Word of mouth: Belfast – COOL HUNTING®

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, one can see evidence of the capital’s fighting history on the walls that still separate some of the neighborhoods. Murals depict struggles and pay homage to those who fought or perished in The Troubles – a violent political and nationalist conflict that the city’s population endured for almost three decades. Belfast celebrates artistic expression in addition to these murals, and various organizations prove the city’s commitment to bringing public art to locals and visitors. From historic buildings to modern art, beautiful shops, coffee shops and Michelin-starred restaurants, Belfast is a city of contrasts, culture and creativity – with surprises on every trip. Exploration here reveals a complicated history, vibrant art and food scenes and resilient residents who love their vibrant city.

Lent by The Merchant Hotel

The cocktail bar at The Merchant Hotel

The impressive Italian sandstone building that houses The Merchant Hotel was built in 1857 and was originally built as the Ulster Bank headquarters to serve as the center of the financial district. In 2006, the building was transformed into a luxurious five-star hotel close to pubs, cafés and shops. The heart of the hotel, The Cocktail Bar offers a dreamy setting for both guests and locals alike. Inside this sumptuous room, the team shares craft cocktails served from an impressively long menu. Some drinks are obtained by the traditional method of bartenders throwing cocktails; mix ingredients with spectacular flowering. Excellent includes the Tipperary cocktail made with Red Breast whiskey and four classic champagne cocktails made with Ruinart.

Lent by Established Coffee

Established coffee

In Cathedral Quarter, Bridge opened Barbour and Mark Ashbridge’s Established Coffee in 2013, starting service with 3FE beans roasted in Dublin. In 2018, Established added roasting to their lineup and now has their own headquarters and roastery close to the café. Current coffee includes a Gichathaini, the third from Kenya, they released this year. Popular with locals, Established is known for their well-made coffee and espresso drinks served with homemade pastries and meals. Cakes include vegan, date caramel slice; bourbon pecan pies and orange and brandy cinnamon rolls. The dishes on the menu are grilled with cheese from local cheesemaker Mike’s Fancy Cheese. Recently, they commissioned Acme to make new cups with illustrations by local artist Glenn Kennedy, depicting their wood-burning stove and café.

Lent by envoy

envoy from Belfast

Prior to the opening of the Envoy of Belfast – a store on Wellington St – owner Ruth Spence worked as a purchaser for the menswear store Bureau, but her passion for clothing design can be traced to her time in Tokyo, where her admiration for Japanese brands was galvanized. Then it makes sense that she fills Envoy with modern and vintage Japanese pieces along with clothes from UK-based and international brands. Each piece has been intentionally procured, revealing Spence’s passion for fabric and design. On the racks hang pieces by Ichi Antiquities, Girls of Dust, Kapital and Sophie D’Hoore next to cashmere dresses by Daniela Gregis and coats from Moncler and Acne Studios. Spence selects items that feel forward-looking but timeless and that fit the life of Belfast.

Lent by OX


Named the best restaurant in Northern Ireland 2021 by the National Restaurant Awards of Ireland, OX was also awarded a Michelin star in 2016. Their innovative tasting menus feature local ingredients and are served in their original dining room as well as their newly added minimalist, warmly lit wine cave. Belfast-born chef Stephen Toman focuses on local, seasonal ingredients and blends his experience in Parisian and Irish cuisines. Expect dishes like Wild Wicklow game with figs, Earl Gray tea and salsify; crispy gougers filled with coolattin cheddar, using their own OX Yard Beer in choux pastry; and squid ribbons served with ink, chorizo ​​and romanesco. Small details reveal great taste experiences and are served with inspired wine combinations in this relaxed environment.

Ciaran Lennon “Porous Plane” thanks to the artist and Golden Thread Gallery

Gold wire gallery

One of Belfast’s leading contemporary art galleries, the Golden Thread Gallery on Great Patrick Street, works to develop and support Northern Irish contemporary artists. Recently, an exhibition featured art from the archives of Rebel Dyke – an LGBTQ movement for social justice and liberation known for their do-it-yourself video, crafts, photography and performances. Photographer Donovan Wylie’s Lighthouse Series, currently on display, explores the concept of borders and barriers to Brexit. Golden Thread hosts the annual Belfast Potter’s Christmas Market featuring works by more than 20 potters from Northern Ireland. Also worth a visit nearby opened the new Common Market food hall with global food, a brewery and live music.

Lent by The Muddlers Club

The mud club

Located in the historic back streets of the Cathedral Quarter, inventive tasting menus have given The Muddlers Club a Michelin star and the admiration of both locals and visitors. The club’s dark and moody dining room is named after the secret company that met in this building two centuries ago. Their Smoked Old Fashioned, made with Black Bush by Bushmills, arrives at the table in a glass skull with a layer of smoke lurking inside. In the glow of their open kitchen, chef Gareth McCaughey and The Muddlers Club’s culinary team transform regional ingredients into modern delicacies such as scallops in foam and artfully coated dishes of cod, game or beef served with local vegetables. Nearby, the Commercial Court alley (leading to the Duke of York pub) has been decorated with historic signs, flower exhibits and an installation of neon umbrellas by AM Light. Continue along the streets with murals to the Sunflower Public House, located behind the Belfast Central Library and identifiable by the green security cage at the entrance, a charming relic from the 1980s.

Hero image lent by OX

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