In the second season of the sitcom gem Parks and Recreation, the gang from Pawnee, Indiana, head out to dinner at Jurassic Fork — a dinosaur-themed restaurant where the only pun restrictions apply to the doneness of the steaks. In an exchange between one of the characters and one of the waiters:
“How do you want that cooked?”
“No, medium rooooaaaar”
“For legal reasons, we’re not allowed to make jokes about the temperature of the meat anymore.”
A less restrained proprietor of the recently opened restaurant at Crumlin Road Gaol could have gone down a similar route. Situated in an arched low-ceilinged room complete with the sort of heavy metal door, it’s called Cuffs Bar & Grill.
Opened in summer 2016 within the legendary Belfast landmark Crumlin Road Gaol, Cuffs Bar & Grill pride themselves on keeping it local. Following a £350,000 investment from the award-winning Belfast Tourist Attraction & Conference Centre, it is one of the latest establishments of this decade to boost Belfast’s blossoming restaurant scene.
Crumlin Road Gaol has been the surprise tourism hit for Belfast, with visitors comparing it to Alcatraz in San Francisco and Robin Island in South Africa. It has everything: a colourful recent political past, a tunnel linking it to the courthouse and a hangman’s noose and trapdoor. What more do you need to make this place work for tourists? A restaurant in the dungeons, naturally.
“We wanted to expand the facilities and bring something a little different to the Gaol for the visiting tourists but also for the locals. North Belfast’s hospitality scene is quite limited so we knew a licensed restaurant would be a welcome addition to the industry.” Says Damien Blaney, head chef at Cuffs Bar & Grill, in his conversation with Hospitality Review Northern Ireland.
“Our lunch and dinner menus contain a number of dishes to suit every taste including chicken lamb, duck and beef. The inspiration behind our menu is keeping it local. All our ingredients are fresh and sourced locally; we have so much on our doorstep.” He continues.
Cuffs, the new restaurant, sits in the bowels of the gaol. We’re not sure if these are actually dungeons, but they are distinctly crypt-like. In an old Victorian gaol, this arched and pillared underground room appears to have had a decidedly gloomy history, with armoured doors and slots for guards to peer in and out. However, thanks to the decorators, it’s not gloomy at all. If anything, Cuffs is romantic and cosy, furnished with plush green and gold velvet upholstered chairs and private booths in the middle of the low ceilinged room.
The only concession to the venue on the menu is the ‘long stretch burger’, an entry clearly designed to appeal to a Man vs. Food demographic who would similarly feel drawn to fries served on a satellite-sized dish or chicken wings that make you cry. The menu asks “Can you handle it?” “It” in this case is an 8 oz (a short Starbucks coffee cup size) burger topped with salad, pepper sauce, an onion ring, cheese, bacon and a crispy chicken strip – the final addition being a food crime in anybody’s language.
A vast selection of premium wines, spirits, beers and cocktails are also on offer. Special events menus and packages to suit their popular ‘Live At The Crum’ concert nights are also available.
For a rundown of the best bars in Belfast to fulfil your appetite, click here.
Cuffs Bar & Grill is located at 53-55 Crumlin Road, Belfast BT14 6ST