Belfast has very recently settled itself into the very trendy position of being divided into “Quarters”. There do however seem to be 5 Quarters to speak of (i’ll just pause while you try and get you head round that one)…
So there’s the Titanic, Cathedral, Linen, Gaeltacht and Queens (or University) Quarters plus the City Centre. All of the above have their own unique character defined by the various landmarks and points of interest that lie within them.
Each of them also have a seemingly ever increasing number of bars, restaurants and yes you guessed it, coffee shops. Belfast coffee culture is thriving and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Now I drink a lot of coffee and I’ve been to a lot of coffee shops in Belfast (and elsewhere) but the following 5 places I have visited on more than a few occasions and all of them have produced consistently good coffee as well as excellent service. They are all very pleasant spots to sit and enjoy your favourite cuppa or whatever it is takes your fancy.
So, by no means a definitive list but these 5 definitely do it for me and I would highly recommend giving them a try.
City Centre: Ground Espresso Bars
Where else?! There’s a few to choose from but the one in Wellington Place is just somewhere I love to go and drink coffee, a wee “happy place”. Great Wi-Fi for getting a bit of work done and a pretty slick operation in place. Being where it is it does get very busy at lunchtime but despite this I have never been kept waiting an unreasonable amount of time and I’m always met with a polite friendly face.
If you’re a bit of a coffee nut or you’re looking to try something new I’d go for an aeropress brew, the folks in here do it very well.
Cathedral Quarter: Bullit Hotel
Best known for (and mostly full of) bars and restaurants, the Cathedral Quarter has a handful of coffee joints including the very popular Established Coffee, and popular for good reason. I would however venture to Church Lane on the Quarter’s edge and to Bullit Hotel.
This place is one of the coolest places in town and opened only 7 short months ago. It absolutely oozes funk and the minute you walk in you immediately feel like you could settle down and sit for hours in this little chilled out haven. Drinking some pretty impressive coffee while doing so. The baristas here are among the most passionate about their art you could encounter and on my first couple of visits here I spent most of the time at the coffee bar just listening to them become engrossed in their own enthusiasm and becoming a little engrossed myself. Damn nice coffee here and hard to beat when it comes to the setting.
Gaeltacht Quarter: Loaf Cafe
A cafe and bakery in one so everything made fresh in house daily. Loaf Cafe and Bakery along with the Bobbin in Belfast City Hall are run by the Now Group, a social enterprise who do fantastic work through offering learning & development and employment opportunities to people with learning difficulties and autism.
They use Ristretto, a local and high quality coffee company based in Banbridge and have plenty to go with it including the sausage rolls which are to die for! And be sure to get their fantastic homemade relish too.
Linen Quarter: Deane’s Deli
Famous for fine dining and fancy food, Michael Deane is one of Northern Ireland most well known restauranteurs. You can also grab a fantastic cup of jo at Deane’s Deli in Bedford street, an altogether much more laid back affair than the Michelin starred Eipic. Here, like Loaf Cafe, they serve Ristretto coffee so sticking with the local producer which is a big plus for me, and they do one of the best cappuccinos you will find anywhere.
I can’t move on without mentioning the Deli’s caramel squares. I have read, and taken part in, many debates over the best traybakes around and I must say these are definitely up there. So if you’ve a sweet tooth, or like me a mouthful of them, don’t leave without trying one. (incidentally, they also have a new weekend brunch menu which looks pretty tasty too).
Titanic Quarter: The Dock Cafe
A truly unique place, the Dock started off life as a pop-up cafe with a few donated pieces of patio furniture. Now, still with every seat, table, sofa and stool as well as the crockery donated by customers and run by a team of volunteers, the Dock is one of my favourite places in probably my favourite Quarter.
Like many people in Belfast, my Family history lies in the Shipyard with my Granda, sadly now passed, spending many years working there. I’m in total awe every time I see the Titanic Belfast Museum as are evidently many other people. But the Harland and Wolff cranes will always be, for me, the most iconic symbol of Belfast.
Anyway back to the coffee. The Dock is an honesty box cafe so you choose what you want to pay. The mismatched furniture, decor, local art on display and huge sculpture of the Titanic made of scrap metal all makes up what they proudly call ‘Victorian-Edwardian-Industrial-Pop-Up-Chic”. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but I like it. Oh and the coffee (and tea) are great as well.
Queen’s Quarter: Kaffe O
So here’s a “Little Scandinavian Oasis” (their words not mine) in the middle of a bustling Queen’s Quarter, right in the middle of Botanic Avenue.
An approach unlike any other, the coffee here is roasted in Copenhagen and shipped straight to Belfast with no beans used being more than three weeks from roast. Then made and served expertly in Danish designed ceramics.
Despite the busy surrounding the atmosphere is wonderfully laid back and complete with little touches like music playing off an old LP player on full display along with the LP collection itself.
Sweet treat time again and one for those who are gluten free. The chocolate brownie is often the go to for cafes who wish to offer something GF for their customers, but these are by far the best GF brownies I’ve tried, plus they are huge, nice!