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Belfast’s Kelly’s Cellars and Derry’s Blackbird named among best UK bars

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Blackbird owner Sarah Simpson (left) with staff, Boyzlife (who recently played at Ebrington) and Derry Mayor Graham Warke

Blackbird owner Sarah Simpson (left) with staff, Boyzlife (who recently played at Ebrington) and Derry Mayor Graham Warke

Blackbird owner Sarah Simpson (left) with staff, Boyzlife (who recently played at Ebrington) and Derry Mayor Graham Warke

Two bars in Northern Ireland have been named amongst the best in the UK based on positive reviews from their customers.

The island of Ireland is renowned for its hospitality and a pint paired with a bit of craic is at the heart of the culture.

According to a new survey, two pubs in Belfast and Derry have taken the top accolades.

Kelly’s Cellars, on Bank Street in the centre of Belfast, was ranked 27th in a list of the top 30 pubs and bars in the UK

The survey, conducted by arcade retailer Liberty Games, was based on customer reviews, which made it all the more meaningful for local publicans.

Established in 1720, Kelly’s Cellars boasts over 300 years of tradition and history.

Not much has changed since then as many of the original features have been retained and customers are treated to traditional music, a bowl of stew and a pint of the black stuff.

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Kelly’s manager Kieran Uprichard said: “We’re honoured and thrilled to be considered for such praise.

“We have always believed the three secrets to a good bar are a good management team, good staff and good customers. We are blessed with all three.

“That was comforting during the difficult times of the last 18 months. We put a lot of time, effort and thought into providing a safe environment for staff and customers during the pandemic, and we were met with enthusiasm from our staff, and cheerful acceptance and appreciation from our customers. With such support, how could we fail?”

Located on Foyle Street in Derry, the Blackbird has food on offer during the day and live music at night. It has proven popular amongst locals and visitors alike, whose positive reviews helped it to come in at number 28 on a list of the UK’s most popular bars.

Eighteen months ago, when there was indecision at Westminster as to whether a Covid lockdown should be imposed, Blackbird was one of the first local bars to lead the way by closing its doors.

It was a tough decision for publicans just ahead of one of the busiest days of the year, St Patrick’s Day, but they did it in the interests of public safety.

Commenting on the news and her emotions after reopening, Blackbird owner Sarah Simpson said: “What a fantastic surprise. Particularly after the last 18 months, it’s fantastic to have the hard work of staff recognised.

“Accolades and awards are great, but nothing beats this sort of appreciation from our customers.

“The landscape of our industry has changed so much in the last two years, and we’ve had to roll with the punches.

“It’s been by no means easy for staff or customers, so we’re delighted to celebrate any wins. Even being able to open the doors feels like a win these days.”


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