Belfast Food Tours are extremely popular and we’ve been meaning to do it for a while but with it regularly selling out before we can get our hands on a ticket it took a degree of advanced organisation. Two months to be exact. The other half’s birthday loomed and it was the perfect excuse to get a group of friends together for some food, culture and a tipple of booze.
Starting at 10am in St. George’s Market (or 10.30 if you are on the later tour) you will be greeted by your guide who will introduce the tour, the market and kick off the day with a welcome visit to tea and coffee stalls. Belfast Food Tour operates solely with local produce. Everything you taste on the day comes from within driving distance.
Stop 1 – St George’s Market
As mentioned you meet in St George’s Market. This will also be your first (and longest) stop. You’ll learn about local produce and suppliers and sample some of the local delights – you will not end the day hungry (or entirely sober). First we stopped at the Suki Tea stall to sample some of their exquisite festive tea and those who favour tea over coffee will walk away with a cup of their famous Belfast Brew. Fun fact – the name ‘Suki Tea’ derives from the nursery rhyme ‘Polly put the kettle on’.
Next we stopped at the Barnhill stall, where they make delicious apple juice from local Antrim apples and sampled a shot of their wares before heading on to SD Bells who have been around since 1887, making them older than the city of Belfast by a year! Those who favour coffee over tea will be treated to what I was assured was delicious coffee.
From there we visited Anne’s Pantry and Hillstown Farm Shop, where we sampled 15’s and then a platter of sausages, soda bread and potato bread which were all out of this world. It was at this point that I realised our guide wasn’t lying when she said we wouldn’t leave hungry!
St George’s Market is a great reminder of just how much food Northern Ireland produces. If you’re local to Belfast, it’s easy to wander through and not really pay attention to what is around you but fresh local produce is readily available and surprisingly affordable. Everyone in our group was gawping in particular at the fruit and veg stall, which had parsnips and carrots the size of my head for half the price of Tesco and guaranteedly much more fresh.
Stop 2 – The Garrick Bar
Next we went on to one of my favourite bars in Belfast, The Garrick. Famed for its large range of beer and welcoming atmosphere, it’s a must if you’ve never been before. It is also one of the few selected bars in Belfast that are part of the Guinness Open Gate Brewery Project, meaning you will often find beer and stout here you won’t find in other bars as Guinness are testing it. We sampled some of their champ (a 50:50 ratio of potatoes to butter), McIvers Dry cider (now my drink of choice) and Mc Grath’s stout.
Stop 3 – Co Couture
Now fully stuffed we ventured on to dessert at Co Couture where we were treated to a quick lesson on chocolate and how it is made followed by some samples and a delicious hot chocolate. Co Couture is one of those little shops you walk past all the time but I didn’t even know what it was until we went in! That’s the joy of this tour – if you’re a tourist you will see the very best that Belfast has to offer and if you’re local you’ll find new favourite places and foods.
Stop 4 – The John Hewitt
Onwards to The John Hewitt, another famous bar in Belfast. Fun fact – Mumford and Sons played their first gig in Ireland here…in exchange for pints. It was here I enjoyed my first ever Jawbox Gin which tastes significantly less like hairspray than most other gins. I will definitely be purchasing in the near future.
Stop 5 – Established Coffee
Established coffee view coffee as a science and with their ever changing menu of coffee it is a popular spot for those in the coffee know. Although a little lost on me as a tea drinker, I definitely appreciated their passion and knowledge and there was a small cup provided for anyone that wished to sample.
Stop 6 – Coppi Restaurant
To complete our day we were treated to a pick and mix feast at Coppi. An Italian restaurant which uses local produce, we enjoyed a selection of goats cheese pizza, seafood gratin and duck ragu alongside a glass of prosecco with an absolutely delicious cheese, cracker and oil selection to finish off what was a very filling and very tasty day.
I’d actively encourage anyone coming to or living in Belfast to do this tour. It is both an education on local produce and a cracking day out. As a group we had a lot of fun and found ourselves talking about what we had and hadn’t experienced in Belfast and Northern Ireland and making plans to do more.
At £50 a head it may seem a tad pricey but you definitely make it back in food and drink. I’m sure this is subject to change but we got;
tea / coffee
cheese and crackers
Be sure to book in advance as these tours sell out regularly – you can book at tasteandtour.co.uk .If food doesn’t do it for you for whatever reason (you maniac) then they also offer a walking whiskey tour, bar tour and brewery tour. So get out and taste some of the local produce, meet some new people and enjoy the best that Belfast has to offer!