District, Ormeau Road

A single-origin Colombian espresso from Ballies in Belfast, served as the house-espresso in District, looking resplendent in its classic blue cup.Just up the road from Root & Branch, and a little further down from General Merchants, District is another addition to Belfast’s growing speciality coffee scene, adding to the small cluster of great places along Ormeau Road, each one offering something different. In the case of District, it’s excellent contemporary café food to go with locally-roasted coffee, all served in a bright spot set back a little from the road with plenty of seating both inside and out.

District is a new name to Belfast, opening at the end of 2016. The first of (so far) two, with the second opening on Stranmills Road a couple of months later, District uses local roaster, Bailies, with single-origins served on espresso and pour-over through the V60. The former is effectively the house espresso, while the latter changes regularly, occasional giving way to a guest roaster for variety. There’s also tea from local tea merchants, Suki Tea.

The other main draw is the excellent food, with lots of vegetarian and some vegan choices (something I occasionally found lacking in Belfast) on both the breakfast menu (served until 3 pm) and lunch menu (from noon). There are also sandwiches and an abundance of cake.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • District, on the eastern side of Belfast's busy Ormeau Road, seen here from the other side.
  • There's a generous outdoor seating area, set well back from the road.
  • Access is by the bike-racks to the left of the door.
  • It has two rows of tables, two-person ones by the window, four-person by the road.
  • There's also a three-person bar along the wall next to the entrance.
  • Stepping inside, you're greeted by the counter dead-ahead, the seating off to the left.
  • A view of the counter and the door, as seen from the seating area.
  • Talking of which, there's an eight-person window-bar by the door...
  • ... and several tables in the middle of the room. It was always busy though!
  • A bench-seat runs along the left-hand wall, with a row of two-person tables like these.
  • Finally, at the back, there's another three-person bar opposite the counter.
  • Although there's plenty of glass, District also has lots of lights. These are in the window...
  • ... while these hang inside.
  • Obligatory close-up...
  • ... and here with the bulb in all its glory.
  • The counter faces you, cakes to the fore, as you enter.
  • There's quite a selection, with cakes all along the top row and savories on the bottom.
  • This includes salads, pre-made rolls, sausage rolls and quiche.
  • Another view of the cakes and savouries.
  • The bulk of the counter faces out across District. You order here, once you have a table.
  • There are menus handily placed near the till for you to take to your table.
  • Meanwhile, the drinks menu is on the wall between the door and counter.
  • The coffee part of the operation is at the far end of the counter...
  • ... while there's a retail section at the back, with the filter option on the paper roll.
  • While I was there, the filter option was this Ethiopian Guaracho.
  • Let's see the barista in action. The filter station comes first, with Uber boiler and EK-43.
  • First of all, grind your coffee.
  • Then comes the pour. First one is to let the coffee bloom...
  • Then comes the main pour. District uses the single-pour technique...
  • ... filling the V60 with the requisite amount of water....
  • ... and then leaving it to filter through. Sadly this was not for me, though.
  • I went for something from the espresso machine....
  • ... the Colombian single-origin house espresso in fact.
  • A very well-rounded coffee, it looked resplendent in its blue cup.
  • However, the hightlight of the day was lunch: sweetcorn and coriander fritters. Awesome!
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District’s a bright spot, well set back on the east side of the busy Ormeau Road, south of Belfast City centre. There’s a generous outside seating area in front of the shop, with chest-high planters front and side screening it from both the pavement and the ever-present traffic, giving it a very sheltered feel. The only thing it lacks is an awning, so it is exposed to the rain, a not infrequent occurrence in Belfast. The seating itself comes in two rows of tables running parallel to the windows, two-person ones next to the window and four-person ones next to the pavement. There’s also a neat, four-person bar running against the right-hand wall, next to the narrow entranceway.

Three-quarter height windows run the full width of the store, with a glass door on the far right, leading into a simple, rectangular space which narrows at the back on the left to make space for the toilet. The counter is towards the back on the right-hand side, while the seating is off to the left, mostly at the front.

The cake and sandwiches are directly ahead of you as you enter, facing you from the short side of the counter, meaning you have to make a small dog-leg to the left to get to the till. There are menus handily placed in a box on the corner of the counter and you are encouraged to take one and grab a table, coming back to the counter to order when you’re ready, which is a very civilised set up.

The seating starts with an eight-person window-bar immediately to the left of the door, which runs almost the full width of District, seating provided by high, backless wooden stools. Behind that are three rows of tables, all running front to back, and each progressively longer than the others. Starting to the left of the door, there are two tables, then there are three in middle of the room and five along a bench down the left-hand wall, which runs all the way to the window. Finally, at the back, opposite the counter, is a smaller, three-person bar against the left-hand wall.

District has a single-origin Colombian coffee on espresso from Bailies, which acts as a house espresso. Quite old-school in taste, it’s not too bitter or darkly roasted. I had a shot of it, finding it a well-rounded espresso with a hint of fruitiness. While I was there, it was joined by a washed Ethiopian Guracho single-origin on V60.

As much as I enjoyed my coffee, I’d come for lunch, tucking into the excellent sweetcorn and coriander fritters from the breakfast menu (who doesn’t love a breakfast menu available until 3pm?).  Served with spicy beans and avocado (I could also have had a poached egg, but I was already feeling peak hipster) I initially worried that the spicy beans would be too spicy, but they were on the mild side, perfect for me. The avocado was also perfectly done. However, the best part of a superb dish was the fritter itself. Despite being packed with sweetcorn, it was close to an (American) pancake in its fluffy consistency. Heavenly.

www.districtcoffee.co.uk +44 (0) 28 9064 3603
Monday 08:00 – 17:00 Roaster Bailies (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Window-bar; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 17:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 Power Limited
Chain Local Visits 4th March 2017

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