A Love Affair with Buba.
Buba is the hottest addition to Saint Anne’s Square, Belfast’s coolest dining hub. Sitting bang smack in the middle of Cathedral Quarter, Buba is a neighbour to some of the top restaurants in the city and draws an eclectic crowd.
Buba, which opened at the beginning of 2018, is a trendy haunt with food and cocktails inspired by Eastern Mediterranean influences. The restaurant has an impressive vegan selection, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, too.
As an avid vegetarian of over 14 years (and pushing on vegan), it’s an unabashed delight to be able to dine in a restaurant which so effortlessly, but consciously, recognises those with alternative diets, without having to specifically go to a vegetarian restaurant itself.
Whilst Buba has continued to top restaurant reviews with flying colours, it is needless to say I was eager to see what all the fuss was about.
Buba is an intimate restaurant with a Middle Eastern meets industrial atmosphere. The space itself is low-lit by night with a central lantern-inspired light installation and an eye-catching neon “BUBA” dominating the dining space.
Stone floors and a raw, industry-style ceiling sandwich Mediterranean décor. Moroccan Mousharabi panels and candlelight create a romantic and engaging atmposhere whilst classic wooden tables are punctuated by the pop of orange upholstered bench seating.
An exotic bar and an exposed kitchen create a buzzy, city atmosphere which mingles well with the chic and cosmopolitan clientele. Alternatively, if the weather allows, the outdoor terrace is perfect for a balmy eve with awning cover and outdoor heaters.
The menu is a food lover’s delight. It is jam-packed with inventive dishes and offers a fair share of mouth-watering options for the often unrepresented veggies, vegans and gluten-free diners.
In fact, an entire side of the menu has been designed for vegans and is as creative and exciting as the dishes that dominate the meaty side.
Tapas-style Mediterranean plates are designed with a “sharing is caring” attitude, which only enhances the intimacy of the dining experience, as well as enabling guests to try a vast selection of dishes in a single visit.
An original cocktail menu devised by the team at Buba ensures originality and creativity is consistent, right across atmosphere and design through to menu and drink offering.
What I Had
Given the tapas-style nature of Buba, I decided to try a few dishes across various sections of the menu.
As a veggie, I decided to focus my attention on exploring the vegan offering and started with the falafel with chilli jam and tahini dressing. This was followed by chilli houmous and hazelnut dukkah alongside a spinach, chilli jam and spiced cauliflower pizza.
I also ordered two of the recommended cocktails from the menu: the Mango Hello and the Spiked Brew.
How Was It?
The Falafel: delicately spiced, although not spicy, the falafel was golden fried on the outside and perfectly cooked inside. The smooth and rich tahini balanced a zesty chilli jam giving, overall, a fantastically balanced dish with varying flavours and textures.
The Houmous: the chilli houmous had a bit of kick to it – ideal for those like myself who can’t handle too much heat, but enough for a spice-lover to feel the tingle. Top tip: ask for this dish to be served alongside plain flatbread, as it comes solo.
The Flatbread: the flatbreads are essentially mini-Mediterranean pizzas. Served on a wooden board with an appropriately small pizza slicer, this spinach, chilli jam and spiced cauliflower flatbread may have been a little light on the toppings, but what was there was five-star. Expect gently pan-fried spinach and fragrant cauliflower florets dashed across a freshly-cooked flatbread, drizzled in house-made chilli jam.
The Mango Hello: fruity and aromatic, this is the type of drink for those looking for a little sunshine in their life. This tequila and rum-based cocktail is utterly unique and nods to Buba’s identity with hints of curry oil and lemon and lumi powder. The Mango Hello was served immaculately in a rocks glass with dried fruit garnish.
The Spiked Brew: this cocktail truly stole the show, for me. The gin-based drink embodies hint of hibiscus green tea, orange bitters, rhubarb & rosehip cordial and is served in a copper mug with mint and dried fruit garnish.
Top marks go to Buba for only using reusable paper and metal straws with the intent of reducing their waste.
Seeing as this restaurant operates on a tapas-style system, guests are inclined to order multiple small plates. Ranging from £3 per plate (nibbles) to £10 (more substantial meals), dinner at Buba is reasonably affordable.
Cocktails are priced between £8.50 and £10 and non-alcoholic cocktails as well as wines and bottled beers are available.
The staff at Buba is friendly and engaging with attention to detail. Both servers and hosts were knowledgeable about the menu with a clear passion for their work.
My tip: talk to them! Not only did they enhance my overall experience at Buba, but I also got some great tips on what to order. Only downside: I wanted to order too much.
It comes as no surprise that Buba is becoming one of the most talked-about restaurants on the Belfast scene. It has a clear concept that has been followed and realized with absolute integrity.
Not even the smallest attention to detail has been spared and with a sensational team behind Buba, it is surely going to remain at the top of the totem pole.
Address: Buba, St Anne’s Square, 10 Edward Streer, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Phone: +44 28 9568 0162