Open since late 2007, the Belfast city centre branch of Avoca is the ninth store in Ireland for the renowned Wicklow-based homeware, fashion and food company, who also have a US outlet in Annapolis, Maryland.
The Belfast store is in the former Habitat building in Arthur House on Arthur Street, between Donegall Place and the new Victoria Square Shopping Centre; as elsewhere, it offers all of the classy clothes, giftware, books and household items Avoca is famous for (including some of the beautiful handwoven rugs from the looms in their original mill at Avoca village), and there is a kitchen shop, food hall, café and bakery, which is in operation from 6am daily. Although slightly bigger, it will feel very familiar to anyone who knows the flagship Dublin store.
The restaurant is on the first floor, with the usual pleasant décor and well spaced tables, but also a highly unusual feature - a glass-walled cheese room, which is tempered for the cheeses, making a practical and very interesting addition.
The style at Avoca is eclectic and, although they are especially well-known for great baking and traditional dishes like beef and Guinness casserole, their salads and vegetables are also legendary.
Quality ingredients-led menus follow the established formula here, with special strengths in breads and baking, along with a wide range of wholesome dishes, possibly including a tasty lamb pie with green beans, and a bean cassoulet with chorizo, served with nicely crusted bread, salsa verde and créme fraiche.
Rounded off with a homely dessert such as good baked cheesecake, this makes a perfect shopping break - and, with enthusiastic young staff keen to please, service is good.