Food and Travel: Belfast and Bushmills

August 4, 2011

We really had no expectations upon our arrival in Belfast. Aside from articles, travel shows and a sampling of random options we didn’t know much about what we might encounter there.
Belfast | Fake Food Free Travels
For a travel researcher like me, this was actually a very refreshing feeling. While I’m flexible with my plan and expect it to change, I often over research and a little bit of the unexpected was a nice change.

 Belfast | Fake Food Free Travels

In this case, it was a refreshing feeling that only got better. Needless to say, I loved the Belfast area!

The minute we stepped off the train it felt different – maybe a bit more reserved, more business-like and, after Kilkenny, a lot less touristy. In an odd way, there were parts of the city that resembled Washington, DC to me. The English influence could be seen in the architecture, but it still felt very much Irish.

The food experience was equally as pleasing and I really liked learning about the differences in foods and food names between the north and the south.

For example, there was no sign of a full Irish breakfast in Belfast, but the Ulster Fry could be found on multiple menus. According to the local guide magazine I picked up the Ulster Fry is a full Irish breakfast minus the pudding, plus some potato bread and soda bread. We also noticed there was no mention of brown bread, but there was always wheaten bread.

 

Alleyways in Belfast

Our first night we randomly stumbled upon McCrackens which was tucked away on a narrow side street. It turned out to be one of our favorite finds of the trip. It was a modern bar with the feel of a pub, full of some interesting history. I also had one of the most unique meals of the trip here.

First, I apologize for the bad quality picture, but I simply have to share this with you.

Salmon sausage!

 

Salmon Sausage

The entire menu here was loaded with creativity and this was no exception. It was sausage made from salmon and it was served over creamed leeks with smoked salmon with potato slices. I’m hungry for it now just writing about it! The flavors were simply perfect.

 

Dining in Belfast
Early the next morning, we made a quick stop at St. George’s Market on our way to the train station and our day trip to Giant’s Causeway. On our walk there I thought it was so cool to see modern milk jugs that had arrived in the early morning on the doorsteps of both restaurants and what looked to be apartment buildings.

 

Milk delivery at a cafe in Belfast
Things were just getting set up at the market, but there was plenty to see. We snagged a blueberry and raspberry yogurt scone for breakfast and ate at the station.

 
Fresh Fish in St. George's Market Belfast
Potatoes in St. George's Market Belfast
 
 
 

St. George's Market Belfast

 

Cheeses in St. George's Market Belfast

 

Desserts in St. George's Market Belfast
 Blueberry and Raspberry Scones in Belfast

 

These were as good as they look. I noticed that the scones here were less of the mildly sweet variety like the fruit scones in the south and more of the sweet, pastry-like version we often see imitated in the States.

Coast near Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

 

Next up was the gorgeous coast and Giant’s Causeway. I’m pretty sure these girls hanging out munching away redefine the term Happy Cows.

 
Happy cows in Northern Ireland 
 

Giant's Causeway

After the Causeway we squeezed in an unexpected visit to Bushmills Whiskey distillery. We hadn’t realized it would be so close and it turned out that it was even a bus stop on the route.

 

Bushmills Distillery 
Our tour guide was not as informative as the one we had for the Smithwick’s brewery tour, but it was nice to see the grounds and gather what information we could. Of course, it’s never a bad thing when there is a sample at the end. Whiskey distillery tours are hard for us to fairly evaluate because we are exposed to some of the best available with our bourbon distilleries here in Kentucky.

 
Bushmills Distillery in Northern Irleand 
 

Taking photos of whiskey at Bushmills

For lunch we headed into the town of Bushmills to look around. We had spotted Hip Chip earlier in the day and lunch was enjoyed on a bench while splitting a take-out order of Fish n’ Chips. This is the way to go for fish n’ chips. It beats a sit-down restaurant order any day. After that we managed to find some whiskey flavored ice cream!

 

Fish and Chips in Northern Ireland

 

Fish and Chips in Northern Ireland

Once back in Belfast, a bit exhausted from our day of exploring, we set out to find The Kitchen Bar which I had read about. What caught my attention was the Paddy Pizza – pizza made with a soda bread crust! The place was packed with lots of people already out to celebrate their Friday night, but fortunately they were still serving food so we got a table.

I went with the Thai Fish cakes. These were tasty, but they had a lot more potato in them than fish. Not necessarily a bad thing, just not what I was expecting from the other fish cakes I’ve had.

Thai Fish Cakes

Paddy Pizza in Belfast

 

My husband went for the pizza. This was an unexpected combo, but a good one. It had a white sauce, chicken, bell peppers, onion and cheese. The crust was brilliant and I plan to give it a shot in my own kitchen.

 

The next morning we squeezed in a quick walk to Queen’s University campus and the Botanic garden. I’m so glad we did because it ended up being my favorite part of the city. The gardens were beautiful and Botanic Avenue was lined with the cutest restaurants and cafes.

 

We ended up stopping at a French café for scones and coffee. Believe it or not this was the only place throughout the trip where I finally got my clotted cream. I had been on the lookout, but it just ended up that all the places I had scones only offered Irish butter.  The best butter in the world, but butter.

Latte Break in Belfast

 

Cherry Scone with Clotted Cream in Belfast

 

I went for the cherry scone which ended up being made with maraschino cherries instead of fresh or dried, but it was still a tasty scone. My husband went for blueberry. It was the perfect quick stop to break up our walk. There were so many more things on their menu I would have loved to try.

Walking around Belfast
Belfast was the one place that felt the most rushed to me and I think that was because we planned the day trip out to Giant’s Causeway. I wouldn’t trade the day trip, but I would’ve loved to have spent more time exploring the city. The great places we found offered unique food and we were surprised to finally find some craft brews. We did a lot of quick eating, but every bit of it was delicious.

Belfast and Northern Ireland Travel

 

Last stop – Dublin!

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  • Elizabeth August 4, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    The pictures of the food rival the scenery! If you perfect the soda bread crust let me know. Immersing yourself in the food of a place makes such a memory. I spent a summer in Italy when I was 14 and think so often of the many things eaten and enjoyed.

  • kat August 5, 2011 at 6:03 am

    I had shrimp salami recently, so I’m intrigued by the salmon sausage. Beautiful travel pics!

  • Andrea August 5, 2011 at 7:01 am

    That is one serious lens you’ve got there! What is it?

    My favorite shots are of the market and I love the fresh milk out by the shops. How lovely would it be to get fresh milk and cream delivered in glass bottles. Mmmm

    The food looks amazing and the pizza has me most curious!

  • 5 Star Foodie August 7, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Gorgeous scenery! How interesting that Belfast reminded you of Washington DC. The food looks excellent, the salmon sausage is very neat for sure.

  • chopinandmysaucepan August 8, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Such beautiful photos. My dad went to university at Queens in the 50s and I guess it was very different at the time. Do I see a glass of whisky on that table? 🙂

  • Daily Spud August 10, 2011 at 2:43 am

    I will definitely have to check out McCrackens whenever I next get to Belfast – would love to try those salmon sausages! I’ve done something similar to the pizza with soda bread crust, except lighter in toppings and more like focaccia – but definitely quick, different and tasty 🙂

  • Lori August 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Elizabeth – I’ll definitely share it if I make the crust.

    kat – Oh, shrimp salami sounds great!

    Andrea – Well, the photos are a mix. Some are taken with my 18-200mm which I still desperately need to master. The others are a new point and shoot we got. Lumix DMC-ZS6. It’s great when we don’t want to take out the big camera.

    5 Star – It is so beautiful and I was surprised how much it made me think of DC.

    chop – How interesting! And yes, that was our sample after the tour. 🙂

    Daily Spud – Yes, you must. Such a neat place!

  • OysterCulture August 13, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    We never made it to Belfast, we ran out of time, but I see I will defnitely have to go back. You threw me when you said you found the restaurant based on being intrigued by the pizza crust and then ordered fish cakes. so glad I continued to read that the hubs ordered the pizza and my goodness it was a monster in size. Looks amazing.

  • Deb in Hawaii August 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Such beautiful photos–the food and all the sights. Loving that salmon sausage and I want a slice of that pizza too. 😉