‘The subculture that always existed beyond Northern Ireland’s old divisions has come to the fore in Belfast, energising the city’s music, food, drink and art scenes,’ writes Tony Naylor, author of The Guardian’s recent feature: The Alternative City Guide To Belfast.

Within Tony’s July 28 guide, he notes some of the best places to experience the real Belfast – and we couldn’t fault one of his picks. Defined by category, check out our favourite selection of Tony’s picks…


The Hudson Bar

10-14 Gresham Street – Website

The Hudson Bar

We love The Hudson for its fantastic drinks selection, laid back beer garden and eclectic range of music – and it seems Tony agrees, stating:

“From one-off gigs with cult German producer Ulrich Schnauss to visits from the Low Profile DJs (local evangelists for leftfield electronic music), there are interesting things going down at the Hudson – where events are usually free.

“The Belfast Music Club crew regularly take over a huge outdoor smoking terrace for day/night hoedowns that run the gamut from cosmic disco to jackin’ house. Previous guests have included Optimo and Young Marco.”


3 Winecellar Entry – Website

Vandal Source - Facebook

Vandal, based above White’s Tavern, has featured in BELFASTVIBE thanks to its amazing food & drink, which ranges from Pizza Subs, Individual Pizzas and Freak Jar Desserts (basically Food Porn).

But it’s also becoming seriously well known for its music. Indeed, Tony states that: “17th-century White’s Tavern is among Belfast’s oldest pubs but the venue cannot be defined by its history.

Its landlords used to run the legendary Stiff Kitten club and have turned White’s top floor into Vandal, a graffiti-clad pizza restaurant which morphs into a late-night club. “It’s a hidden gem,” says Bobby Murray, from the record shop and online radio station, Belfast Underground.

“It’s a got a low-ceiling, an intimate feel and nights such as Dialogue which plays the deepest house and techno.”


9-11 Fountain Street – Website


This bar and gig venue, which opened in October 2011, hosts everything fromhiphop to DnB, hard rock to blue grass. Even comedians and live theatre have graced the stage.

Punk legend Terri Hooley, of Good Vibrations fame, is the resident DJ on Thursday nights.

Aether & Echo

11 Lower Garfield Street – Website

Aether & echo

One of our favourite spots for a Saturday night, and it seems the Guardian would agree. Tony explains: “Run by the people behind renowned cocktail haunts Love & Death and Apoc, this bar has a tidy club space upstairs.

“Murray says: “Saturday’s Night Institute with DJs Jordan and Timmy Stewart is one of the city’s most exciting nights.” A&E is also a sometime venue for the roving Beat BBQ, which on 28 August is offering the unlikely combination of burgers and Blawan’s savage techno.”


The Sunflower

65 Union Street – Website


Perfectly encapsulating why we love Belfast’s famous Sunflower Bar, the guide states: “Hidden on a backstreet and identified by the Troubles-era security cage at its door, the lefty, boho Sunflower hosts nightly eclectic jam sessions, a monthly flea market, public meetings and serves wood-fired pizzas in its grungy, colourful beer garden (from £5).”

We particularly concur about the amazing pizzas!

The Woodworkers

20-22 Bradbury Place – Website

The Woodworkers Source - Facebook

We love Woodworkers, thanks to its beer tasting menu and great food on offer – and it seems we aren’t alone…

“Seven rotating taps and several fridges carry an impressive range of modern Irish and global craft beers. “Being the first to really go for great beer, they took a big risk and it’s paid off,” says Dick, whose co-operative brewery, Boundary, opens to the public on the last Saturday each month (4pm-11pm, thirds only, from £1).”

Muriel’s Cafe Bar

12-14 Church Lane – Website

Featured as number one in the well received article: 7 Finest Gin Establishments In Belfast, it seemed many of you agreed that Muriel’s is the Gin Palace to frequent in Belfast.

If you were one of such people then you’re in good company. Because the esteemed Guardian agrees:

“Probably the best selection of gins in Belfast,” says Felicia Matheson from drinks distributor Prohibition. “And if gin isn’t your thing ask Avril to make you an Old Fashioned; hers are awesome.”

Muriel’s tiny sister-venue, the Spaniard, is similarly fixated on rum. “Expect to have a great night … and a rough next morning,” enthuses Kris Nixon, who blogs as Belfast Barman.



5 Pottinger’s Entry – Website


With homemade (and seriously filling!) dishes costing just £3 – £4.95, it’s no wonder that Grapevine found itself on this list. Being huge fans of the creamy Seafood Chowder and fresh sandwiches, it’s great to see this hidden gem getting some of the recognition it truly deserves from The Guardian.

“The diligently home-cooked food at this simple sandwich shop/cafe is, insists Turkington (who leads tours of Belfast’s street art) a cut-above, particularly its specials such as Maltese tomato and rice soup or sesame pork noodle broth.

“It’s only four or five pounds for lunch and the gumbo’s amazing. That’s my Friday treat. If I could find a Grapevine in other cities I’d be delighted.”

The Muddlers Club

Warehouse Lane

With mains starting from £14, the elusive Muddlers Club is shrouded in a cool, mysterious vibe – letting its food speak for itself.

“Dimly-lit, music blaring, one bare wall covered in urban art, Gareth McCaughey’s restaurant is pretty rock’n’roll and his dishes, such as shortrib lasagne or blackened lamb with romesco, deliver in spades. “His cocktails are amazing too – smoking creations in whisky decanters, stuff like that. It’s good food in a cool setting,” says OX chef and co-owner, Stephen Toman.”

Permit Room

Fountain Street – Website

We’ve been huge campaigners for the talent behind Permit Room since it opened its doors in June. From the guys who brought us Howard Street, The Permit Room: “is giving Belfast’s brunch scene fresh zip with its filled flatbreads, plates of shakshuka eggs and its Thai-spiced Bloody Maria.”

 Source: The Guardian. Read the full Alternative City Guide To Belfast here!

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