Belfast deli Sawers plans an indoor cafe experience
Well-loved Belfast deli Sawers could soon have its own indoor cafe, its owner has said. Foodie Kieran Sloan joined Sawers in Fountain Street on a youth training programme 30 years ago in 1985.
In 2003, he was given the opportunity to buy the business and since then, has relished putting his mark on it.
Kieran said that in his time at the helm, he has embraced the idea that food needs to be colourful and attractively presented.
The shop already features some tables and chairs outside, but Kieran now has much bolder aspirations.
Back in 2003, he was inspired by Italian markets and delis and embarked on turning the business into a high-end foodie wonderland.
He said: "I wanted to move the business to feature more gourmet and Italian foods. I used to watch all the cookery programmes and always had an interest in finding new foods."
Kieran sources products in person, often exploring far-flung markets on the prowl for the best delicacies.
On a recent trip to Italy, he asked a taxi driver for his insider tips. Once he was dropped off, Kieran started to explore the surrounding area.
Just around the corner he found a deli with tables and chairs set out so customers could eat inside the shop - leading to his latest plans.
"I'd like to expand into a deli cafe," he said.
"Our customers are crying out for it.
"We need somewhere for people to sit down and have something to eat. The grocery side of things can grow as well. I enjoy serving people and suggesting ideas, but I think that's where I want to go next.
"I'm a control freak and I'm a perfectionist in what I do, but I've a good team working.
"We go to Italy for inspiration and I think there's nowhere in the world has food like it. It's the way it's presented, the colours, the use of big attractive packaging. I try to bring a lot of those things into the shop."
In its 118 years of business, Sawers has built a reputation as an Aladdin's cave of culinary goodies.
"People don't come in here to pick up things they can buy in a super market," he said.
"This week we had a customer in asking for Longres Cheese. That's something that we didn't have in, but we'll be able to get it in a couple of days. It's not something we stock, so it's clearly for someone who has travelled to France and experienced it themselves."
This season Kieran has noticed a trend for buckwheat flour, hailed as the next big health food. It works well for crepes, he says.
And he also stocks Fiji water - described as the purest water on earth - because it is popular with celebrities who visit Belfast.
Lady Gaga, Michael Buble, Katy Perry and Shirley Bassey are among the music superstars who have walked through the bursting aisles of products.
Kieran claims he cannot keep enough pumpkin puree in stock for use in pumpkin soup, muffins and even pancakes, although he admits he likes it best with a bit of onion and chilli for flavour.