Restaurant review: The ten best places to dine for lunch in Belfast
Here, in alphabetical order, are the best places in Belfast, with one exception, for that midday meal.
Eipic, 28-40 Howard Street, Belfast. Tel: 028 9033 1134
Chef Alex Greene started his stellar rise to Michelin status in Annalong, the tiny and charming Co Down fishing port. If you try his halibut, you'll get a feel for just how good Greene is with fish, how to maintain its firmness without flipping into overdone territory. His mastery of flavours and textures is on a par with Danni Barry who preceded him in Eipic.
Howard Street Restaurant, 56 Howard Street, Belfast. Tel: 028 9024 8362
City centre buzz, excitement, bright lights, bare bricks and great service act as the stage and backdrop to chef Marty Murphy's amazingly consistent offer. His commitment to local produce, appreciation of provenance and season and a clever little wine list, make Howard Street the least formal of the quality restaurants in town.
James Street Restaurant, James Street South, Belfast. Tel: 028 9560 0700
Bullet-proof service and food created under the watchful eye of husband and wife team Niall and Joanne McKenna make James Street a favourite with business expense accounts as well as happy families and dating couples. It's special, it has a sense of occasion and even a bowl of soup at lunch time is imbued with luxury. Chef Dave Gilmore hasn't won best chef in Ireland for his good looks alone.
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Muddler's Club, Warehouse Lane, Belfast. Tel: 028 9031 3199
The latest to join the Michelin star league, Muddler's Club is Belfast's restaurant sector's punk child: angry on the outside but dead keen to please and willing on the inside. Chef Gareth McCaughey and front of house eminence Barry Fletcher are one of the best teams in town always striving to do better and leaving the punters wanting more.
Turkey Street Food, 2 Ventry Street, Belfast. Tel: 028 9031 5978
Chef patron Alper Cildir has opened our eyes to the true heart of Turkish cooking and all its glories. He does this in possibly the most modest looking and tiniest restaurant/takeaway in Belfast. Classic stews, wholesome, tasty and super nutritious pass for brilliance at lunch for only £3.50. If you have a few minutes to spare, try the chicken skewers and shish kebabs. Also, his buttermilk (ayran) is sourced fresh from Fermanagh every morning.
Ox, 1 Oxford Street, Belfast. Tel: 028 9031 4121
Still the most stylish restaurant in Belfast, there is a democratic coolness and unpretentiousness about Ox which reassures everyone. Lunches in here are memorable on so many fronts. Chef Stevie Toman's forensic attention, boldness of imagination and introduction of new wonders (fig leaves from Ballywalter, anybody) coupled to a level of service generated by legendary Alain Kerloc'h make this world class every time.
Stock, St George's Market, Oxford Street. Belfast. Tel: 028 9024 0014
Danny Millar makes the most from being 10 yards away from the best fishmongers in Belfast. Housed in the mezzanine in St George's Market, lunches from Thursday to Sunday will feature the best he can get his hands on. A turbot for two recently enjoyed by the adviser and me will stay in our memories for ever. The dining room is a Parisian style brasserie, well lit, warm and comfortable.
Wine and Brine, 59 Main Street, Moira. Tel: 028 9261 0500
Technically well outside Belfast but hard to ignore, Chris McGowan's talents are on a par with Deane's, James Street and the other big hitters in the city. Game pithiviers, fried olives, tongue and cheek pie and many other robust and unique dishes make certain a quick trip out for lunch will be amply rewarded.
White's Tavern, Winecellar Entry, Belfast. Tel 028 9031 2582
Carlingford oysters and Guinness, the quality likes of which you are guaranteed not to have tasted anywhere else, Lisdergan steaks and some fabulously reworked pub dishes by chef Simon Toye, make White's Tavern and the Oyster Rooms upstairs the go-to ultimate traditional Belfast lunch experience. The very pubness of White's has been enhanced in the refurbishment by Mark Beirne. Not to be missed.
Yugo, 3 Wellington Street, Belfast. Tel: 028 9031 9715
I just cannot go past the wok fried green beans and spicy pork, nor the Iberico ribs, oh, nor the bao or the dumplings… the lunch time treats just go on and on in this temple to modern Asian fusion. Yugo has been consistently good for years. Intimate, bustling and beautiful 21st century eastern style influences, it's an informal alternative to the city's top restaurants and bistros.