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.
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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