Why you should try these 10 stand­out res­tau­rants

Af­ter a year of self­less tast­ing on your be­half, our re­viewer praises the qual­ity and price of the food on of­fer and picks his favourite places to dine

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - NEW YEAR FOOD - Joris Minne

An­other year and an­other 52 res­tau­rants re­viewed. Some good, some in­dif­fer­ent and a cou­ple of rot­ten eggs. Over­all, the restau­rant-scape looks good. Strength in num­bers might not be a con­cept read­ily em­braced by restau­ra­teurs, many of whom think there are far too many chas­ing a dwin­dling num­ber of din­ers. But for us, the spend­ing pub­lic, this com­pe­ti­tion means a qual­ity to price ra­tio un­par­al­leled any­where else in Ire­land or Great Bri­tain. Here are some of the stand-outs of the year and one or two to look out for.

1. Yugo, 3 Welling­ton Street, Belfast. Tel: 028 9031 9715.

This cool lit­tle slice of Asia is modern, bustling and very good if you’re look­ing for big spicy flavours, grilled meats and dirty rice, the likes of which no­body can match. Sit at the counter and watch the chefs do their thing or at the com­fort­able lit­tle ta­bles. You’d swear you were in a hip part of Bangkok.

2. CoCo, 7-11 Li­nen­hall Street, Belfast. Tel: 028 9031 1150.

Af­ter years of or­di­nar­i­ness the once great CoCo is back. Paul Water­worth in the kitchen, Abby Dun­lop out front, with Tim in charge of the op­er­a­tion, make a for­mi­da­ble team. Din­ing room badly needs a make-over and new light­ing, but the food and wine are among the best qual­ity and best priced in Belfast. Hint: have a glass of the Peth Werth pinot noir from Ger­many.

3. Shelby’s, 51A High Street, Holy­wood. Tel: 07926 691174.

Just opened in Holy­wood, this lit­tle bistro does two things beau­ti­fully: cock­tails and street food. Hon­estly, corn dogs are smokey and ro­bustly tex­tured, the sausage within more ru­ral French than ur­ban Amer­i­can. Chicken and waf­fles fea­ture south­ern fried morsels served in a waf­fle cone with maple syrup. And mac ‘n’ cheese with shred­ded con­fit duck is de­fi­antly volup­tuous, lux­u­ri­ous and gen­er­ous for a so-called small plate.

4. Wine & Brine, Main Street, Moira 028 9261 0500.

One of the best res­tau­rants out­side Belfast or Dublin, Chris Magowan never fails. The din­ing room has been sorted out and is bright, airy and com­fort­able, the ser­vice good and that food sub­lime. This is the same chef Richard Cor­ri­gan re­lied on heav­ily in Lon­don. Prices are, how­ever, dis­tinctly re­gional rather than cap­i­tal, yet the qual­ity will stand any com­par­i­son with the best. Try the tongue and cheek pie if it’s on.

5. James Street Restau­rant, 21 James Street South, Belfast. Tel: 028 9043 4310.

The much-loved Bar & Grill has gone and in its place is, er, an ex­tended ver­sion of the Bar & Grill. The posh bit is still there but func­tions more as an ex­ten­sion of the Bar & Grill (don’t call it the over­flow room!). Any­way, it’s still in the hands of the tal­ented Niall McKenna and now that early teething prob­lems have been re­solved, it will soon re­turn to its place at the top of Belfast’s bistro league.

6. Eipic, Howard Street, Belfast. Tel: 028 9038 2111.

The hushed lux­ury, white linen and sparkling crys­tal have a place in Belfast. It’s the only truly up­mar­ket, old school, posh‘n’plush restau­rant in the city. But noth­ing’s old school about Alex Greene’s cook­ing. Here you will find for­mer head chef Danni Barry’s le­gacy kept in­tact, with loads of ex­cite­ment at the ta­ble in­clud­ing cloches, smoke, shots of wine (rather than full glasses if you’re in for a long night) and the best in­gre­di­ents in the world.

7. French Vil­lage, 343 Lis­burn Road, Belfast. Tel: 028 9066 4333.

A fam­ily favourite. Ben Tsang and his co-pi­lot James run French Vil­lage as tightly as any top-end Parisian city cen­tre brasserie. Food is al­ways good: ex­cel­lent brunches fea­ture hashes, and din­ners in the evening are out­stand­ing af­fairs. It’s a brassy, busy yet re­laxed and com­fort­able restau­rant with all the qual­ity you’ve come to ex­pect from the French fam­ily.

8. No­ble, 27a Church Road, Holy­wood Co. Down. Tel: 028 9042 5655

If you can get a ta­ble in No­ble, you must be some­body im­por­tant. Al­though Saul McCon­nell man­ages the tiny restau­rant with all the charm and wis­dom of a For­eign Of­fice di­plo­mat, he is also demo­cratic. It’s just that you need to book early. Pear­son in the kitchen never fails: it’s al­ways de­light­ful. Look out for Wick­low veni­son, Mo­roc­can-style baked beet­root and that choco­late dessert.

9. Prim­rose Restau­rant, 53/55 Strand Road, Derry City. Tel: 028 71373744

Derry City needed Prim­rose to add to Ian Orr’s Brown’s restau­rant. Prim­rose is a de­light; com­fort­able, hos­pitable and home to some of the best food in the north west. Much use of lo­cal pro­duce and own­ers Ciaran and Melanie Bres­lin are butcher and baker re­spec­tively, so they know bet­ter than any­body the im­por­tance of qual­ity in­gre­di­ents. (His Tir­keeran black pud­ding is out of this world and make sure to try the Cham­bers Redgate cider and Melanie’s barm­brack).

10. Nu Delhi, 68-72 Great Vic­to­ria Street, Belfast. Tel 028 9024 4747.

Owner Naz Dim re­cently left Bruce Street and trans­ferred the beloved Nu Delhi to its new home above Gin­ger Bistro. Joint win­ner of the Ul­ster cat­e­gory in last year’s Ir­ish Curry Awards, Nu Delhi is a must for curry lovers. Naz does cock­tails, good ban­gra mu­sic and very good masala. You will see lamb chops, se­abass and other fresh lo­cal pro­duce trans­formed into spiced-up Ben­gali and In­dian de­lights.

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