This is one of the trendy Cathedral Quarter’s best restaurants: sure, the dining room feels a bit sleek and steely but the cooking is honest and usually bang on the money. It’s a grill so the charred steaks are the kitchen’s strongest suit; more creative dishes such as scallop ravioli with caper and lemon butter are seriously good, too. A three-course set lunch (around £25) is pretty good value.
33 Donegall Street
This Michelin-starred spot on Oxford Street is almost always fully booked and for good reason: the space is beautiful but chilled, while the kitchen works almost Noma-level wonders with seasonal Irish ingredients to make a six-course tasting menu at £60 feel like an absolute bargain. A three-course lunch (where the main might be Skeaghanore duck with parsnip, quince and kale, or halibut with bisque, cauliflower and bergamot) is even better at £29.
1 Oxford Street
Set in a converted, Victorian-era stables on Botanic Avenue, this cosy bistro is regarded as one of the top tables in town for its well-sized, well-constructed plates of upscale pub grub. Start with duck rillettes with plum chutney and garlic-truffle toast, then main with a delicious, roast cod, chorizo and fennel cassoulet. Fresh beer comes from local Hilden Brewing Company. Veggies are well taken care of.
1 College Green Mews
The Muddlers Club
There’s a great buzz and swag to this Cathedral Quarter bistro. It won a well-deserved Michelin star in 2020 for County Tyrone-born chef Gareth McCaughey’s clever but pretence-free takes on classic Irish dishes that make smart use of seasonal, local ingredients. The properly satisfying, six-course tasting menu rarely disappoints and is available in veggie and vegan format (meat is £60, the latter two £55).
1 Warehouse Lane
EDŌ is a cool, design-led bistro with a long bar-counter that looks into a kitchen known for its amazing wood-fired oven. The chefs turn out perfect plates like the salt-cured beef cheek (Guardian food critic Jay Rayner approves) as well as some excellently rendered, tapas-style seafood in the highly addictive salt-cod fritters with seaweed tartar or the sliced octopus with harissa and caper berries. Commendably, almost all the bottles on the wine list go for less than £30.
Unit 2, 3 Capital House, Upper Queen Street
John Long's Fish & Chips
There’s no shame in just hitting up a chippy, is there? Well, not when the fish and chips are this good. Expect fresh battered haddock and steaming-hot beef-dripping chips in a no-frills setting (established in 1914, it feels like 1975, in a good way) and don’t forget to add on one of the tasty dips. The usual chippie alternatives (burgers, pies, battered sausages) are available if you don’t fancy fish.
39 Athol Street
Dundrum-born chef Alex Greene has worked in two Gordon Ramsay kitchens in London (at Petrus and Claridge’s) so expect cosmic standards at this Michelin-starred fine-diner that uses local ingredients to create intelligently designed and beautiful plates of edible art. That’s not to say it’s not a lot of fun: expect the odd surprise in the quite fairly priced tasting menu. Oh, and it’s pronounced 'epic'.
28-40 Howard Street
The Barking Dog
Chef Michael O’Connor claims to do the best burger in Belfast and it’s hard to argue when the tender beef-shin patty and glorious horseradish mayo is this blow-the-trumpets tasty. Elsewhere on the menu at this casual, reliably filling gastropub can be found elevated generously sized plates of salt-and-pepper scampi or pan-seared duck breast with heritage beetroot. A doubly solid option for a slow Sunday lunch.
33-35 Malone Road
Made in Belfast
This beloved, reliable Cathedral Quarter branch of a city chainlet (there’s one in City Hall, too) has been around for ages but it still smashes it every time with peppy service and one of the best brunches in Belfast. The menu isn’t trying to be too clever: just honest, hearty comfort food like slow-roasted pork belly or Irish moiled sirloin with chunky, beef-fat chips and black pepper sauce. Come hungry.
25 Talbot Street
Mourne Seafood Bar
Oysters and real ale, anyone? Well, that’s the vibe at this unsplashy bar and restaurant where some of Belfast’s best seafood pairs with friendly vibes and fresh beer. Dinner sees more creative plates come to the fore – think lemon-baked salmon with dill, or hake with shellfish ragout and a parmesan crust – but, either way, everything is done with heart, with a drinks list set to please more exploratory palates. Highly recommended.
34-36 Bank Street