Celebs in our city
Crab claws with Bill Murray at the Mourne Seafood Bar or a night at the Culloden Estate and Spa with David Beckham? Gráinne McCarry has the lowdown on where to hang out if you want to mingle with the rich and famous
The life of the celeb is a much-scrutinised one - everyone wants to walk like you, dress like you ... they just want to be you. And it seems that Belfast has been awash with celebs of late.
But when they come to Belfast where exactly do they go and what do they get up to?
According to my spies, former Bond girl Britt Ekland was recently perusing the designer displays at Carter on Upper Queen Street. The store, which sells Armani, Roberto Cavalli and Hugo Boss to name but a few, was also visited by R 'n' B singer Beverley Knight and former Boyzone singers Keith Duffy and Ronan Keating.
Mary and Martha on the Lisburn Road is a popular haunt for GMTV's Lorraine Kelly and former Celebrity Big Brother's Danielle Lloyd.
Sex and The City star - and probably one of the most famous fashionistas of all time - Sarah Jessica Parker stayed at the Europa with actor hubby Matthew Broderick, but unfortunately the contents of her eco-friendly bags for life remain a mystery.
When the famous have shopped until their feet hurt, what else is there to do but hit the spa for some Me, Me, Me time?
None other than David Beckham has de-stressed at The Culloden's Spa in Holywood, Co Down, before he moved to Hollywood, USA.
The hotel offers a two-day Millionaire Makeover package at a whopping £1,200 per person - a lot of cash for mere mortals but loose change to Mr and Mrs 'Golden Balls' Beckham.
Tony Blair, Bono and Gordon Ramsay have also stayed at the hotel and I'm sure when they retire from boring the world, saving the world and feeding the world, in that order, they love a pampering facial to unblock their pores, too.
And where else would international stars choose to stay but at the city's first-ever five star hotel The Merchant?
When actor Gabriel Byrne, star of Jindabyne, came to Belfast he wrote in the guest book that it was "the best hotel" he had ever stayed in. His visit was low key and he pretty much kept himself to himself, unlike larger than life American comedienne and chat show host Joan Rivers who was described by my spy as "a larger than life character". She was spotted dining in The Great Room and relaxing in the cocktail bar.
The luxury suites in the hotel are all named after important Irish writers; Brian Friel has stayed in the suite named after himself and Seamus Heaney likewise. Other famous guests include Meryl Streep, the Kaiser Chiefs and the lads from Westlife were seen hitting the dance floor at the hotel's nightclub Ollie's. Many a star has frequented the hotel's Members Bar.
However, what they get up to in there is definitely being kept hush hush!
Boutique hotels are 'in' with the IT gang, with Malmaison being a favourite with Girls Aloud and Channel 4 presenter Dermot O' Leary; Ten Square played host to the X Factor judges Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Dannii Minogue (when they were speaking) while Madisons has entertained Boogie Nights actress Heather Graham.
The Big Brother twins Samantha and Amanda stayed there very recently.
Moving swiftly on from dizzy blondes to decommissioning and none other than Canadian General John de Chastelain was spotted having lunch at The Apartment Bar, beside the City Hall. However, the contents of his dining plate were not up for discussion.
Callum Best, Zoe Salmon and Orlaith McAlister have been spotted at the trendy bar and Zach Braff, from hit US sit-com Scrubs, has also paid a visit.
The Ginger Cafe on Hope Street was also a favourite with Miss Graham when she was filming Buy, Borrow, Steal in Belfast earlier this year.
It seems our celeb visitors prefer to frequent secluded eateries hidden away down the city's side streets as the Mourne Seafood Bar and James Street South have quite a celebrity clientele, too.
The latter, named after the cobblestoned street on which it resides, can be found behind the City Hall and in the past, the former X Files actress Gillian Anderson, Simply Red's Mick Hucknall, Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and singer Sharon Corr have graced the premises with their presence. They have possibly even sampled its most popular dish the James Street South taster, featuring smoked salmon, seared scallops, pork beignet and carpaccio of beef.
If the walls had ears at the Mourne Seafood Bar, however, they would certainly be able to tell a showbiz story or two! Have you heard the one about Hollywood actor Bill Murray buying oysters for the whole restaurant when he popped in recently? Well, apparently when he was over filming City of Ember he got a taste for the fresh crab claws at the Bank Street eaterie. He was prone to dropping by for a bite to eat between filming and often visited the kitchen for a few cooking tips. Now, unlike some other celebs I won't mention, he was happy to wait until a table became free!
On one visit, he ordered 100 oysters for the other diners to feast on and got the whole restaurant to sing 'Happy Birthday' to the lady sitting at the table beside him! When he was leaving, the generous Lost In Translation star realised he didn't have enough sterling left for a Hollywood size tip so he gave each of the waiting staff $$100. Now that's what I call a satisfied customer!
Other famous diners at the restaurant include Shawshank Redemption star Tim Robbins, who dined on monkfish, and movie producer Steve Shareshian, who worked on Academy Award winning films The Silence of The Lambs and Philadelphia. Described as friendly, down to earth men, they were happy to chat to both staff and diners and loved the Ulster hospitality.
Deane's on Howard Street also boasts an impressive list of star diners including Alex Best, Sir Cliff Richard, rockers REM, boxer Lennox Lewis, actress Selma Blair (of Cruel Intentions and Legally Blonde fame) and Gavin Rossdale, lead singer of rock band Bush and Mr Gwen Stefani.
Some famous faces prefer to sightsee rather than be seen and when Take That were in town a few weeks ago for their sell-out concerts at The Odyssey, Jason Orange hopped on a big red sightseeing bus and checked out the city's murals. But noone seems to know if the singing sensations stayed in the city or jetted in and back out again.
Sometimes superstars can have quite a calming influence on all they meet. Rumour has it when Jonah Lomu and the All Black squad checked out the Springfield Road peace wall, local kids knocking 10 bells out of each other momentarily paused to take in the sight of the 6ft 5in rugby star and his team-mates. If that's the case, we could have done with the 'peacekeeping' All Blacks at Stormont Buildings!
Sadly, when the squad hopped back onto the sightseeing bus, the scrap on the street re-started and entered round two.
Definitely not what Lonely Planet would describe as a 'must see' sight for 2007!