Just down a side street from the City Hall (turn off at Jaeger), this quirky Belfast restaurants formerly a posh menswear shop - and, as they boast, very near to the Northern Bank of robbery fame.
It is the culmination of a dream for Londoner Emma Bucknell, who, despite having no background in the business, always wanted to open a restaurant.
The tone of the (excellent) website and the breezy mission statement reflects Emma’s approach and her enthusiasms – and, despite its carefully crafted eccentricities, this bohemian ‘restolounge’ has its feet firmly on the ground when it comes to the food, stating that “We focus on seasonal produce, locally sourced and organic where possible, and we believe in sustainable sources – our food is about the quality and wholesomeness, rather than being fancy looking.”
First time visitors might expect Made in Belfast to mean historical references to ships and rope works, linen and cigarettes, but it's nothing so thematic – just that this particular combination of objects “was made, with love, in Belfast”.
Light pours through the big shop windows to fill the tall, square space, which is divided by a giant vertical 'radiator' hanging from floor to ceiling down the centre of the room. With its shop character still recognisable and its apparently random collection of mismatched everything, it’s reminiscent of a 1960s auction room where the contents on sale have for some reason been set up for serving meals.
Menus on clipboards with bulldog clips are typed in old fashioned typewriter style and feature organic salmon and sustainable fish, ‘free to roam’ poultry, Finnebrogue venison and ‘outdoor bred’ pork among the main ingredients.
While not exclusively traditional, there’s a strong bias towards retro food, with some main courses – such as a lunchtime dish of traditional fish and beef fat chips with mushy peas - served in old fashioned blue-rimmed enamel dishes.
A signature dish is a retro fish finger sandwich on thick white bread with red sauce, tartare and chips and – made with home made ‘fingers’, lovely, soft doorstep thick bread, homemade tartare and good chips – it should be very enjoyable.
Tasty puds might include sticky toffee pudding or a seasonal version of Eton mess, made with local fruit.
Made In Belfast is the kind of place you might expect to find irritating, but it has really caught on and seems to please people of all ages and walks of life. Its central location and popularity give it a buzz at all times, and servers are full of personality too – yours may well be wearing a funky hat, and they are all really charming.
Perhaps not everybody’s cup of tea, but this quirky restaurant shows a vibrant and confident side to the city which visitors will find interesting – and the food should also please.
[A sister restaurant, Made in Belfast Cathedral Quarter (formerly Hooligans), is at 23 Talbot Street Cathedral Quarter Belfast BT1 2LD T: 028 9024 4107.]