Fish shacks to oyster bars: Northern Ireland’s best seafood

Tuesday 23 August 2016

From the buzzing streets of Belfast to the rocky shorelines of Giant’s Causeway, there’s no shortage of things to do, see, and eat in Northern Ireland. And while we might be hard-pressed to pick a favorite locale, when it comes to cuisine, the choice is simple: seafood. (Thank the icy northern waters). Whether you’re craving a plate of beer-battered fish fillet, or a bowl of garlicy mussels, here’s where you can score the best bounty of the sea.

Pier 36
The Parade
Donaghadee, BT21 0HE

Nestled on the stunning northeast coastline, this family-run gastropub serves shellfish, monk fish, lobster, and sole—all caught in the Ards Peninsula right outside its door. But the real draw—besides the locally-sourced meat and seafood—is the charming back patio dotted with roomy leather booths and wood-burning fireplaces. You can even stay overnight (in the attached B&B, of course), but that still won’t be enough time to sample everything on the menu. Oh well, all the more reason to come back for round two.

Harry’s Shack
Portstewart Strand
Co Londonderry
BT55 7PG

For no fuss, no muss seafood that you can enjoy steps from the sea, head to this Portstewart beach bungalow, known for its spiced whitebait, fresh prawns, and of course, traditional fish and chips. Though reservations aren’t required, it’s best to call ahead during the crowded summer months—especially if you plan to visit during prime sunset-viewing hours. And should you find yourself with a little time to kill, take a stroll through the restaurant’s on-site garden, overflowing with two acres of organic vegetables and herbs.

Katch 27
27a Main Street
Kircubbin
BT22 2SR

Sometimes the best seafood spots double as coffee shops. At least, that’s the case with this County Down eatery, which transforms from a cozy 27-seat café into a stylish seafood mecca when the sun goes down. As for the menu… well, it depends on what’s caught that day! Expect local favorites like hake, monkfish, Strangford mussels, and Portavogie Prawn, as well as a few unexpected fishy delights. 

The Quays
81 New Harbour Road
Portavogie
BT22 1EB

Located in the scenic harbour village of Portavogie, this family-friendly eatery serves fresh seafood with an Instagram-worthy view of the Irish Sea. Though the menu offers everything from sirloin steak to southern fried chicken, standouts include pan-roasted cod, hand-shelled crab claws, and deep-fried squid—all caught locally, of course. Be sure to save room for a slice of the famous Death by Chocolate Cake.

Pier 59 
59 Strand Road
Derry-Londonderry
BT48 7BN

Abiding by the motto “from pier to plate,” it’s no surprise that the menu at Derry’s only seafood restaurant changes from season to season. But regardless of what month you visit, expect innovative seafood concoctions like Thai Hot and Sour Seafood Broth and Goan Fish Curry. But word to the wise: the seafood platters are massive so avoid ordering the largest size—which includes every fish available that day—unless you’re planning on sharing with friends. 

Mourne Seafood Cookery School
Nautilus Centre
Rooney Road, Kilkeel, Co Down, BT34 4AG

For a delicious meal that you’ll remember for years to come, head to Northern Island’s largest fishing fleet for a hands-on cooking class. Not only will you walk away with plenty of tips and tricks for searing scallops and filleting fish to restaurant-style perfection, you’ll also learn what to look for when buying, handling and cooking the raw ingredients at your own local grocer. Though classes are offered for chefs of all levels, rest assured, no prior cooking experience is needed. 

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