Now let’s face it, everybody loves a bit of ‘quirk’ every now and then (is that even a word?!). Well, we’ll call it a ‘night out with a difference’ then. A few drinks surrounded by hanging undergarments, a fancy meal in an old prison dungeon, or brunch in a shipping container are just a few such experiences in Northern Ireland’s capital.
Here are a handful of cafes and quirky restaurants in Belfast that are not to be missed.
AMPM Bohemian Restaurant
Famous for its debaucherous Cabaret Supper Club evenings, AMPM gives diners one of the most entertaining nights out in Belfast.
You can enjoy a meal down in the Bohemian Restaurant among the hanging greenery and outlandish art, or, choose from one of their ‘experiences’ including afternoon tea, gin tastings, and bottomless prosecco Sundays! (who said Sundays were depressing?).
The Cabaret Supper Club takes you back to 1920s Hollywood with live jazz, comedy, magic, and burlesque all in the mix. It promises you a memorable night out guaranteed.
At the top of the tree there’s, well, the Treehouse, AMPM’s urban roof garden. Open to the sunshine in summer, covered and cosy in the winter. Gather a few friends for some small plates with a glass of whatever, and yarn the night away.
Pick from the menu: Without a doubt the ‘million dollar’ fries. A side for the hungry (or if you’re willing to share), topped with chorizo, spicy house tomato sauce and giant parmesan shavings. A meal in itself, yum!
Holohan’s at the Barge
As the name suggests, Holohan’s is an old converted barge, transformed into a pretty chic little restaurant. Sitting on the river Lagan, the view shows just how much Belfast has changed over the last decade or so. The recent and current development of the Laganside area is unmissable.
The menu is small but perfectly formed, traditional yet imaginative, with a focus on tastes from across the whole of Ireland.
They love their boxty (Irish potato pancake), which you won’t see on too many other menus locally. And, despite its size, the menu caters well for gluten free and vegetarians.
Pick from the menu: It has to be the boxty. Truffled boxty with peas, asparagus, chestnut mushrooms and goats cheese. Also ask about their ‘Boxty of the day’.
Cuffs Bar & Grill
The old Crumlin Road Gaol in North Belfast is a major part of Belfast’s history, and is now a very popular tourist attraction.
Complete with dungeons, a tunnel linking the gaol to the old courthouse across the road, and a hangman’s noose and trap door, you can tour the gaol in the daytime, or scare the bejesus out of yourself and take the paranormal night time tour!
It’s also the home of Cuffs Bar and Grill, which opened in the summer of 2016. A once dark and dingy lair has been transformed into a modern, bright and very appealing restaurant. The menu is very good value and Cuffs takes pride in locally sourcing its meat and other ingredients.
Pick from the menu: The Long Stretch Burger. A bit of a challenge this one, 8oz Ulster steak burger with cheddar cheese, back bacon, crispy onion ring, chicken strips, and pepper sauce with a choice of side.
Muriel’s Cafe Bar
This chic little cafe bar is famous around Belfast for its gin menu. With over 100 to choose from, a signature serve for each, and plenty more drinks too, it’s no surprise that Muriel’s is buzzing every weekend.
In recognition of its past (Just ask who ‘Muriel’ was), the bar is decked out in mirrors, moody lighting, velvet seats, and rows of bras (and the rest) hang down from the ceiling.
For food you can choose from shareable small plates like crispy squid, salted chicken or nachos, and hearty, uncomplicated mains like beef strip, Thai veg curry and fish finger sandwich.
Pick from the menu: I would go for the large nachos to share. Topped with all the usual trimmings: guacamole, salsa, sour cream, cheese and jalapenos.
So into the east of the city for our last quirky find and to a restaurant which is housed in what else but… a shipping container!
Freight (formerly Pot Kettle Black) is still a fairly new, hip venture, sitting in CS Lewis Square and continuing the explosion of restaurants on that side of town, the epicentre of which lies in Ballyhackamore, just up the road.
Freight’s menus are both colourful and adventurous. You can have brunch or ‘supper’ here. They also have an excellent vegan menu.
Pick from the menu: for an indulgent brunch, buttermilk pancakes, crispy bacon, caramelised banana, rum & raisin.
So what do you fancy?
Plenty around to please those who are curious about the curious then. And indelible food, drink and entertainment to fill the ‘remember when we….’ stories for a long time after.