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Northern Ireland Food and Drink

With its rich agricultural land and winding coastline, it's no surprise that Northern Ireland has a good quality of fresh meat and plentiful fish. Eel is used in dishes around the Lough Neagh area. Hearty stews, speciality bread and sticky cakes are specialities across the province. Look out for good independent bakeries where you can try distinctive local breads such as puffy soda farls or the flatter potato farls. Portion size tends to lean towards the massive, so you shouldn't go hungry. A hearty breakfast is a must at least once, when the traditional Ulster Fry, including bacon, eggs, sausages and soda bread, will set you up nicely for the day.

Northern Ireland is presently the only country in the United Kingdom without any Michelin-starred restaurants. It has had them in the recent past, however, and the fact is far from indicative of there being a paucity of good places to eat. Belfast and Derry/Londonderry are particularly strong when it comes to ‘casual’ fine dining, with an emphasis on fresh local produce and some genuinely inventive menus to choose from. The Good Food Guide – a rival to Michelin – has been particularly glowing about several Northern Irish restaurants.

Specialities


• An Ulster fry - eggs, sausages, bacon rashers, mushrooms, beans, fried tomato, sometimes with further components.
• Shellfish.
• Homemade vegetable soups.
• Irish stew.
• Dried seaweed.

Things to know

Pubs are open all day Mon-Sat 1130-2300 and Sun 1230-2200 with half an hour 'drinking-up' time. Pubs in Belfast often stay open Thurs-Sat until 0100. As elsewhere in the UK smoking is banned in pubs and restaurants.

Tipping

There's a similar attitude to tipping as there is in other parts of the UK, with 10 to 15% a typical amount if you've enjoyed a meal out and been pleased with the service you've received. When eating in basic cafes or drinking in pubs, tipping is not generally expected.

Drinking age

You must be 18 to legally purchase alcohol in a pub. 16-year-olds are able to drink with a meal if the drink is purchased by an adult.

Regional drinks

• Guinness (a dark heavy stout with a creamy head).
• Bushmills (Irish whiskey distilled in County Antrim; the distillery itself can be toured by visitors. Bushmills Original is sometimes referred to as ‘White Bush’ due to the white label).
• Hilden Brewing Co (Ireland’s oldest independent brewery produces a number of craft ales at Lisburn).