Steamboat 

Last night myself plus three had a great experience at Steamboat. This is a Chinese restaurant with a twist. You get to choose your meat, veg and sauces before either cooking in a broth (we all chose spicy) or on a hot plate, built into the table. 
We had lamb, chicken, pork, fish, prawns, mussels and fish balls. The vegetables were all Chinese and the sauces included soy, teriyaki, sesame, chilli and garlic. You can order off the a la carte also. Good experience but don’t wear your best clothes as it gets very smokey and smelly!!!! We spent over £100 so not bad.

   
 

Advertisements

Bulletproof burger

I was invited along to the opening of Bulletproof Burger last night (Wednesday 18th Nov), to a different burger bar experience in Belfast. This is the brainchild of the Byrne bros, Edmund and Ronan, who hail from County Down, via USA, Australia, Ireland and the U.K.
It is situated upstairs in a rejuvenated ex clothes shop in Ann Street, an up and coming street. Find it if you dare!!!!
The PR and marketing is great. It’s proper “in yer face” stopping short of being rude. As I approached the entrance I was cast back to graffiti clad underground railway stationesque surrounds, which was exactly the image that Eddie wanted to purvey. It’s red and fiery inside and the succinct menu (4 burgers, fries, drinks) can fit on the back of a business card-wow, amazing. 
I got to try the Angry fries and the veggie burger. The Angry fries were served on grease proof paper in an oval plastic platter ala USA style, smothered in a tangy, hot sauce which was Siracha based and concocted to perfection. The veggie burger was the best I’ve ever tasted, as you know I don’t eat beef, but my fellow accomplices assured me that the beef patties (made from 3 cuts of County Down stock with no added salt/pepper) made for fantastic burgers. The veggie burger was freshly made on site, using choice veggies and coated in polenta-no eggs, so ticks all boxes, it was crispy outside and pretty thick. It was served in the best burger bun I’ve tasted (try and find the video of the bun- check my FB) with salad and home made sauce. The veggie burger and chicken burger can be availed in the “secret menu” just ask!!!!
The restaurant is 1st floor, but the guys have shown their commitment to Belfast by buying the whole building. The ground floor is a coffee shop in which you can order and consume the burgers (there is no disabled access yet to the 1st floor restaurant), the restaurant will seat 50-60 people and employs 40 staff. 
All in all the boys from Co Down have chosen Belfast as their base over The US, Australia, Ireland and the U.K. so I would defo back them and wish them all the best. Pop in and try yourself!!!
   
 

Christmas Market

The Christmas Continental Market is open!!!
Went to the Market last night in a wet and windy evening. Excited. Hats off to all the traders and management for coming to Belfast at this busy time. Let’s all get behind them and show them our support. Bit disappointed about a few absentees notably the Jamaican, Moroccan, Polish and French stands not there!! Plenty of other food stalls like the burgers, sausages, Spanish  

 and Tartiflette stalls to name but a few!! Loads of stalls for gift ideas. Please rain gods smile on the market and stay away!!!!!

Check my FB for all photos

  

Launch of IFEX at TitEx

Attended a tour of the Titanic Exhibition Centre, home of IFEX 2016. It’s an amazing out of town, under one roof, exhibition space. It’s 5000 square metre exhibition area with 1000 square meter foyer. Car parking for 1200 and literally just outside Belfast City Centre, in the Titanic Quarter. 
After this we were whisked away to the Belfast Met Linen Lounge for the launch of IFEX 2016 (March 2016). Toby from Fresh Montgomery introduced the event and chef Sean spoke as well. There was tea/coffee/soft drinks and sizeable, delicious snacks on offer. Really looking forward to IFEX at TitEx!!

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 

Diwali dinner dance

About 10 of us (friends and family) celebrated Diwali at India Gate Indian Restaurant on Great Victoria Street, with 40 others. This used to be Gingerroot and Mongolian BBQ restaurants previously. 
The evening kicked off with prayers, followed by sparklers and then a magnificent 2 course buffet meal. There was chicken tikka, chicken pakora, vegetable pakora and gobi (cauliflower) Manchurian. For mains the choices were on the bone chicken masala, Karahi gosht, daal makhani, vegetable jalfrezi, pilau rice and naan. Then we danced the night away to Bollywood and Bhangra tracks. All for £15 a head. Super value, great company, excellent food, spacious venue, attentive staff. Definitely will go back!!

   
    
    
    
   

Live lagom

Live Lagom
I’ve embarked upon this journey today, along with seven other people to lead a more Sustainable life style. The Swedish firm IKEA call this Lagom ar bast (the right amount is best). 
The programme starts in January and runs til May 2016. We have to change aspects of our lifestyle to improve our sustainable lifestyle.
I’d like to share a few facts from the Belfast IKEA store:
.IKEA donates €1 to kids charities for all toys sold
.All rainwater harvested is for toilets stored in tanks under disabled car park

.Heating and water heating done by giant wood chip boiler/burner 

.Ridges on water bottles enable squashing and hence space saving

.Integrated dishwasher uses 7.5 litre of water for 15 place settings

.swipe family card and IKEA will plant a tree in Carnmoney forest (via seeds planted by school kids-currently 50,000 saplings!!)

So keep following my blogs/tweets/FB 
   
    
    
 

Digital DNA Tourism 

Digital DNA Digital Tourism conference at the Titanic Belfast on Thursday 12th November was a fantastic success.The MC for the day was the suave, charming, witty and very down to earth Mr Jim Eastwood (of Apprentice fame). He really knows how to juggle life, work and family perfectly and he aint a bad MC!!!
John McGrillen from Tourism NI spoke first and his message to us all was that the Travel and Tourism industry brought £750 million to Northern Ireland and that the digital input was paramount. He mentioned five areas, which I have coined “the five pillars of Digital Life”, which we should embrace being internet connectivity, multi media devices, multiple devices, video and SEO. Tourism NI do this by touch screen tech, working with BT to increase connectivity and being a Sponsor of Digital DNA to name but a few. Johns parting message was that he wants us all to revisit our own Digital World.
The Agency lead for Google, Stephen Murphy was up next. His key message was that we all live our life in Moments and that we are now mobile first. In July this year in every country in the world more than 50% of searches came from mobiles. People check phones more than 150 times a day and spend on average 170 minutes per day!!
Then there was a double act consisting of Sean Collins from lastminute.com and Pete Marshall from Salecycle. They talked about the vastness of their market place and all the criteria that they have to fulfil and enhancing customer experience by using data cookies and resending info if sale not completed, respectively. This throws up a major question-with all this data how secure is it?
Really enjoyed listening to Stuart Bailie from Oh Yeah Music Centre who was saying that in 2015 260,000 music tourists came to NI spending an average of £860/ person. This demonstrates how important this sector is. For the recent Van Morrison Cyprus Avenue concert approximately 500 people attended from outside NI, staying for approximately 7 days spending £100/ day which equates to £350,000 spent in NI. Lots of people ate in Ballyhackamore colloquially known as Ballysnackamore!!
The man from Yotel, Fergus Boyd, was telling us about the journey of Yotel (which was co founded by Simon from Yosushi-hence same logo font) from being a pretty handy airport hotel (50 room) to having aspirations of being a big hotel in big city centres eg New York approx 700 rooms. Their expansion plans are great and they even have robotic luggage storage.
The next speaker was John Bustard of University of Ulster who was showing us an app and a clever way of promoting a service for $5. After John we split into our work shops and I was very fortunate to attend the one “Travel Bloggers- Friend or Foe?” This was hosted by the top 5 Travel Blogger in Ireland Janet Newenham and Nial Toner of The Tomorrow Lab. They basically talked about how to find and engage the services of travel bloggers and how to nurture the relationship. Lots of great ideas.
After a wonderful lunch of chicken Lissan, yellow rice, vegetarian Meditteranean penne pasta and salad, followed by mini desserts and coffee it was the afternoon session. The chefs and staff at the Titanic really put on a great spread with superb service.
Kathryn Pyper from Engage spoke next then Michelle Lee, Director of Marketing for Aer Lingus, spoke about how they are engaging directly with their customers and implementing changes.
The afternoon workshops were next then talks from David Tutin (Expedia) and Samir Bhana (Twitter) which unfortunately I had to miss.
In conclusion this was a very well put together conference which highlighted the impact that the Digital World is playing on the Travel and Tourism industry here in NI. We must all embrace and together drive forwards and be world leaders.