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Richard McCracken is one of the brightest new talents in Belfast cooking, and Cyprus Avenue is a must-visit.

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On leaving Richard McCracken’s Cyprus Avenue restaurant, we drove down the adjacent Cyprus Avenue, made globally-famous by the song of the same name on Van Morrison’s timeless 50-year-old classic, Astral Weeks, and almost collided with a group of Japanese tourists.
The name is still evocative, it still draws people in, and it's a clever tie-in for Mr McCracken's restaurant, an East Belfast neighbourhood destination that opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a street-side terrace, an occasional market stall, and an ambition to serve the community with good food.
With Danny Millar of Balloo House serving as a culinary mentor, Richard's style is eclectic, and distinctive. Peking duck with rice paper wraps is on the menu alongside wasabi squid. A Spanish-influenced chicken burger has chorizo sausage in the mix, whilst Italian risotto is turned on its head by the use of barley instead of arborio rice. This is world food cooked by a chef who is nevertheless firmly rooted in Ulster.
The cooking succeeds brilliantly because of the chef's attention to detail - that sublime smoked pepper mayo with the chicken burger! The crispness of the perfectly cooked squid (an impossible quest for too many cooks); intensely spiced madeleines. You can tell this is a guy who learns the rules before breaking them. This is a chef who knows the boundaries of each dish and is true to the genre of each thing he cooks.
The residents of Ballyhackamore should feel lucky, for this is a fine municipal restaurant that is at once collective and stimulating.

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