Belfast Telegraph

No limits: Ox in Belfast is chasing its second Michelin star

Restaurant Review: Ox in Belfast - masterclass from a superchef 

When superchef Alan Passard, owner of the three-Michelin star l'Arpege in Paris, makes his third appearance in Belfast in three years, you know something is up. Passard is up there in the world listings of best chefs. He rubs shoulders with Alain Ducasse, Jose Andres and Rene Redzepi. L'Arpege is one of the best restaurants in the world with an endless waiting list for reservations. He does not need to come to Belfast yet he is drawn back here in what has become an annual pilgrimage to Ox, our own temple to brilliant food.

Output Espresso on Belfast’s Lisburn Road

Restaurant review: Brunch and lunch station raises bar for street food 

The irrepressible Gary McIlDowney is at it again. This time, the brains (and brawn) behind Slims, the healthier alternative to dirty food, has opened a new sit-down street food outlet called Output Espresso Food Social. On the site of former burger palace Rocket & Relish on the Lisburn Road, Output is a bright, breezy and youthful place with all the right modern references: very cool staff, vegan dishes and kombucha. Like any self-respecting, brand-conscious, marketing-aware, lifestyle enhancing enterprise, it even has a slogan: Sit back, relax, we've got you (my punctuation).

Made in Belfast in the Cathedral Quarter is well worth a visit

Restaurant review: Made in Belfast 

Thank the stars that Emma Bricknell, creator of Made in Belfast and other restaurants, didn't flee to Ibiza after all. A few years ago some political rumpus prompted Emma, who had come to Belfast from England and made a significant mark on the city with her whacky-looking but good-quality bistros, to declare that she had had enough of us and was heading to sunnier climes. I've never met Emma but I understand that while she may have left at the time, she may have since returned. Whatever. Her restaurants are still here and the one in Talbot Street is now doing brunch.

The new Stock Kitchen and Bar

Restaurant review: Stock Kitchen and Bar 

Thank God Danny Millar has rediscovered his mojo. After too many years of multi-tasking across three restaurants in Balloo, Hillsborough and Lisbane, Chef Millar had become restless. He had raised the bar to magnificent new heights in Balloo House, particularly in the posh upstairs dining room which felt like a beautifully restored ancient stone Breton barn decked out with high quality furniture and lots of linen and crystal. But getting the front of house staff proved a consistent challenge.

Ora offers an outstanding experience

Restaurant review: Ora Belfast - Reimagining of tapas bar quite simply a sensation 

Marty Murphy, chef patron of Howard Street Restaurant, is a man of unusually combined talents. Cautious on the one hand but daring on the other, Chef Murphy's direction means Howard Street has joined Belfast's restaurant elite through its consistency of exciting food and good service. The dining room itself is a cool, bare-bricked affair full of urban bustle and flattering lighting and it has grown a loyal client list who will now be tempted by his new opening, Ora.

Finegan & Son in Newry

Restaurant review: Finegan & Son in Newry, refreshingly different fare that’s bordering on great 

Newry, the bustling frontier town is all swagger, super-pubs and cross-border Euro-trade. It is the Tijuana of Ireland. Thanks to its position on the north-south axis between Belfast and Dublin it has levels of prosperity most towns across the rest of Ireland deeply envy. What's more, its progressive council is supportive of the arts which means that this is one place whose continuing regeneration is assured.

Cafe Naz, on Belfast's Ormeau Road

Restaurant Review: It's not just the curries that make Ormeau Road's Cafe Naz a hot ticket 

Lucky Rosettans. Rosetta, the district at the top of the Ormeau Road whose population of scaffolders, bathroom fitters and bookies has moved up to Carryduff making way for broadcasters, lawyers and management consultants, has been transformed into a bijou quartier of tasteful interiors, gravel paths and clipped lawns. The new Rosettans are time-poor. They can afford to eat out and drink but are so busy working and earning all the money, they barely get out at all.

Warm and spacious: the interior of Six By Nico

Restaurant Review: This six theme should prove a big hit with Belfast diners 

After months of relentless and merciless bombardment of the social media with a series of short, moody films featuring bearded men in deep concentration using tweezers to compose tiny dishes, a young parkour expert wearing a six-by-nico sweat-top leaping and cartwheeling in slo-mo from Giant's Causeway to Cathedral Quarter, and tantalising glimpses of chef Nico Simeone himself boarding a plane to Aldergrove, anyone paying attention to their Instagram and twitter feeds could not have failed to notice that the great man was preparing to transfer the magic of his Glasgow and Edinburgh restaurants to Belfast.

Top notch: Muddler's Club at Belfast’s Warehouse Lane

Restaurant Review: Wiping the slate clean at Belfast's Muddler's Club 

I've loved Muddler's Club since its inception three years ago. The woody, beardy, creakiness much loved by the hipsterati is coupled to a very real Belfast sense of fast-moving, finger-clicking urban knowhow. Somehow, it manages to be laid back and on fire at the same time. Your comfort and joy come first, this is evident, and front of house staff under the keen eye of manager Barry Fletcher will keep the bustle levels high, moving silently and gracefully around, smiling, serving, advising to make sure you are both comfortable and joyful at all times.

Home comforts: District Coffee delivers on food and service

Restaurant Review: Little wonder customers love this District of Belfast 

The jaws of Christmas provide a good time to look back and reflect on things. For me, this mostly means a reassessment of the restaurant scene in Ireland. Were the bad reviews of 2018 deserved? Were the good reviews merited? And just how hopeless are my predictions? As the singing hotelier Bill Wolsey reminded a live audience recently, I described a recently opened restaurant as a sure-fire success a couple of months before it closed down.

Attentive pupils: a lesson at Belfast Cookery School

Belfast Cookery School: Joris Minne puts culinary skills to the test under tutelage of top chef 

Review my own cooking? I don't need a full page to tell you I'm a hopeless cook. I have a couple of set pieces for family dinners, a firm grasp of the microwave functions and a sensitive if formal approach to setting the table; but my culinary talents are ultimately narrow, limited and unimpressive. The adviser on the other hand is an accomplished cook which makes domestic meal preparations all the more stressful for me.

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