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The Sunflower, 65 Union Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland
A couple of weeks ago, due to a family tragedy, Andrew and I suddenly found ourselves on a ferry from Birkenhead to Belfast. Most of the week that we were in Northern Ireland was taken up with hospital visits and family meetings and the like. But being the cask ale lovers that we are, we managed to fit in a handful of pints.
Before we left I did a hurried bit of research, and one pub stood out as a necessity, even if it turned out to be the only pub we would visit. So on our first day we fired up Richard, my phone's SatNav, and he politely and expertly directed us to the Sunflower.
Located on the corner of Kent Street and Union Street, the Sunflower opened at the end of 2012 on a site that has been occupied by pubs for over a century. Mounted on the corner door is a security cage which was used back in the 1980s during the Troubles. Being a relic of the past the cage is no longer used, so it was quite easy to use the door as an entrance into the pub, just like your average pub door.
The main bar is quite small, with a long bar on one side and a big poster of the film Good Vibrations on the wall. Apparently some scenes from the film were filed in the upstairs music room where bands of all sorts regularly perform. (In case you haven't heard of this excellent film, which I saw twice in one week, it's about Terry Hooley who opened a record shop called Good Vibrations, started the record label of the same name, and launched the careers of the Undertones and other Belfast punk bands and is regularly seen having a pint at the pub. So definitely check it out.)
We both had pints of Twisted Hop (4.7% ABV, Hilden Brewery, Lisburn, County Antrim). This is a gingery bitter with a real hops kick, a perfect tonic to soothe us after visiting a sick mum in hospital. We took our pints out into the beer garden, a roomy expanse with colourful painted murals all around and a wood-fired pizza oven inside a tent. It's a perfect setting for live music.Back inside we sat at a table under the Good Vibrations poster and admired the antique dentist's chair parked at the end of the bar. It made us wonder just what kind of pub royalty was allowed to sit in the chair. While we discussed the chair a slightly pissed regular told Andrew he looked like "a latter-day Van Morrison", which pleased Andrew, as he went to the same school in Belfast as Van and has always been a fan. So he saw that as a compliment, although he wasn't too keen on the "latter-day" part.
Along with music the Sunflower hosts a monthly comedy club. We really wanted to come back and visit during the evening hours, but as our schedule was too tight with family matters it just never happened. On our next visit we'll definitely return.