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Aether & Echo

11 Lower Garfield Street Belfast BT1 1FP

Previously known as The Deer's Head this bar, with its faux ceiling mural and mix of white tiles and old furniture, has self consciously tried to shake its former slightly staid reputation (it's the sister bar of the hip Love & Death Inc).  Thankfully within the refurbishment it retains its impressive long bar and Victorian booths.  Although it suffers from being at the wrong end of Royal Avenue it is worth a quick detour to Garfield Street – opposite Aether & Echo, is the now derelict Garfield Bar with reputedly the only curved facade in Belfast is now covered in brightly painted murals.  The food in A&E is a cut above traditional pub fare, with tasty a la carte offerings including slow braised beef cheek, salmon with crushed potato and a shellfish beurre blanc and ribeye and brisket.  There's also a good selection of sandwiches, soups and burgers available during the day.  The lunchtime crowd is a mix of shoppers, office workers and tourists.  In the evenings regular live music coupled with an impressive cocktail list tempts a hipper crowd through the doors (there's a club upstairs).  Being slightly off the beaten track prevents it from becoming over-crowded, but itreally should attract a wider clientele; file under hidden gem.

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