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Northern Ireland is a fresh addition to the visitor map – take a road trip to meet a new generation of food producers who are drawing the best out of its epic-worthy landscapes


Portrush Harbour is lined with seafood restaurants and the fishing boats that supply them.

IT’S SATURDAY MORNING AT ST GEORGE’S and the market in central Belfast is thick with competing aromas: crisping bacon from an Ulster fry, rich coffee and the sweet fragrance of dahlias on a farm stall laden with rhubarb, blackcurrants and a rainbow of fruit juices. Nearby a band plays Here Comes the Sun and, as if on cue, the daylight filtering through the Victorian glass roof intensifies. At an open door behind the seafood traders, a gull waits for scraps. A young fishmonger holds up today’s haul: a gleaming, pinkish-orange slab of salmon. Next to him, Alan Coffey, a moustached old-hand in his yellow fisherman’s wellies, shucks oysters for a buyer who can’t wait until he’s home to try them. ‘We’ve always been spoilt for seafood, with all the loughs and the Irish Sea,’ says Alan, surrounded by evidence of this – heaps of crabs, lobsters, mussels and winkles.

Will Abernethy churns butter in the traditional fashion

Over the three decades that Alan has run a stall, the market has transformed along with the nation. When he started, St George’s predominantly sold fresh produce to the neighbourhood. In 1999 – a year after the Good Friday Agreement signalled peace for Northern Ireland – the market reopened following an extensive restoration, and alongside the butchers, fishmongers and fruit-and-veg sellers sprung vendors selling hot food and artisanal goods. ‘During the Troubles, if there was a bomb in Belfast, no-one came that day,’ recalls Alan. ‘Now people travel 50 miles to the market and make a day of it.’


One of the new wave of stallholders that helped make St George’s a destination is Suki Tea ( From selling a handful of flavours at the market in 2005, including its signature Belfast Brew – a kick-you-out-of-bed strength of cuppa – the boutique blender now exports worldwide. The company also runs a tea academy out of its warehouse located on the Peace Line – a barrier built in 1969 to separate clashing Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods, now covered in murals and messages. ‘We’ve seen the market blossom. It’s a real springboard for food and drink entrepreneurs,’ says Suki Tea founder Oscar Woolley, as he balances manning the stall and cradling his little boy in his arms.

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