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Some tasty restaurants out there worth a nibble

By Margaret Canning

Published 04/10/2012

The restaurant business is thriving in Belfast and many other parts of Northern Ireland. You only have to try and get an impromptu table in the Cathedral Quarter late on a Friday night to see for yourself.

Even a Monday night will see venues such as Safa, an Indian restaurant recently opened above Kelly's Cellars in Belfast, filled with diners.

It seems the recession has not curbed our appetites for good food - and the length of the latest Irish Food Guide demonstrates that eating out is being taken more seriously than ever.

John and Sally McKenna's colourful compendium of eateries and food shops across Ireland had just 250 pages when it was first published in 1989. Now it can safely qualify as a hefty tome, with 700 pages. Mr McKenna once raised hackles in the Maiden City by saying it lacked a decent restaurant scene - and it boasts only six cafes or restaurants in this latest book, compared to around 40 in Belfast. Overall, the couple think the growing number of businesses listed in their book reflect the triumph of Irish artisanship in food.

Belfast-born Mr McKenna, who trained in law before becoming a food writer, has spoken of the encouraging emergence of a 'new wave' of Northern Irish chefs, like Danny Millar. Mr Millar recently opened his third restaurant, at Lisbarnett House in Lisbane, where he has vowed to introduce his patrons to delights like Dexter beef.

The McKennas have also isolated crafty brewing, the breeding of rare pigs and sourdough bread baking as new fashions in Irish cooking.

As we approach Belfast Restaurant Week, which runs from Saturday, October 6 to 13, a dip in the guide is a helpful reminder that food remains one of NI's finest products.

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