When we arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, after six weeks eating Spanish food, we immediately found ourselves immersed in comfort food. But, not the kind of comfort food you might imagine during a trip to taste the best Northern Ireland dishes.
We scouted out all of the ethnic food we could find in Belfast, like we do in many large cities. And, after three days of Chinese food, burritos, dim sum, and even American BBQ, we got serious about trying to find the more typical Northern Ireland dishes. Some of the foods are ones that I have become accustomed to during our travels in the south of Ireland, but a few were very specific to Northern Ireland.
For more Belfast travel tips, check out how to spend 48 hours in Belfast.
Normally, my ideal breakfast involves some fresh fruit, yogurt with muesli, maybe some toast or a bagel. Often it means a bowl of cereal. But, when we land in Ireland, it means a fry.
During our time in Northern Ireland we ate numerous large breakfast plates – more so than normal. Each place we stayed included a fry as a breakfast option. The fry is a large plate of breakfast goodies and quickly became one of my favorite foods to eat in Northern Ireland. A fried egg surrounded by Irish pork sausage, rashers (a type of bacon), black and white pudding, and often beans or a grilled tomato half, along with toast and butter.
Different from the fry we are used to in the South, the Northern Ireland version included two fried bits that we never tasted before. The first was a fried piece of bread, which was pretty nice to eat with the liquid egg yolk. The second was fried and soft, almost like a potato, but not crispy like a hash brown. Mind you, we also received regular toast. This meant we had toast, fried bread, and fried potato, with each Irish fry.
I love fish, but have never been a fan of salmon. It’s probably one of my least favorite fishes. But, I knew fresh, local salmon was one of the more famous Northern Ireland dishes. I chose the salmon while having dinner at Ardmore Restaurant at the Beech Hill Country House Hotel. It was perfectly cooked, served alongside a lovely sautéed spinach and drizzled with a caper, tomato, and chive beurre blanc. It was delectable, particularly when served with the Ardmore’s fresh Irish soda bread.
This sort of surprised me. I don’t generally associate lobster with Ireland. During dinner at Harry’s Shack in Portstewart, with a view over the incredibly cold and rainy seaside, I had a small lobster, which was taken all the way out of the shell. They placed the lobster delicately back into the shell, making it incredibly easy to eat. I asked where the lobster was from, and the server pointed out the window. It came from the cold waters just off the coast. Now, that’s local.
I’ve written before about finding the perfect scone in Northern Ireland, an obsession of sorts. I found myself with a strange almost OCD issue with finding the perfect scone. That obsession is totally unwarranted as there were good to great scones at cafes all over. Be sure to try one with the fresh clotted cream, though, which is a perfect way to eat a lovely warm scone.
I had never heard of a Victoria sponge before. I was told by our guide in Derry, though, that it was one of the Northern Ireland dishes we had to try. In fact, we did not have a choice. He ordered two for us. It was a large sponge cake, filled with cream and jam. The Victoria sponge was served with another little vat of extra cream on the side. Apparently a Victoria sponge is a class British cake, but one I had never heard of before. It was dense and sweet. I planned to take just a few bites, to be polite, because I was not hungry at all when it was placed in front of me. In the end, I ate almost the entire thing.
Bread and Butter Pudding
I love bread and butter pudding, or bread pudding as it is generally referred to in the States. It was another Northern Ireland dish I knew I had to seek out. It is made by layering slices of buttered bread in a pan, along with egg and cream, perhaps some raisins. When it comes out from the oven, it is soft and gooey and magical. The problem is, most bread and butter puddings are not all that pretty to look at when they come out. It’s a more functional looking dessert. The bread and butter pudding I ate at the Ardmore Restaurant, though, was a work of art, and included a bonus layer of warmed apple on the bottom.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Another fabulous British-style dessert is sticky toffee pudding. It’s a large, super moist sponge cake covered in a toffee sauce. It can be sickly sweet, but the one that I ate was covered in fresh vanilla ice cream, almost a la mode style. Although I had the sticky toffee pudding at Harry’s Shack, looking out over nasty Northern Irish weather, I felt nice and warm inside, even as the sticky toffee pudding felt like a ton of bricks in my belly. I did not care.
And, there you have it, the top Northern Ireland dishes to seek out. Did I miss anything?
We were supported by Northern Ireland Tourism during our stay in Derry, but all views are, as always, my own.