Belfast isn’t just a modern city, it is the heart and soul of Northern Ireland — and a place that is home to more than its fair share of eateries and bars. This once troubled metropolis has undergone a sensational makeover in recent years, and is now one of the cultural centres of Europe. And thanks to investment and a newfound love of the coffee bean, Belfast is also home to some wonderful independent coffee houses. Here are five of the very best:
1. Kaffe O
Located on both Ormeau Road and Botanic Avenue, Kaffe O is a Danish coffee shop that has a look and ambience all of its own. This highly respected coffee shop has a reputation for showcasing the beans of local roasters. The company was set up by a Danish lady called Orla, whose life-saving kidney transplant gave her a new outlook on life.
Kaffe O is slick, minimalistic and clean, yet it manages to deliver on comfort at the same time. As well as an extensive selection of teas and espresso based coffees, there is an impressive selection of breakfast dishes, which includes The “Kaffe O Plate” — a combination of cured meats, cheeses, breads, yoghurt, seasonal compote and eggs.
2. Root & Branch
Root & Branch is a local coffee house that puts a local spin on what a coffee shop is. Located on Jameson Street, this pleasant eatery and coffee house was set up by two local men with a real passion for the bean. While there is a nice selection of sweet and savoury treats on the menu, coffee takes centre stage here.
Beans are sourced from around the World — at an average price of 30% more than the current Fair Trade price. Owners Ben Craig and Simon Johnston want Root & Branch to be somewhere people can meet and socialise, so they’ve refused to offer Wi-Fi to their customers.
3. Town Square
Located on Botanic Avenue, Town Square is a coffee house that prides itself on education and community outreach projects. There is a weekly coffee tasting evening open to anyone, and the knowledgeable baristas are often seen giving advice and demonstrations to customers during the course of the average day. If you’re in town and fancy seeing what the nitro brew craze is all about, Town Square is one of only a few coffee shops in Northern Ireland to sell it.
This modern and vibrant coffee shop specialises in breakfast foods, but it also has a lunch menu that features burgers, sliders, club sandwiches and a homemade soup of the day. And if you’re visiting in the evening, make sure you check out a high quality dinner menu and the in-house gin bar.
Although District describes itself as a coffee shop, it is also a thriving deli. Located on Ormeau Road, District specialises in artisan coffees, and uses local supplier Bailies Coffee for all of its beans. The coffee is always prepared by highly skilled, knowledgeable baristas — who love nothing more to talk about the provenance of District’s ethical coffee beans.
It won’t surprise you to learn that there is an extensive selection of coffees and loose leaf teas on offer at District. However, what really sets this place apart is the menu. Among the house specialities are a stunning chicken and bacon wrap with pesto and peppers and a decadent Thai spiced quinoa and raw broccoli soup.
Located on Hill Street, Established is the brainchild of two locals with a passion for coffee. This modest yet attractive coffee house has a reputation for its educational programmes, which include regular coffee tastings and barista masterclasses. The shop is located in the city’s Cathedral Quarter, which provides a fitting backdrop for such an accomplished operation.
It is the mission of owners Mark Ashbridge and Bridgeen Barbour to help people make the best possible coffee at home. This is why there are regular brewing demonstrations — using just about every method there is. There are a few locally sourced pastries and sandwiches on offer, but it’s all about the bean at Established. You’ll find a huge range of blends and single origin coffees here, sold by the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable baristas in the city.
Belfast is just a vibrant home for culture and industry — it is a real hotspot for quality independent coffee shops.