Greater Belfast/Northern Ireland

Northern Irish cuisine has a traditional edge, with favourites like the Ulster fry, soda bread and the more unusual dulse (a type of edible seaweed) found on lots of menus. However, new twists on the old classics are popping up all the time, and there’s already a wealth of ethically produced, local ingredients to choose from in Northern Ireland.

Laura

Daydreaming Foodie

Laura, who runs the food blog Daydreaming Foodie, shared her tips on where to go and what to buy to get the best ethical food Northern Ireland has to offer. Cooking for your next big gathering will be easy with one of our 100cm range cookers.

Discover what Belfast and Northern Ireland has to offer

Map of Belfast

Where Should I Buy Everyday Essentials

Indie Fude

Indie Fude

As far as shops go, my main port of call is a small deli in Comber, just over ten miles from Belfast city centre. Indie Fude is a super spot that showcases their favourite produce from the island of Ireland. Johnny, who owns Indie Fude, is a passionate and excitable being. He always has a story to tell and a new product to introduce you to. From jam and flour to meat and veg, every product is clearly labelled, with a shout out to the producer/farmer.

It’s really important to me to be able to trace a product back to its roots, and I know I can do that here. This means I know exactly where my milk/eggs/bread comes from. And I can be 100% certain my farmer is getting a fair price, unlike if I buy the same in the supermarket. The ethos here is to pay the producer a fair price. So, you can be sure no producers you find in Indie Fude are being squeezed down to minimum profit margins.

The Courtyard, BT23 5HJ

Where should I buy meat & poultry?

As I mentioned above, Indie Fude is a super spot for lots of local produce. It stocks my favourite beef from Black Beef Dexter. Andy Meeke is the farmer of these cracking, rare-breed cattle who deliver on both ethics and flavour. They live outdoors all year long, foraging on luxurious mixed pasture. As a slow growing breed, the Dexter cattle produce a wonderful marbled steak. They are also very calm cattle - meaning they are lovely to visit for a head scratch. Surely a friendly cow, is a happy, well-reared cow? And when they taste so good, it’s a bonus!

Hillstown Farm Butchery

Hillstown Farm & Butchery

Hillstown Farm & Butchery is in the beautiful countryside of County Antrim and boasts incredibly low food miles! They rear all their animals on their own farm; their pork is all outdoor bred, and the only chicken you will find in the butchery is free range. This means that all the animals are living good lives. It’s the only place I can find a reliable supply of free range chicken, so they have a constant visitor in me. There is no need to travel all the way to Ballymena to snap up this produce. They are at St. George’s Market in Belfast every Saturday, and will even deliver to your door. It’s hard to think of a reason not to make the most of this ambitious company’s great meat.

Glebe Rd, BT41 3DT

Where should I buy fresh fish?

Walter Ewing’s

Walter Ewing’s

Walter Ewing’s fishmongers is the oldest in Ireland, and one of the most respected. They supply many of the island’s top restaurants with fish and you can benefit from their knowledge by popping into their shop on Belfast’s Shankill road. Walter is well known throughout Northern Ireland for his smoking methods, which he inherited from his father and grandfather. His smoked salmon is a thing of beauty and certainly deserves a place on a dinner party’s table. Or perhaps adorning the breakfast table the morning after!

Kendal St, BT13 2JR

East Coast Seafood

East Coast Seafood

East Coast Seafood in Ballyhornan is the place I like to visit the most. It’s a picturesque drive along the east coast to a small shop within a massive warehouse. It’s a big outfit as this family supply some of the best restaurants in the area. The locals have always known that popping into ‘Marty’s’ warehouse for some fish for supper would mean they were in for a treat. The locally caught crab is a thing of beauty. I’m yet to see a tub of their crab claws in a shop and manage to walk past them.

Killard Dr BT30 7PN

Where should I buy fresh veg?

Flavour First

Flavour First

I use a local veg box delivery company called Flavour First for fresh fruit and vegetables. This family-run business delivers boxes of freshly selected fruit and vegetables from their farm in Donaghadee to homes throughout Northern Ireland. On their farm, they grow an extensive range of vegetables as chemically free as they can, both in their fields and polytunnels. They also use other local growers around Newtownards and Comber to stock their boxes. Their mushrooms and apples follow tradition and come from Armagh!

Seaview Farm, BT21 0LJ

Helen’s Bay Organics

Helen’s Bay Organics

If I’m looking for good quality, organic vegetables I will often take a trip to Helen’s Bay Organics. John at Helen's Bay Organic Gardens has been growing vegetables organically for over 25 years, well before growing and eating organically became trendy! He is incredibly passionate about organic farming and believes that it’s better for us and better for the environment. I’m inclined to agree!

Coastguard Ave, BT19 1JY

Where are the best farmers markets?

St. George’s Market

St. George’s Market

St. George’s Market is a weekly market located in the heart of Belfast. It is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with Saturday being the speciality food market. I’m partial to a good root about the craft market on a Sunday. Saturday is certainly the best day to gather local produce from the various local producers. I make a beeline for the fish stalls along the front wall, and select some whole fish from the beautiful, fresh selection on offer. Hillstown Farm are also here on a Saturday, and one of the only places to find free-range chicken. I enjoy wandering around the various stalls with no list at all, just selecting whatever looks good; or whatever the market traders recommend. They are dying to tell you what it is, where it’s come from and exactly what you should do with it!

East Bridge Street, BT1 3NQ

Comber Market

Comber Market

Comber Market is just over three years old but it feels like it’s been a constant in the town for much longer. The market is on the first Thursday of each month, and one I’ve a soft spot for If I had to narrow my favourite stalls down I would have to recommend Ken’s Raw Jersey Milk for elevating my morning coffee to another level with its creamy goodness! And Go Yeast, run by husband and wife team Ken and Ann for their stunning sourdough bakes with Dunany Organic Flour.

St Mary's Parish Church, BT23 5DU

The Inns Market

The Inns Market

The Inns Market is located on the outskirts of Newtownbreda and champions a selection of local, seasonal and artisan produce. It’s worth sticking a reminder in your diary for this one on the first Saturday of every month, if only for the opportunity to purchase a selection of cheese from Mike Thompson of Mike’s Fancy Cheese. Not only will he have his own superb blue cheese, Young Buck, but also a selection of raw milk cheese from all over Ireland. Cheesy heaven!

Saintfield Rd, BT8 7HN

Where are the best restaurants & cafés?

OX

OX

At the top of the tree, we have Michelin starred restaurant OX. Located in Belfast city centre, a lunch at OX is an important date for visitors and locals alike. Alain and Stephen have been committed to developing close relationships with local suppliers since day one, in March 2013. Their menus echo the seasons and showcase the best each month has to offer. It’s a sophisticated taste of the surrounding area that is not to be missed. The wine bar they run next door - OX Cave - is also pretty special, so be sure to call in there if you like a tipple or two!

Oxford St, BT1 3LA

Fish City

Fish City

Fish City has an incredible commitment to sustainability. They were the first retailer in Ireland to be MSC certified, and now the first fish and chip shop in the UK to be corporate members of Marine Conservation Society. Where else can you say your local chippy cares so much about providing a sustainable future for their community, and our oceans? I mustn’t forget to mention that this spot is not only a takeaway, but you can also enjoy an excellent full menu here with everything from the traditional prawn cocktail, to calamari.

Ann St, BT1 4EB

Cyprus Avenue

Cyprus Avenue

Cyprus Avenue is a relative newbie on the restaurant scene in Belfast. They are working to champion local suppliers - and have recently commissioned an artist to paint portraits of producers for them to hang on their wall. I had a sneak peak of one of Leon ‘The Veg Man’ Fraser and must say I love what they are doing! Local vegetables play a big part in the menu here. They have also made a commitment to only have locally fished seafood on the menu, which means the fish dishes would always be my recommendation.

Upper Newtownards Road, BT4 3ET

Where are the best breweries?

Whitewater Brewery

Whitewater Brewery

Belfast and the surrounding areas are bubbling with breweries! Ireland is probably best known for its stout, due to commercial brewery Guinness. Many local craft beers have popped up making their own versions of the black stuff. Whitewater Brewery in Castlewellan is making one such competitor that is now widely available. Roasted barley, rolled oats, chocolate and black malts combine to produce their traditional Irish stout brimming with flavour. It is the perfect winter warmer!

Castlewellan, BT31 9RH

Boundary Brewing

Boundary Brewing

As far as exciting local breweries go, Boundary Brewing is top of my list. Boundary is a cooperative brewery, owned by its members. Launched in 2014, they’re the first Northern Irish brewery to mix modern US techniques with traditional Belgium/French beers. My current favourite is an exciting Oatmeal Milk Stout made with blueberries called ‘You’re Not Getting Any’. If their current rate of sale continues, it’ll live up to its name! But don’t worry, Boundary are bound to have something else equally interesting on the horizon!

Newtownards Rd, BT4 1HE

Others worth checking out are Hillstown Brewery, Farmageddon and Mourne Mountain Brewery.

Where are the best independent coffee shops?

Common Grounds

Common Grounds

Coffee is slowly but surely becoming more responsible in Belfast - with more companies sourcing their beans responsibly. However, there is only one café that springs to mind if asked about ethical policies and that’s Common Grounds. They have won Belfast’s Best Fairtrade Café two years in a row and are twice runners-up in the Observer Food Magazine’s best ethical restaurant awards. Where possible they purchase products with ethical certification, and always consider environmental impact on transportation of their goods. Common Grounds also has a ‘suspended coffee’ movement, allowing you to buy a coffee for someone who may need it. They open their doors every Christmas to provide Christmas dinner to those who otherwise may go without. Furthermore, they have donated over £60,000 to relief and development charities.

University Avenue, BT7 1GY

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room

In Bangor, a small cafe The Drawing Room is making waves far beyond its hometown for owner Nina’s dedication to local produce and suppliers. From their locally roasted, sustainably sourced coffee, to the locally baked bread and pastries - nothing comes from too far afield. They even encourage the local community to pop in and sell them excess produce from their allotments or back gardens! A handful of onions, some fresh herbs, a bag of tomatoes - all is welcome.

They are one of the only local companies I know of that use compostable coffee cups for takeaway. The coffee is always wonderful - so don't expect any compromise on quality to meet such high ethical standards.

This region is known for…

The Ulster Fry

The Ulster Fry

The fry is something you can enjoy all over the British Isles but the Northern Irish edition is something special. It can be enjoyed at any time of the day. In fact, many are partial to it for a Friday night dinner after a long week. Everyone has their favourite spot to enjoy one as they all differ slightly. One particularly good spot to indulge is Georges of the Market where every item has been sourced from within the St George’s Market. They have a brilliant balcony where you can watch the hustle and bustle below you whilst enjoying your taste of local produce.

Ann’s Pantry in Larne (also in St George’s Market) produce a lovely black pudding potato bread which is a great addition.

Dulse

Dulse

Dulse is a flavour of many a Northern Irish childhood; so, it’s certainly worth a try! Dulse is a type of seaweed common along the coast of Northern Ireland. It’s a deep red colour and really delicious! The more adventurous can opt for their dulse smoked. Both are equally superb. The team at Georges of the Market also offer dulse sausages!

Traybakes

Traybakes

Something else worth a wee mention when it comes to Northern Irish cuisine is the mighty traybake! There are not too many homes you go into where you won’t be offered a cup of tea and a ‘wee bun’. One of my the most popular, that I’ve never seen anywhere else is a ‘fifteen’. Cleverly named by the fact it has 15 of each ingredient; all mixed together and rolled in coconut! The perfect addition to any cup of tea! Any Northern Irish bakery will have these on display.

Explore Other Locations

Newsletter from Leisure, straight to your inbox