Ireland has yet to embrace a meat-free lifestyle en masse, probably because of the country’s agricultural heritage. However, that’s not to say that veg*ns need to be left out. More and more people in Northern Ireland are realising the benefits of a plant-based diet, and especially in Belfast, there are plenty of cruelty-free options. Here’s a list of our favourites.
The Honest Vegan
Bistro, Healthy, $$$
Formerly “That Vegan Cafe”, The Honest Vegan
is probably Belfast’s premiere vegan-focused enterprise. Every dish on the menu is completely free of animal products, including honey. Where other restaurants in Belfast might have a vegan option here or there, or might be willing to “veganise” their usual dishes, The Honest Vegan is one of the few places where vegan dishes are a conscious choice rather than a compromise.
Middle Eastern,Healthy, $$$
is a small chain of restaurants focused on Middle Eastern cuisine, with a particular specialty in — you guessed it — falafel. Umi is the Arabic word for mother, bringing home-cooked food to mind. Umi’s falafel are cooked on demand instead of prepared in bulk, so you can always be sure your meal is fresh. Umi’s menu is entirely vegetarian and largely vegan, so there’s plenty of variety. Particular favourites include the Palestinian falafel pita and Umi’s baba ghanoush.
Cafe, Healthy, Tea , $$$
is a newer cafe in Belfast, and specialises specifically in vegan coffee. Their selection of non-dairy milks is impressive, and their coffee is even more so. Vegan traybakes and cakes are also on offer, and we recommend the fifteens, a Northern Irish favourite filled with (gelatine-free) marshmallows. 387 also hosts evening events on a fairly regular basis, with music and board game nights complementing the already excellent venue.
387 Ormeau Road | Courtesy of 387 Ormeau Road | 387 Ormeau Road
is a more unusual choice. It’s a volunteer-run kitchen located in Belfast’s independent Warzone Centre. It’s usually only open on a Wednesday, although Saturday openings are becoming more common. The food is buffet style and always completely vegan, so there’s no need to worry about hidden animal products that might slip through a menu. The buffet is pay-what-you-can-afford, with a suggested donation of only £3 and a BYOB policy on alcohol. Spending a night at Giro’s is an excellent way to eat well and support a worthy cause.
Giro’s Cafe | Courtesy of Giro’s Cafe | Giro's Cafe
Restaurant with Rooms, Healthy, Indian, $$$
Any veggie knows that Indian food can be a godsend for meat-free cuisine. Archana
has been going strong since 1985, and was one of Northern Ireland’s first Indian restaurants. The two-floor venue has an extensive vegetarian menu and several vegan dishes. With a focus on fresh produce and fine ingredients, Archana is undoubtedly one of the best Indian restaurants in Belfast.
is a truly unique restaurant: a Pakistani-Mexican burrito bar. The combination may sound odd — and it is — but there’s nothing wrong with different. Both cuisines prominently feature rice, chili, garlic, and flatbreads. Although the burrito is probably Kurrito’s most popular dish, there are also tacos, fajitas, and roti. Meat is an option if you’re bringing a carnivore friend along, but there are daals, paneer, and vegetables for others to enjoy.
Sandwich Shop, Fast Food, $$$
is a burger joint on Botanic Avenue that’s popular with students. Although they do primarily deal in meat, there are also two vegetarian and vegan options in the bean and soy mince burgers. The large selection of toppings are also largely veg*n, and the ones that aren’t should be obvious. Build-a-Burger also has some unusual items, like Nutella (which, by the way, is vegan). Take note, though: the seasoning used for the fries is vegetarian but not vegan, so be sure to mention this if you need to.
Another coffee house, District
have been making a name for themselves as one of the trendiest cafes in Belfast. Although they do serve meat dishes, we suspect there must be a veggie on staff, as their vegetarian and vegan offerings are surprisingly strong. The menu changes regularly basis, but there is always at least one vegan sandwich, soup, and curry, as well as a selection of salads and a range of vegan baked goods.