Town Square

Does what it says on the box: coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, all at Town Square in Belfast.In Belfast’s growing speciality coffee scene, there is a pleasing array of places from the tiny (Root & Branch) to the large (Established Coffee). Weighing in firmly at the large end of the scale is Town Square, a self-appointed meeting place for lovers of good food and great coffee on Belfast’s Botanic Avenue, opposite the Botanic Station.

Effectively split into two, there’s a coffee bar at the front, beyond which you need never stray if all you want is a cup of coffee (and you’re not planning on lingering), while at the back, is a large seating area, centred on a sunken space with a long, communal table. This is ideal if you’re staying in, particularly if you are partaking of breakfast, lunch or dinner: pleasingly Town Square stays open well into the evening, making it the perfect spot for a late-night coffee.

Talking of which, Town Square uses Dublin’s Roasted Brown and only serves single-origins, with one option on espresso, which changes every month or so, another on batch-brew and a third on pour-over. The two filter options change every few days, with the pour-over being offered as Aeropress or V60, while there’s a Chemex option if you’re sharing.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On the corner of Botanic Avenue and Lower Crescent stands Belfast's Town Square.
  • The coffee shop aspect of it is more noticeable on the shorter, Lower Crescent, side.
  • However, on Botantic Avenue itself, where the main door is, it goes on a long, long way!
  • The handy sign is the give away. But you do need to look up.
  • The door is on the corner, and leads down via a few steps into Town Square.
  • This stretches off to your right, coffee area first, seating after that.
  • There's a window bar to your left, at the front of Town Square, with another further back.
  • There's a cake counter/till at the front on the left, where you pay on leaving.
  • Meanwhile, on the right, there's the espresso station with a gleaming Black Eagle.
  • ... opposite which is the filter station.
  • A view of the front part, of Town Square, which I like to think of as the coffee bar.
  • Beyond this is the seating area. There's a sunken space with a large, communal table.
  • Watch your step!
  • Alternatively, if you want some natural light, on the right is this pair of wing-back chairs...
  • ... followed by a row of more conventional tables running along the windows.
  • If you'd like more seclusion, then there are two alcoves at the back. This, on the right...
  • ... is next to this even cosier arched niche on the left.
  • However, this is more how it looks to the naked eye (my camera's very good in low light!)
  • Opposite the alcoves are these tables overlooking the sunken area.
  • Again, this is closer to the naked eye view.
  • You can get into the sunken area via a these steps in the far corner.
  • A padded bench runs down the left-hand side, lined with tables...
  • ... while on the other side, past the communal table, there are more conventional tables.
  • These run all along the railings and around the back to by the stairs.
  • The lighting is quite subdued, despite a cast of excellent light bulbs, including this one.
  • These, meanwhile, hang over the espresso station...
  • ... and these line the padded bench.
  • Pride of place goes to this fantastic lighting rig above the communal table.
  • One last look.
  • Back up in the coffee bar, Town Square has retail shelves full of coffee-making kit...
  • ... and, of course, bags of coffee.
  • There's more (for internal use) behind the counter.
  • I like the idea of separate espresso & filter stations, although it can be confusing.
  • It provides plenty of opportunities to watch coffee being made though.
  • Naturally I was in heaven.
  • A flat white (not mine, sadly).
  • I'd actually come for something from the filter station on the other side.
  • Step one, pre-rinse the filter paper...
  • ... then in goes the ground coffee.
  • Next there's a short pour to allow the coffee to bloom...
  • ... followed by one single main pour which fills the V60 up to the top.
  • Now we just let it filter through.
  • My coffee on the counter, ready to be served...
  • ... and in the cup on my table.
  • I was also there for breakfast, having Eggs Benedict (without the ham).
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Town Square, soon celebrate its second birthday, is a delightful spot, south of Belfast city centre, on the corner of Botanic Avenue and Lower Crescent. You enter from Botanic Avenue, right at the corner, descending a few steps into a large, spacious coffee bar, which stretches off to the right. There’s very little seating here, just a four-person window-bar to your left, running along the front of Town Square, with a second on the right, beyond the espresso machine, looking out onto Botanic Avenue.

If all you want is coffee, then you need go no further, but if you do want to stay, keep going. There’s a till/cake bar to the left (where you pay on leaving), while on your right there’s a stand-alone espresso station and, opposite that, on your left, another standalone station, this time for pour-over. Press on and you’ll find the main seating area: just grab a seat and someone will be along to take your order. Yes, it is that civilised.

Not that the coffee bar is small or cramped: in fact, it feels quite large and spacious. However, once past the espresso/filter stations, Town Square opens out to a large, relaxed seating area. Still long and thin, there’s extra space on the left, where another few steps descend to a sunken area, centred on the long, thin communal table which runs front to back. A padded bench runs down the left-hand wall, tables in front of it, while there are two-person tables on the right and along the back.

The sunken area extends to the left-hand wall and almost all the way to the back, low railings separating it from the remaining seating. There’s another row of four-person tables along the right-hand wall, which is occasionally punctuated by tall, narrow windows. Right at the back, two niches in the back wall offer more secluded, cosy options. The right-hand one has a four-person table, while the one on the left, with a low, arched roof, has benches around all three walls.

The décor here is lovely, with wooden floors and exposed brick and wood. Low ceilings and narrow windows lead to very subdued lighting, giving it a cosy atmosphere. There are also some awesome light-fittings, including one suspended above the communal table.

Open all day, Town Square serves breakfast until noon, with lunch taking over until five, at which points, things are turned over to dinner, which can stretch to a three-course meal if you like, complete with wine. I was there for breakfast, making my own vegetarian Eggs Benedict by asking Town Square to skip the ham (you can do a similar job with the bacon on the pancakes), the kitchen staff kindly substituted the ham with tomatoes.

I paired this with a pour-over. Whichever single-origin is on can be served as an Aeropress or V60, but the barista will always recommend one, depending on the coffee. In my case it was an Ethiopian, which was recommended via the V60. Unusually, the coffee is served in a narrowed-necked glass bottle (rather than the more usual carafe) with a cup on the side, all presented on a small, wooden tray. This keeps the coffee warm and allows you play with the temperature, something I always enjoy. The coffee itself was lovely: smooth, subtle and fruity.

December 2017: Town Square was a runner-up for the 2017 Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.

45 BOTANIC AVENUE • BELFAST • BT7 1HZ
http://townsquarebelfast.com +44 (0) 7938 244851
Monday 07:00 – 22:00 Roaster Roasted Brown (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 22:00 Seating Tables (back), Window-bars (front), Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 22:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Thursday 07:00 – 22:00 Service Table
Friday 07:00 – 23:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:00 – 23:00 Wifi Free (wide code)
Sunday 09:00 – 22:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 4th March 2017

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