Last week, Northern Ireland was crowned 'Best Food Destination' at the prestigious International Travel and Tourism Awards in London. This recent honour has got us hungry hippos at Clearbox thinking of our favourite places to eat in Northern Ireland.
So, here it is; your number one guide to Northern Ireland’s food scene…
I’d have to say my favourite restaurant in Northern Ireland is Zen in Belfast. I’ve never had a bad meal there, the customer service is fab and the cocktails are divine.
I think for me it has to be Zios. Although situated in the heart of Portadown, this is quite possibly the best Italian food I’ve ever had. My particular favourite dish is the Chicken and Bacon alforno; strips of chicken and bacon baked in a creamy white wine sauce with penne pasta and topped with melted mozzarella cheese. I mean, what more could you want? Not only is the food great, but all the staff are very friendly and when you walk in you’re made to feel like you’re walking into someone’s home. Plus, it’s an excuse to go to Portadown, which as we all know, is the centre of the universe. Honourable mentions have to go to Mourne Sea Food and every single Ramore restaurant.
Made in Belfast holds a special place in my heart. Specifically, the Cathedral Quarter branch, which is an absolute dream. The food is brilliant and the quirky, not-too-fancy atmosphere means you never really feel underdressed. If you’re going to make the trip, and you’re not a veggie, go for the chargrilled Irish flat iron steak. It comes with an additional piece of meat, beef fat chips and onion rings. Pure beaut.
Nobel Cafe in Ballymena. Or, as the locals call it - Nobel’s. The food is great, it’s cheap as…erm…chips, the staff are brilliant and it’s an institution in the town that we’ve been going to since our school days. Head there in the morning before 11am for the best value, tastiest fry you’ll ever eat. It’s almost like a build-a-fry kinda’ vibe. My usual order is a few helpings of cubed potatoes and vegetable roll, garnished with a sausage, some bacon and a mountain of fried bread.
No beans though. Wrong.
You’ll also see some proper characters in that place. Young parents, teenagers, older people, families. A word of warning, though - they don’t take cards, so get cash before you get that vegetable roll down ye. Also - the Corner Bakery is a top place for a cup of tea and a bun. Check it out.
The Shelbourne in Newry. This is my go-to comfort food eatery. It has its own sense of community and personality, and it’s seen me through every stage of life - chip butties after my 11 plus, lunch with my dad after uni on a Friday and many MANY hangover fry ups. It’s a pillar in the life of every Newry-dweller, and Shelbourne doughnuts are a must when you visit (if there’s any left after the reems of old ladies that queue out the door every morning fill their boots).
My favourite restaurant in Belfast is Ox - I recently went there for my husband’s birthday and it was an amazing experience. The food is delicious, staff are friendly and the wine pairings do not disappoint! Outside of Belfast, one of my favourites is Poachers Pocket in Lisbane. It is warm and cosy and always hits the spot!
McDonald’s Newtownards. But it has the be the Ards one. The fries are consistently fresh with just the right amount of salt, the staff always tell me to ‘have a nice day’ and they were the first ones to roll out the Christmas cups this year. Bonus points for being situated on my commuter route for morning coffees and the odd cheeky hash brown.
Image courtesy of BBC Good Food