I could happily spend my life in coffee shops. Really nice coffee shops, that is. And with the current surge of design-led, independent cafés opening across our wee city and beyond, there are plenty to choose from. I am not, however, a coffee drinker. A nice cup of tea, made in my very own kitchen, is about as far as my caffeine expectations reach. So, why do I bother to seek out these dedicated purveyors of the dark stuff, you may wonder? Tout simple. I love spending time in their spaces. Surrounded by inspiring interiors, cool colour palettes, and the buzz of people socialising and networking, the experience is energising.
People-watching, whiling away a Sunday afternoon, the original French café-culture, which has now reached our shores in full-effect definitely has something. Any one of several fab coffee shops to have graced the Belfast scene in the last five years, sees itself buzzing and busy from Saturday morning ‘til Sunday evening, and on through the working week. From this delectable array of coffee outlets, I couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to pick a favourite. The truth is, they all bring something unique to the table and so, depending on the occasion or mood, there’s always one that fits the bill. Root and Branch’s beautiful roastery in Jameson Street houses the cosiest coffee nook imaginable within the three walls and corrugated roof of it’s end terrace lean-to. And with the imminent arrival (this very Tuesday!) of it’s modern-meets-classic expansion, the ante has most definite been upped. Curated Kitchen in Donegall Street boasts spectacular views of Belfast Cathedral and an ever-changing weekly menu, curated via dishes seen online, on TV and in cookbooks. Portview Kitchen is another relative newcomer, having also recently expanded their east-side premises in Portview Trade Centre. I love it’s sparse, industrial styling interspersed with greenery, but their lunchtime pasta dishes deserve a post all of their own... All of this, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s on offer here in Belfast.
And spending time working in these spots, I find I’m much more focussed. I’m more effective, efficient, productive. Maybe it’s all in my head. Perhaps it’s really just the free wi-fi, or the fact that I’m actively trying to avoid having to brush up the symphony of peas and sweetcorn still dotted all over the kitchen floor from last night’s dinner. Je ne crois pas. Instead, I think that, whilst the proprietors of these cafés set out to provide high quality coffee and sundries, their aim is to provide an inspiring environment and an ambiance that matches their produce. Design is at the heart of their business, right up there with their product. That’s what makes spending time in these chic spots the experience that it is. And it’s that very experience that keeps us coming back for more. And a nice bit of grub, well that’s always a bonus...
My top ten chic coffee spots in Belfast and beyond:
Root and Branch, Ormeau 1B Jameson Street BT7 2GU
- oozing style, character and Co Couture brownies
Bullitt Espresso Bar 40a Church Lane BT1 4QN
- a sophisticated interior, and a buzz to match, day and night
Tribe Coffee 68 Main Street, Saintfield BT24 7AB
- sweet, quirky and housed in a newly-converted horse box, this spot is packed full of homemade fair trade goodness
Guilt trip Coffee 4 Orangefield Lane BT5 6BW
- all thrills, no spills and donuts to die for
The National, Grand Café 62 High Street BT1 2BE
- a nid to network in, it’s industrial chic vibes are right up my street
Piccolo 307 Upper Newtownards Road BT4 3JH
- delicious food made with the freshest ingredients, whilst the beaut little outside toilet and yard take me back to the wee terrace house I was born in
Established Coffee 54 Hill St BT1 2LB
- the original Belfast trailblazer, still blazing
Curated Kitchen 60 Donegall St BT1 2GT
- enviable views, and hot chocolate that’s hard to beat
Haptik 29 Frances St, Newtownards BT23 7DW
- a super-stylish artisan coffee bar and contemporary art gallery, all rolled into one
Portview Kitchen 310 Newtownards Rd BT4 1AJ
- housed within an old linen mill, this beautiful, light-filled space ticks all the boxes