You just can’t beat the unique charm of independent cafes, restaurants and shops. I love exploring hidden gems in towns and cities, both at home and abroad, and so when I mentioned that we were off to Northern Ireland, my friend Lauren told me that there would be one hotspot in Belfast which I would love. She was right.
Harlem seems to be a favourite with locals and is perfect for the roaming, sightseeing tourist as it’s tucked away down Bedford Street, which lies just behind the imposing City Hall. With its blue exterior, beautifully shaped windows and fresh flowers, you really can’t miss it. In fact, it would seem that no one misses Harlem, as it was absolutely packed when we popped in for lunch on our final day in Belfast.
As soon as you step through the door, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.
Attention has been paid to every single aspect of Harlem, from the ornate frames which hang on the walls to the diverse prints and canvases which they contain. The interior is a striking mixture between old and new, shabby chic and vintage charm, and is all at once a relaxing but decadent place to be. You might imagine that eating lunch under a chandelier could feel somewhat strange, but it’s all part of the unique Harlem way of doing things.
It’s not just the chandeliers which set Harlem apart, but the cheerful atmosphere and welcoming attitude of the staff, too. We spent a while chatting with Faye, the owner and manager of the cafe, who was absolutely lovely. It made a real difference to see how genuinely interested in us and all of the other diners she was, and it’s clear that taking care of customers, both regulars and first-timers, is high on her list of priorities. This, in combination with the decoration and of course the food, makes it obvious why Harlem has such a dedicated following.
Now, on to the food and drink. I ordered a green tea, as always, which came in this gorgeous little metal teapot with a wicker handle, as you’ll see below. It’s the small touches like this which make Harlem stand out and make it clear how much love, time and effort have been put in to every nook and cranny of it. We didn’t have much time as our next stop after this was the airport, but really prompt service meant that I had more than enough time to enjoy the really delicious bacon, brie and cranberry chutney pannini which I struggled to choose from the lunch menu, as there were so many gorgeous things on offer.
I wish we’d had more than one trip to the cafe, especially to enjoy one of their famous afternoon cream teas or breakfasts, which sound and look delicious. However, should we be in Belfast again, I’ll make sure to drop in for another unique dining experience at Harlem.
You can find Harlem’s official website here.