Saturday evenings are all about the tasting menu at Muddlers. Make that tasting with matching wines. It’s both local and international: eel from Lough Neagh up the road; wine from Syria across the world. All eight exquisite courses are beautifully choreographed by the waiting staff. An open kitchen along one wall and a bar along another adds to the conviviality. The interior is as industrial as the approach to the restaurant and suitably dark: Chef Gareth McCaughey named his restaurant after a secret society that met on this site two centuries ago. The architects were Oscar + Oscar who designed another of Belfast’s Michelin star holders, Ox. It’s more than a meal, it’s an event: The Muddlers Club doesn’t do things by two quarters (halves).
As old as the island itself, Northern Ireland’s original God given tourist attraction has received a manmade upgrade. The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim is a spear’s throw from Ballintoy Harbour. It’s a geological wonder of around 40,000 polygonal basalt columns rising from the splashed edge of the Atlantic. A visitor centre designed by award winning architects Heneghan Peng is formed of rectangular basalt columns propping up a grass roof. Architecture as land art. Nearby, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a popular walk (not for the fainthearted) over a 30 metre deep oceanic chasm.
Hammy notes, “The development of the Titanic Museum in Belfast at a cost of almost £100 million has been a tremendous boost to the Northern Ireland tourist economy.” Next to the museum, the shipyard drawing office, the birthplace of many a ‘floating hotel’, is now a hotel itself. Belfast boasts three restaurants with a Michelin star – no mean feat for a smallish city with a rocky past. It’s become something of a foodie destination. Local chef Michael Deane has no fewer than six eateries including the Michelin starred Eipic, named after the Greek philosopher Epicurus who rated pleasure highly. True to form, the hef declares, “Fish, to taste right, must swim three times: in water, in olive oil and in Champagne!”