, you hang a slip on your door each day to say what time you would like your breakfast bag to be delivered. The breakfast bag contains juice, fruit and oats and yoghurt which is great if you are in a rush or not too hungry in the mornings.
After checking in and enjoying a blissful cup of Irish Breakfast tea we headed to our first stop on the itinerary – The Belfast Food Tour. The Belfast food tour is such an experience, you meet at the market and get taken on a whirlwind tour of food and drink in Belfast. Getting to try things I wouldn’t have normally chosen was my favourite part. Here are a few pics of the tour:
The most incredible brownies I have EVER tasted from Co Couture. We just had a small chunk but it was so rich that it satisfied every sweet craving that I have.
A selection of some of Ireland’s best cheeses:
Our hostess with the mostess:
This was an ulster fry on a stick from the Market and it was absolutely delicious, worth a visit JUST for that:
We also visited some proper old fashioned pubs and this fairly special whisky shop:
After the food tour, when we were already indecently full we called into The Curated Kitchen. The Curated Kitchen had only been open a few weeks when we arrived but word of mouth spreads quickly and this place is popular and for very good reason. It’s a bit different, they have a weekly menu made up of recipes from cookbooks that they love. This is how they describe themselves:
We search at home and abroad for cookbooks, produce and ingredients that are remarkable not just for their taste but also for their story, something that we then aim to celebrate and share with our guests.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Curated Kitchen; good food for the social & curious.
If this was in my local area I could see myself there once a week easily! Our first visit was brief and we had coffee served with deep fried italian dumplings – like doughnuts almost:
We headed back to the hotel soon after to relax before what I would consider the highlight of our visit – dinner at The Ox.
Before dinner we headed to an incredible hotel for cocktails. The Merchant is probably up there with being one of the fanciest hotels I’ve stepped foot in and the cocktail menu is spectacular. It was just the right way to start off a great night.
The Ox is a bit special. Opened in 2013 by good friends Stephen Toman and Alain, it has won a whole host of awards and acclaim in the last five years. Including a Michelin star. It is probably one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten and I’ve had my fair share. But it isn’t stuffy or uptight in the way that you can find in similar restaurants and thats what makes it great. The kitchen is open, the staff friendly and full of smiles and food and wine knowledge. It is a pleasure to dine here and that is before we even get to the food. We were served dishes including seasonal ingredients produced in an incredibly appetising way. The scallop bisque was special as was the Mourne Mountain Lamb and my 70% chocolate dessert served with Jerusalem Artichoke ice cream just blew me away. Every morsel of food was tasty, packed with flavour and thought. The wine to accompany was excellent although as usual I could not keep up with the rest of the table. It was the perfect end to a food filled day.
Day two began with glorious sunshine streaming through my window, we definitely chose the right time to visit Belfast. With the memories of yesterday and the incredible coffee still in our heads we decided to go for a cooked breakfast in The Curated Kitchen to start our day off right. And YES that was the best decision. I could eat this cooked breakfast over and over. I opted for Boxty ( a traditional Irish potato pancake) served with kale in a delightfully creamy sauce and it was mouthwateringly good. So good I want to go back right now and eat it again.
After breakfast we headed to The Mac Belfast for some food demonstrations which were part of the food festival. I LOVE food demos and could easily sit for hours watching. Funnily enough one of the chefs began making Boxty soon after we sat down and I was very glad I had a full belly as it smelled delicious.
After a few hours of demos we headed out into the artisan food quarter, where of course we ate more food:
The food quarter was full of stalls selling cheeses and chutneys as well as brownies, cakes and drinks. It was gloriously sunny and there was a happy, family vibe around the area.
Next up on our itinerary was a cheese and beer pairing at The Black Box. One of the events you could book as part of Belfeast and run by Boundary Brewery and Mike’s Fancy Cheese Co. Now this was a lot of fun. I love cheese, any kind of cheese and I think my favourite was one which was rolled in ash..sounds very weird but tastes amazing. The beer was fairly strong and we walked out feeling ever so slightly giggly.
Dinner that evening was at Babel inside of the Bullitt. I do love when you can have a meal at your hotel especially when you are feeling a bit worn out from the day. Babel was lively and buzzing on a Saturday night although I was so full of food that I struggled to eat much …but I had an amazing Coffee cocktail to finish. Following on from Babel we headed to Cave which is the wine bar attached to The Ox, it was a lovely way to end the day and it was their 5th birthday so we helped to celebrate and even had a slice of cake!
The next day we woke early and headed off to Titanic Belfast. This was a really different experience and I am glad we went. I did find it a little harrowing in parts but that is to be expected and mainly it was just interesting. The building itself is rather spectacular and I couldn’t resist taking a few photos outside:
After our visit we were zooming off once more and this time it was to Belfast Cookery School for a seafood chowder workshop as part of Belfeast. Despite a late arrival after some transport problems we really enjoyed watching the process and eating the results!
Our next stop was at the Ulster museum to visit the Game Of Thrones tapestry. I’ve been exited about this since they first launched it last year and it was so much fun for an obsessive GOT fan to stroll around the rather impressive tapestry.
After our museum visit we headed to our final stop. The Bull & Ram restaurant. By the time we sat down it is fair to say we were absolutely exhausted. It had been a very busy weekend and we were hungry and tired. The Bull & Ram was the ideal end to the weekend. The food was off the scale good. Like how you imagine the perfect Sunday lunch to be. I started with pork crackling which is going take some beating, I would be surprised if I find it that good again served with homemade apple sauce and followed by a beef dinner with ALL the trimmings.
And then it was time to head home, weary and around half a stone heavier I think!
Thanks to Tourism Ireland and everyone who hosted us and treated us with such warmth and welcome. I’ll be back for sure!
- My trip was sponsored by Tourism Ireland.