NI Food whetting appetites around the world
If we were to describe Northern Ireland’s food scene right now, in just one word, we would say…
And we’ve got world’s largest travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet, to back us up. They recently named Northern Ireland as one of Europe’s must-visit destinations for food and drink!
It's our mighty-smallness, interconnectedness, diverse landscapes, age-old traditions, and passionate producers that has enabled our foodie scene to shine on an international stage.
Let’s take a deep dive into some of the true gems in Northern Ireland’s culinary crown…
Earlier this year, East Belfast pizza shop ‘Flout!’ received a perfect ten out of ten from the UK’s number one food reviewer. Matt Davies-Binge (aka the Food Review Club) shared with his 600k TikTok followers that Flout! pizza was “on par with the best in the world.”
So what is it about Flout! pizza that has people flocking from across the world and queueing down the street? Perhaps it’s the fact that they mill their own flour to create a crispy organic sourdough? Or the fact that they live up to their name, flouting traditional pizza-making rules and doing their own unique thing?
We’re talkin' rectangular slices as thick as a pie, and weird and wonderful flavour combinations like lemon ricotta, roasted brussel sprouts or peaches and cream.
Worth the hype. Worth the queue. You’ll never look at pizza the same way again. Promise.
Ask anyone in Belfast for a special place to dine, and OX will likely get a mention. Employing an enthusiastic approach to seasonality, OX ensure that every locally-sourced element on the plate plays an integral role in showcasing the best of their daily larder.
The result? Contemporary Irish cuisine that will blow your socks off.
With accolades coming out of their ears, there’s no denying that this place is up there with the best in the world. And given the fact that OX has retained its Michelin starred status every year since 2016, their lunch menu is surprisingly good value.
But if you’re splashing out on the six-course evening tasting menu for a special occasion, we recommend visiting their wine cave and sitting in the minstrel’s gallery for lovely views over the River Lagan.
Holy Smokes BBQ
This wonderful establishment offers an authentic taste of Texas-inspired barbecue… just outside Portadown.
What began as a hobby in the back garden for 44-year-old Tom Quinn, quickly evolved to a take-out only service, then a purpose-built sit-in timber shack, and now it’s something of an online phenomenon!
Think beef short ribs, dirty fries, smash burgers, and giant meat platters that must be seen to be believed.
With rumours floating online that could be ‘the number 1 BBQ shack in Europe,’ it has attracted BBQ fanatics from far and wide. Check it out, we guarantee you will not leave disappointed. Or hungry. (Unless you’re a veggie).
A Peculiar Tea
Created by Great British Menu contestant Gemma Austin, A Peculiar Tea is a six-course holistic dining experience, that is bringing something really unique to Northern Ireland’s foodie scene.
The restaurant itself is a treasure trove of carefully selected interiors that hail from Disney, Lewis Carroll and Roald Dahl stories. Yet it’s anything but gimmicky – instead fun, theatrical, and brimming with character.
And as for the food. There are no words.
Changing every 8-10 weeks, the menu uses playful concepts to spark nostalgia and release imagination. The flavour combinations are as otherworldly as you would hope, and you can expect lots of ‘oohs’, aahs’ and excited reactions from your fellow diners. Just magical.
Harry’s Shack is indeed nothing more than a long wooden beach shed, but it has one of the most enviable locations in Northern Ireland, and the food and service to match.
Based in the sprawling seaside town of Portstewart in Co. Derry, Harry’s shack is a beachfront haven serving up unbelievable scenic views and the freshest seafood around.
None of the dishes sound extraordinary. Rather it’s a menu of simple pleasures done as well as they could be. And that is what makes it extraordinary.
With a cosy log burner, BYO drinks policy and fries delivered in cones of newspaper, it’s deliberately shabby and wonderfully lively – a favourite among locals and tourists alike. Plus, there’s a gorgeous outdoor patio area, where fluffy friends are welcome. A big green flag from us.
St George’s Market
It would be a criminal offence to not finish by mentioning Belfast’s St George’s Market.
Named as the UK’s Best Large Indoor Market 2023, St George’s Market consists of around 200 market stalls selling a delicious selection of hot food, fruit & veg, cakes & bakes and fresh fish.
The current building was constructed in the 1890s, which is impressive as it is.
But get this – there’s been a market on the site of St George’s current premises every Friday since 1604! That’s about 21,000 Fridays in a row (give or take).
With an electric atmosphere, and live music on Sundays, it’s no wonder people travel from near and far to sample the world-class foodie delights of ‘Gorgeous St George’s.’
Northern Ireland’s food scene is seeing something of a renaissance, and we’re delighted that the world is taking notice.
Make sure to hit up one of these places next time you’re in the motherland and let us know what you think!
P.S. We know there are countless other amazing restaurants, cafes, markets, and food trucks across the country – we couldn’t possibly name them all! But we’d love to hear about your favourite Northern Irish foodie spot, so please do get in touch.