The latest addition to Belfast 's growing ethnic culinary scene.

For a meal with high novelty factor, beautiful presentation, impeccable service and the freshest food, you must try Sakura.

 

When dining in Belfast, come hungry with a hearty appetite.  Traditional restaurant fare features unpretentious cooking along with fresh local fish prepared with simple recipes.    

Traditional dishes are often exceptionally good value for the money. Local favorites such as Guiness and beef pie, Irish stew, champ (creamy, buttery mashed potatoes with scallions), oysters, Ardglass herring and smoked salmon from Glenarm are all traditional favorites.   A well-known local dish is the Ulster Fry, a hearty plate of bacon, sausage, black pudding, tomatoes and eggs, usually served up with large portions of potato or soda bread.   

A visit to Belfast isn’t complete without imbibing in delicious pub grub.  A favorite among locals and visitors alike are pub restaurants, many of which offer friendly service, the local Belfast brews along with hearty local specialties such as champ and Irish stew.  Regional drinks include Guinness, a dark heavy stout, Irish whiskey and Hilden, real ale made at Lisburn.  Traditional, folk music is played in some places, making a pub-night-out a popular choice.  

In addition to traditional meals, Belfast in recent years has embraced all the best of international cuisine.  From innovate Japanese menus and Mongolian barbeque to American-style diner delights and spicy Mexican fare, the variety and diversity of Belfast’s dining scene is exceptional.   The greatest selection of restaurants is located in Belfast’s centre, the Golden Mile and along Dublin Road and Botanic Road.  The area around St. Anne’s (the Cathedral Quarter ) is fast becoming one of the trendiest sections of the city withy many fine restaurants, pubs and lively nightlife.   The John Hewitt Bar on Donegal Street serves great food and is non-smoking. It's also run as a community business by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre so all profits go back into the community.  There is also the Potthouse which does good food and is also a bar/club and the Northern Whig , former home of a Belfast newspaper, which has a lot of interesting stuff to look at.  These are all within a two minute walk of each other.

Belfast's oldest seafood restaurant Tedfords - the building dates back to 1843. The restaurant is in three areas - the Porthole Bar a place to realx and have pre-meal drink before moving onto the Bistro area where seafood is the speciality with excellent range on offer, there is also a bistro-style menu with steaks, chickens or vegetarian meals. A great menu on offer. An ideal place for pre or post theatre meals as its across the road from the waterfont Hall.

If you have a bit of cash to splash, Paul Rankin's Cayenne restaurant on Shaftesbury Square serves great food.  It also has a seperate vegetarian menu which is quite a bit cheaper than the regular menu.  Deanes Deli on Bedford Street is also excellent - they have a cafe-type section which is cheaper and where you can get food to go, but also a restaurant - advise booking ahead especially on weekends.  They are also very good veggie-wise.  Dining in the Victorian splendour of the Merchant Hotel's Great Room Restaurant is a must when in belfast. Think Cherubs, Opulence, Fantastic service and the place to be. Remember to book early.

The university area has a good range of mid-priced places to eat.  On Botanic Avenue itself, Cafe Vincent is worth a look.  The food is good and freshly cooked and prices are reasonable, especially given that you can bring your own wine for a modest corkage charge.  Almost next door is Clements Coffee Shop serving probably the best coffees in Belfast (it's part of a small locally owned chain so you'll find others in the City Centre).  Just across the road is Cafe Renoir which serves a mix of modern cuisine and pizzas.  Well known for its fresh baked goods, Renoir's is patchy for cooked meals - whilst some chefs turn out tasty meals, this can't be relied upon.  For the chip eaters, Maggie Mays is the perfect place to cure a hangover with a jumbo fry.  Finally, just off the beaten path in the Holylands area (on University Avenue) you'll find Common Grounds cafe.  Don't be put off by the fact that it's church run, no one will try to convert you except to excellent food.  They serve a range of healthy foods - sandwiches, quiches etc and some very tasty sweet treats.  It's also fully non-smoking, a rarity in Belfast until the ban finally comes in at the start of April 2007.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the small size and population of Northern Ireland, Chinese food is of the highest quality.  Large numbers of Chinese people began arriving in Northern Ireland from the 1960s onwards, and future generations have continued bringing excellent food and service to the country.  It would be nigh impossible to list all Chinese restaurants in Belfast, but a few notable ones follow.  The Emerald City, in the City Centre's lively Dublin Road, comes highly recommended.  Service is friendly and efficient, and the food has to be tasted to be believed, with an extensive menu available.  On Botanic Avenue, several Chinese options are available, including the recently-opened Lee Garden, a large and decadent restaurant with an extensive menu. Further South, on the corner of the Malone Road and Eglantine Avenue, is the Abacus restaurant, again with excellent food.  Here you can also bring your own drinks.

Thai food is not as common as some types of ethnic cuisine, but is still readily available.  One of the best Thai restaurants, the Thai Village can be found on the central Dublin Road, close to the cinema, bowling alley and many bars and clubs.  Service in the restaurant is impeccable, and the food is truly second-to-none.  An extensive drinks menu and wine list is also available.

Italian restaurants are plentiful in Belfast, from Villa Italia in the University area, the menu changes seasonaly so it gives you something different for each time you visit, you can't blame but think you are in Italy with murals of the Itailian countryside painted on the walls, children are also openly welcome on weekend there is face painting and colouring pages to keep the little ones amused. Telephone number for more information (028) 9032 8356. Another option for Italian lovers is Scalini on Botanic Avenue, close to many bars and clubs and a short walk from the City Centre.  The restaurant looks small from the outside, but on entering you see that it is huge.  Despite this, it is usually very busy - testament to the excellent quality of the food and service.  However it does not have a dedicated no-smoking section and because of this attracts more than its fair share of smokers - not a nice way to eat a meal.  There is now a smoking ban in operation in Northern Ireland, so all pubs and restaurants are smoke-free. All of these restaurants are a base to head out for a 'nightcap' in the centre of Belfast. (A word of caution on these restaurants - don't expect 'authentic' Italian cooking:  think cheap and occasionally, but not always, cheerful fare. Best to stick to the pizzas which are freshly cooked)

Indian food is also popular in Belfast, with many options to choose from.  In the City Centre, the Gingeroot on Great Victoria Street cannot be beaten.  Their claim that they aim to provide a standard of service that one will never forget is extremely accurate, and the food certainly matches this excellent standard.  The restaurant also boasts an extensive wine list, and a variety of other drinks.  The Indian beer, Cobra, can also be purchased on tap.  Further South on the bustling Lisburn Road, the Jharna Tandoori comes highly recommended.  The luxurious and authentic decor of the restaurant makes you feel like royalty, and the delicious food and drink is immensely satisfying.  Further on up the Lisburn Road, the intimate Rajput has what is probably the most extensive Indian menu in Belfast - and each dish is extremely tasty.  On the affluent Malone Road, Cafe India is well worth a visit - although home to plenty of Indian favourites, here you can also find more unusual dishes.   Indie Spice in the lively Stranmillis area of the city, owned by the same people as the Jharna, is a trendy and friendly establishment, with excellent food and some good lunchtime meal deals.  Finally, Little India  on on the Dublin Road is worth trying.  Whilst the decor is old fashioned the food is great.  It is especially good for vegetarians, having until recently been an entirely veggie restaurant.  This list is certainly not exhaustive though - there are plenty of other options for Indian fans in Belfast, and none sampled by the current author have been anything less than great!  Again, all of these restaurants are close to bars and clubs, and access to the City Centre is no more than a 20 minute walk or five minute bus/taxi ride.

Inexplicably, Mexican food is difficult to obtain in Belfast.  There were formerly three Mexican restaurants, all fairly close to one another in the University area, but all have since closed.  The new kid (and best) on the block is Boojum - a new Mexican taqueria restaurant on Botanic Avenue. A taqueria is a casual, relaxed place to enjoy authentic Mexican food - on offer are freshly made burritos, fajitas, tacos, quesadillas and nachos. It now has a license and serves beer and margaritas also. The food is very delicious and authentice (spices come from mexico not a supermarket) and the staff are friendly. Another option is Wrap Works on the trendy Lisburn Road.  As well as more modern options such as hot or cold wraps, the establishment offers a good range of burritos, fajitas, chimichangas etc.  If visiting, chilli-heads will love their Jalapeno Poppers!  Alcohol is not available in this restaurant, but you are welcome to bring your own bottle.  The place is fairly small and pretty informal; Mexican fans looking for a more formal, large restaurant, with more choice on the menu, will have to travel to Lisburn, which is only a 15 minute train ride or 20 minute drive from Belfast City Centre.  Margarita's is situated in the Omniplex Leisure Park in the town, which is about a 10 - 15 minute walk from the train/bus station.  The menu is extensive and the taste excellent.  A large range of drinks are available, including traditional Mexican cocktails, and the service is friendly and efficient.