The food served throughout Ireland, both north and south, is simple and unpretentious and uses only the freshest and tastiest of ingredients. As a result, elaborate sauces are a relatively new phenomenon as they are unnecessary to bring out the flavour of the basic ingredients. The humble spud, for example, is one of the most popular foods consumed in the country and forms the staple ingredient of so many traditional dishes – colcannon made from mashed potato with butter and onion, boxty which is grated potato fried in bacon fat and potato cakes which are not that dissimilar to boxty.
Other natural and local produce which you should try when you’re in Northern Ireland are the oysters from Stranford Lough, the herring from Ardglass, mussels from Dundrum and smoked salmon from Glenarm. As you’ve probably gathered from that little list, seafood is also an extremely important feature on any menu in this part of the country and again, the standard is second to none. Both fresh and saltwater produce is caught daily ensuring that the fish and seafood which reaches the table in front of you is as fresh as possible.
Akin to the Republic, one of the most popular dishes is the ‘full Irish breakfast’ or the ‘Ulster fry’. A greasy and extremely unhealthy mixture of bacon, egg, sausage, pudding, tomato, mushroom with the added ingredients of soda farls and potato cakes in the north, this is guaranteed to set you up for the day. Unfortunately, it is also guaranteed to put you on the right road for a heart attack but one or two during your stay are not going to kill you and it is certainly a meal worth trying at least once.
On the drinks side of the menu, not many people are aware that Northern Ireland is home to the world’s oldest legal whiskey distillery at Bushmills. As well as this, however, Guinness also features quite highly as do a number of others brewed in the Republic including Murphy’s, Kilkenny and Harp. The social scene revolves around the pub every bit as much in the north as it does south of the border and it’s not that difficult to get caught up in the party atmosphere so enjoy it, and the food too.