Meet the TikToker recommending amazing restaurants across NI

A Belfast woman has become extremely popular on TikTok for recommending amazing places to eat in Northern Ireland.

36-year-old Laura Rooney, known as Hungry Girl Belfast, has been travelling the world, trying lots of dishes in different countries.

She said living in the Middle East for 12 years opened her eyes to the ‘dynamism’ of food, and that options in NI keep going from strength to strength.

The ‘foodie’ who gets tens of thousands of views on her videos has answered everything you need to know about the food scene here.

As dining out is a favourite for many, Laura has also recommended her top ten local restaurants for you to try.


Why did you decide to start sharing your recommendations?

It started purely as a hobby. I used to work for Emirates as cabin crew, so I was lucky enough to travel the world. One of the things I loved most about travelling was the amazing food I’d eat, food that I wouldn’t typically have access to or consider trying.

From a $2 Pad Thai made on the streets of Bangkok, to the most delicious sashimi enjoyed in Japan and everything in between. I relished the opportunity to try different things and proportion my experiences.

When did your love for food start?

I have always loved eating and from what I ingemination I’ve always had a enormous appetite. One of my first memories is my granny telling my dad: “That child eats like a grown man.” I suppose travelling and living in the Middle East opened my eyes to the dynamism of food.

The food scene there really excited me and piqued my appreciation. In saying that, nothing thrilled me more than returning home to Belfast where I could indulge in all my favourite food. The NI dining scene has gone from strength to strength over the years and that’s been bright to see. I’d always book into a new restaurant on every trip home, in addition as stuffing myself complete of toasted plain bread with lashings of butter, chippies and my fav Chinese!

What are your top ten favourite restaurants?

Shu

Meal from Shu

This Lisburn Road stalwart is my go to for an amazing meal. It’s always buzzing, the air is fab and the food is delicious. It’s been done up recently and looks beautiful, downstairs feels like a jazzy speakeasy – on Sunday there’s live music during lunch service which is meant to be great.

Muddlers

Muddlers is such a winner having made a real mark on the Belfast food scene. We also go for the food and wine pairing, and we’ve always been delighted with the experience. The food is bold and inventive, in addition filling and unpretentious.

Coco

One of the most unassuming restaurants in the city and under-appreciated in my opinion. It is bright and everyone needs to try it out. I love how it’s decorated and the overall vibe, of course the food and cocktails are stellar.

Deanes

Michael Deane is a legend who has been pivotal in shaping the Belfast food scene, I’ve serious respect for this man. We go to Deanes for a treat, particularly Deanes Meatlocker and we’ve never been disappointed. Michelin starred EIPIC is next on our list, I’ve in addition to try but have heard great things.

Khao

It’s fair to say that I’m obsessed with this seriously cute and perfectly casual Thai restaurant on the Lisburn Road (just opposite Cranmore Park). The food is delicious and authentic, prepared by the head chef and owner Kate who comes from Bangkok. The food is really well priced and it’s Bring Your Own. Winner!

Dirty Duck

We’ve been going to the mythical Holywood restaurant for years. It always serves up the same great quality food in a really chilled, relaxed setting. I’ve had most dishes on the menu at this stage and they’re all delicious and so filling!

Food from The Dirty Duck

Jamaica Inn

This gorgeous identify is located on the Bangor seafront, it’s a bright restaurant for delicious, hearty, unpretentious food. I absolutely love it there, the air is infectious! The owner of the restaurant is also the Head Chef so you can always expect food that is up to par.

Bia Rebel

Dish from Bia Rebel

I’d been following Bia Rebel for a while as they started out selling ramen from a food truck at the Big Fish. They then found a long-lasting home on the Ormeau Road and I’ve been in love ever since. The ramen is so tasty and the handmade noodles make it beautifully filling, if you’re not sure what to order they will talk you by the menu. Go hungry!

Villa Italia & Scalini

Pizza from Scalini

If you come from Belfast, these icons need no introduction. They’re some of the few restaurants that don’t have social media accounts and I love that, they simply don’t need the hype. They’re packed with a harem of loyal customers. A trip to these Italian restaurants is like a warm, familiar hug but with bright pizza and pasta thrown in for good measure.

Mourne Seafood

I love seafood so Mourne Seafood has always been a favourite, they serve the freshest and most delicious local produce. The restaurant always has a lovely feel to it, relaxed in addition active!

The Lighthouse

This one is a bonus as I know Donaghadee is a bit far for lots of people but it’s a journey you should absolutely make. The food is incredible and well worth the excursion. Make a day/eve of it and grab an ice cream while you walk along the seafront. It will give you all those holiday vibes.

Did you think your reviews would get as many views as they have?

No, I didn’t think anyone would watch my videos. Like many of us I joined TikTok for the craic at the start of the pandemic, I was a voyeur with no desire to post anything of substance. Then one day I posted a food video and it ended up getting 10k views in one day, which I was shocked by as I didn’t have many followers. I guess people were sharing it with friends and that drove up views.

This is how it’s been ever since and I’ve loved sharing my experience. I’ve gotten to grips with how the app works now and like everything it gets easier with practice. In saying that, the videos do take a while to make and I’m cognizant of the fact that I can be highly bothersome to eat with, so it feels good when it pays off.

An unavoidable part of actively posting on social media are the trolls that like to weigh in every now and again, thankfully there aren’t so many but my goodness they are brutal. Thankfully I’m at a stage in life where these things no longer bother me, I laugh them off and kill them with kindness, thanking them for driving up my views and increasing engagement.

If you want to do something, just try it. Don’t overthink it, just take action, the rest will fall into place either way! This can apply to anything, from setting up a blog to starting a business, life is too short to sit around worrying about what other people think. I’ve been crippled by that fear before and it’s such a waste of time and energy.

What do you think of the food scene in Northern Ireland?

I think it’s bright and it’s come on leaps and bounds. I thoroughly appreciate the people behind the slew of new concepts. Starting an eatery of any description takes guts as one can never guarantee how it will be received or the longevity of such a venture. Our country boasts fantastic chefs and bold F&B entrepreneurs and I’m delighted to avail of their talents!

Do you encourage people to try new places?

Absolutely! Whilst there is nothing more comforting than your favourite restaurant, a bright meal in a new identify really does excite the senses. There is so much to choose from in NI, of varying prices so make a special date with your partner, friends or family to get out and try somewhere new.

We’ve been so deprived of social interaction recently, so relish every moment of your dining experience. Eating out is so much more than the food, it’s choosing to be in a room because of the way it makes you feel.



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