Street smart: Lisburn Road, Belfast
Girl's night out ... Chelsea Wine Bar.
LEAFY, elegant and cosmopolitan, Lisburn Road runs through the Queen's Quarter district of Belfast. Saunter and enjoy the scenery: boutiques, antiques stores, galleries, restaurants and wine bars have thoroughly gentrified this former working-class neighbourhood. If you want to sound local, call it "the Lisburn Road" as you do your best to impersonate an Irish accent.
NEVER met a piece of red meat you didn't like? Then Porterhouse Restaurant may be the place for you. It claims to serve the best steaks in Belfast and, being owned by a respected farming family, the restaurant enjoys a good supply of top-notch produce. Choose from marinated rump, sirloin, rib eye, prime fillet or the signature porterhouse steak, then drown it in brandy and peppercorn cream, or roast garlic and thyme butter. Traditionalists may opt for bearnaise sauce, while the trendy gourmand won't sniff at truffle cream sauce. Those who really want to buck the system will bypass the beef altogether and order from the organic pork, chicken or vegetarian menu. Simple, delicious and well executed.
245 Lisburn Road; + 44 0 28 9038 2211; porterhousebelfast.co.uk.
QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY BELFAST
A FAMILIAR sight on the cityscape and known to locals simply as Queen's (pictured, top), its rambling buildings and grounds date back more than 150 years. A visit to the university is worth it just to walk around and admire the buildings and gardens but if you need more stimulation, you're in luck on that front, too. The only art-house cinema in Northern Ireland, Queen's Film Theatre, is here and the Naughton Gallery serves as both gallery and museum. Appealing to more than the black-framed glasses intelligentsia, the university hosts the annual Belfast Festival and the Belfast Film Festival.
University grounds bordered by Lisburn Road to the west; qub.ac.uk.
IRELAND has produced some wonderful art over the years and contemporary creatives continue to set the bar high. Mullan Gallery promotes, exhibits, celebrates and sells Irish art. A regular roster of exhibitions ensures there's always something new to look at, from leading and emerging artists. The gallery is mad about sculpture, with an annual Irish bronze sculpture show held every March. Expect cheese, wine and smart conversation.
239 Lisburn Road; +44 0 28 9020 2434; mullangallery.com.
CHELSEA WINE BAR
I HAVE a feeling this is the sort of place author Marian Keyes and her fictional characters would nip off to for a cheeky Friday night drink. With more than 100 wines available by the glass and bottle, and an appetising menu, it's definitely girls'-night-out friendly. The fashion crowd isn't opposed to starting the party at Sunday brunch and rocking on past dinner. Live music every Saturday night amps things up, with different bands on stage each week; it might be soul tunes one week, rock'n'roll or jazz the next.
346 Lisburn Road; + 44 0 28 9068 7177; chelseawinebar.com.
SHOULD you find yourself unexpectedly invited to a wedding in Belfast, you'll know where to go shopping for the perfect frock. Cubana Boutique is "curated" by Deirdre Delahunt, a stylist and buyer who makes sure the ladies of Belfast are never subjected to the horror of being seen in the same outfit as their arch rival; only one item in each size is stocked, with all collections exclusive to Cubana in town. For all ages and sizes, it has wearable accessories rounding out the apparel on offer. Noice. Unusual.
637 Lisburn Road; +44 0 28 9066 4400; cubanaboutique.com.