The first time that I was in The Jailhouse I wanted to leave, but that was due to 10 kilos of Peruvian Cut that I had tried to smuggle into the country in Quaker Oats boxes and the authorities weren't having any of that.
Joke swing and a miss.
I did want to leave the first time I was in The Jailhouse though, that much was true, but that was due to it being the official opening night and I had made a poor choice in clothing and no amount of Dove Clean Comfort antiperspirant was going to save me.
In subsequent visits I have been wiser though, and if me using the plural form of 'visit' didn't give it away: I really like The Jailhouse.
It's a very cool bar.
The brickwork and old timbers aesthetic is very cool in a 'dirty but not' kind of way, the staff are really on the ball and everything is kept clean and as well served as can be in a busy bar on a Saturday night.
Of course it isn't the bar aspect that I want to talk about, although it must be said that they do have a great selection of beers on tap, mostly a selection from the (semi-craft?) Franciscan Well, and they have a very respectable selection of spirits.
But no, I want to talk about the dining.
I dropped in with a friend to give it a try as whilst we were quite familiar with Henry's Bar when it was called McCracken's we had yet to sample the food in The Jailhouse.
To start I had a potted duck with cucumber salad and my friend had a pint of prawns, the general consensus was that the starters were delicious. I would have thought maybe a hoi sin drizzle or something over the salad but that's not a complaint, the flavour mix throughout was great (and I'll be the first to admit hoi sin could have overpowered that). I liked the wee jam pot of duck, which was very tasty indeed.
For main I went for a simple steak sandwich, which was excellently cooked and I'm glad I went for it, although it was a tough call because I had passed someone eating a bowl of mussels on my way in and they looked amazing. My friend went for a Sunday Roast, which surprised me because usually he's all about his seafood, but given the way he attacked the plate I think it's fairly safe to say that he enjoyed it.
The staff were friendly and very attentive throughout, the prices were reasonable, and the food was great.
I'll definitely be back.
Disclosure: I had to nick the pictures from OpenTable as I forgot to take any when I was in.
4 Joys Entry, Belfast BT1 4DR
Mon-Fri 8am - 1am (2am Fri), Sat 9am - 2am, Sun 9am - Midnight
High Street Multistory 2 mins walk, Victoria Square Multistory 5 mins walk, limited on-street
There is also Club Sixty6 making up the storeys above the Grande Cafe, but I'm not going to review the club here as that is a separate experience.
The National is one of those places that I seem to spend a wee bit too much time in. If I'm about during daylight hours and fancy a light snack I always enjoy a quick bit off the brunch menu, I'm quite a fan of their eggs benedict. That's not to say that the portions are small, the beef brisket hash makes for quite a filling meal and the deluxe sandwiches certainly will not leave you going hungry.
The coffee may not be to everyone's taste as they use quite a bitter bean, but that isn't a criticism, taste is entirely subjective, and whilst I'm personally not fond of bitter coffees (I prefer Columbian) I still regularly enjoy a cappuccino here.
I find that it is a great place to meet with friends for a beer on a Sunday, or a late breakfast after (in most cases for us) ending up in the National on a Saturday night. There is always a good mix of ages on a Saturday night and you can usually find someone to talk rubbish to.
They have a decent selection of craft beers and probably the best spectrum of spirits in Belfast, the National is one of the first bars I can recall having such a large range of vodkas, gins, rums and whiskeys in the city.
There is a very chilled atmosphere on a Sunday, usually with live music in the Cafe or out in the beer garden if it's a nice day.
Whilst I am clearly a fan of the National I do feel that it is now in need of a bit of a revamp, moreso in the beer garden than indoors. The National was one of the first beer gardens in the Cathedral Quarter but with the rise of newer and fresher competition I think that they need to look a rejuvenating the area before they get left behind. I say that with the best of wishes of course.
62 High Street, Belfast BT1 2BE
Monday to Friday, 8.30am - Late, Weekends 9.30am - Late
On street or High Street multistory across the road.
The Perch Rooftop Bar is one of those places in Belfast that I was always hearing about but had never actually been to, mostly because if I had been enjoying a drink in sister bar Sweet Afton I would later turn toward the city centre rather than look around the corner of the building to head upstairs.
I finally managed to correct this deficiency in my knowledge and I found The Perch to be something of a kitsch gem. The darkened entrance tunnel is lit by fairy lights as birds twitter from speakers all around and then you travel a manned lift to to the top floor of the old converted warehouse, or you can walk five storeys if you are feeling energetic.
The bar itself sits in the centre of a bright and airy room, half of which is permanently covered and half of which has a retractable roof to make the most of those rare days of sunlight that cook us up like vampires.
The furniture is a mix of trendy conservatory and patio furniture, along with a few stools and long tables, with wooden floors on the inside and artificial grass outside. It's quirky without being annoyingly so.
Cocktails are the big selling point on the menu, but they also have a decent selection of more niche beers on tap (I won't say 'Craft' because I have a friend who would have a coronary if I called the Coor's owned Franciscan Well beers Craft), and the mandatory prosecco.
I was quite surprised to see that they also offered a decent range of pizzas and nibbles to snack on, but I know usually that if I had the option to sit and graze all day I would probably never leave, so fair play.
I had a giggle to myself when I noticed that they literally just sawed through the joices of the old Victorian warehouse to lift the roof off and make the bar, that's the ingenuity we're famed for.
And you know what, the whole thing works. There is just something cool about sitting on a patio sofa drinking a cold beer on a sunny day five storeys above the traffic.
The Gate, 42 Franklin Street, Belfast
7 days a week
On street and nearby multistorey, but don't be thick if you're driving