We’d like to see more of...
Food and drink initiatives
There are many people cleverer than I who have helped boost and grow Northern Ireland’s food scene in the last year or so — from food collectives, to fresh produce deliveries, pop-ups and markets, and I’d love to see more of them. Some of those in 2021 include east Belfast’s Banana Block, Common Market in the city centre, Hill Hatch’s variety of pop-up food spots, and Vance’s Organic vegetable boxes.
Northern Ireland’s food scene has expanded and grown substantially in the last decade, now offering everything from stunningly fresh tapas to pop-up and takeaway Filipino food. And the more the merrier.
Beer as an alternative to wine
When I first started writing about beer 20 years ago, the selection here was thin on the ground. That’s all changed now, and our best breweries are thriving and offering up a wide variety of well-hopped offerings.
But a decent beer offering in restaurants is still often not part of the drinks menu. It doesn’t mean a 50-strong bottle list, but offering up a handful of rotating brews (and not just safe and sound pale ales) which will pair well with all sorts of dishes would be a much welcome addition to the food scene here.
Another Michelin star or two?
It’s still very much a niche and only a small part of the superb dining scene in Northern Ireland, but there are a couple of spots which could be on the cards for a star, or perhaps others, the potential for a second. Time will tell.
And less of...
Big stacked burgers, complete with a dizzying array of gravity-defying toppings, dried up pucks of over-ground meat and £18 price-tags need to be resigned to the history books in 2022.
Over-priced sausage rolls
From the very best homemade varieties to the pink childhood staples, the sausage roll has a place in many hearts. However, charging £4.50 for one which is far from anything approaching the best around is getting silly. Start with the classic at Grapevine in Belfast city centre for how to do it perfectly.
Better pub food
I know 2021 was far from a time when anything other than keeping the lights on was firmly on the cards, but turning to this year it could be time for some to up the bar food game. That doesn’t mean more complicated, in fact, quite the opposite. A lot of our best bars do a lot right, but when it comes to food, it’s often a matter of ‘everything but the kitchen sink’. A pared down menu, specialising in a handful of things, very well, is a good start — leave the Thai green curry to the restaurants which know best.
I don’t have bee in my bonnet about brassicas. Cabbage is a king among vegetables, from the finely sliced savoy cooked in brown butter, to the whole hispi grilled over charcoal. But, kale can do one, even for a year or so. It packs a big nutrient score on a deck of trump cards, and handled correctly by a top kitchen, can be grand. But, most of the time, it’s akin to something you’d use to make a hardy pair of brogues.