How coffee and pastry shops are taking over Northern Ireland's towns and cities
Patisserie versus pastie as high-end chain set to open second city outlet
Belfast’s bun scene is heating up as UK bakery firms rush to set up in empty city centre units.
It will be patisserie versus pastie after high-end chain Patisserie Valerie confirmed it has plans to open a second Belfast store on Castle Lane— just yards from value baked goods retailer Greggs’ new outlet.
Patisserie Valerie — which runs more than 100 branches across the UK — expects to create 15 new jobs when it opens its second store. Around 25 people work in its first outlet on Donegall Square, which is fitted with a basement bakery to help stock its future branches.
Chief executive Paul May said it’s already looking at another three in Belfast — and its first in Londonderry.
Ultimately, there may be 20 Patisserie Valerie on the island of Ireland, he said.
The news comes as the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink ventures into Bread and Baking month during September — also coinciding with the early episodes of a new series for popular baking show Great British Bake Off, which features Co Down-born contestant Andrew Smyth.
And in south Belfast, licensed patisserie Miel et Moi — part of The Albany bar complex — is also expanding its interior and garden though the exact details are under wraps. Ultimately, its owners hope to have three outlets around the city.
Mr May told the Belfast Telegraph he didn’t think setting up next to Greggs on Castle Lane will present too much choice.
“Our window is our biggest point of sale. People will look at the cakes and come in but it’s quality and good service that keep them coming back,” he said.
“I think people will look at Greggs’ window and they’ll look at ours and then they’ll come to us.”
And he said Belfast sales had greatly exceeded expectations — by “well over” a fifth of what had been projected. In total, he said the firm had three offers in for empty units in Northern Ireland.
And plans were also in place to set up three stores in the Republic — all of which will be in Dublin.
Each store represents an investment of around £250,000.
Mr May also revealed the Patisserie Valerie brand would make its way to Londonderry, which was among the towns and cities being considered for a new store.
Mr May added: “The first Belfast store has been trading fantastically well and we are excited to expand further into Belfast.
“We first looked at the site about six weeks ago and are at the drawings and designs stage. Because we open a lot of stores we tend to do it fairly quickly — on average we open around three and a half weeks after we sign the lease.
“Because we fitted out our first store with a bakery in the basement we have the capacity to set up to 20 stores in southern and Northern Ireland.
“To put things into perspective, we went into Edinburgh and opened our first Scottish store three and a half years ago and we now have 17 stores there.
“We see ourselves in a similar situation in Northern Ireland,” he added.
Belfast Telegraph restaurant critic Joris Minne said he was not surprised at the warm response of the Belfast market to Patisserie Valerie.
“It’s an economically precarious time after Brexit so it’s no surprise that people want an affordable luxury, like £3.50 for a fruit tart,” he said.
On Lisburn Road, Miel et Moi has been drawing the crowds since it first opened last year.
General manager Dwight Mettleton said it aimed to appeal to as many markets as possible.
“People really like it because they can come in for a coffee and a pastry. It’s very relaxed,” he added. “In the morning we have business people and teachers in for brunch, while in the afternoon it’s more mothers and daughters out for lunch and in the evening as it’s licensed premises it’s always busy.
“Over the next two years we plan to open three or four across Belfast.”