It’s one of the hippest streets in the UK, but it also appears to be going through an identity crisis.
If you enjoy the varied nightlife in Belfast then there's a pretty good chance you've spent time in Henry Street, which has been selected in a public poll for a Google Street View Award.
One of 20 streets contending for the title of the UK’s Hippest Streets, to be voted for by the public, Henry Street is shortlisted along with Belfast’s Howard Street for their “hip and vibrant atmosphere”.
If you look it up on Google Maps you will be directed to the street that runs from the Merchant Hotel and finishes close to St Anne's Cathedral. Along the way are hotspots such as nightclub 21 Social, gig venue the Black Box, Commercial Court featuring the ever popular Duke of York pub, and restaurant Nick's Warehouse.
But this isn’t Henry Street; it’s actually Hill Street.
Signs at either end of the road declare it to be Hill Street, any business with offices along the thoroughfare lists its location as Hill Street, and one of the city's best-known restaurants, the Hill Street Brasserie, takes its name from the address.
Nick Price from Nick's Warehouse is well aware of the mix-up.
“When people use mobile phone apps to look us up they can't find Hill Street,” he said.
“The signs say this is Hill Street and Royal Mail says this is Hill Street. We've even written to Google and asked them to fix the mistake, but nothing has been done about it.”
As far as being on the shortlist goes, Nick didn't seem too surprised.
“The restaurant has been here for so long that the Cathedral Quarter has grown up around us. In the summer when we have all the doors open it's like being in Barcelona,” Nick continued.
On any given evening, Hill, or Henry, Street throngs with people. Girls in high heels carefully negotiate the cobbles while groups of people drift into Commercial Court for a pint at the Duke Of York. Smokers loiter outside the Black Box during gigs while discerning diners head for Nick's and the Hill Street Brasserie.
During the day cafes, hair salons and art galleries do steady but laid-back trade. The Merchant Hotel is just around the corner and the Oh Yeah Music Centre is just off Hill Street. You can see why this street has made it on to the shortlist. The short length of cobblestoned road caters for every possible taste in nightlife.
The Google Street View Awards celebrate the UK’s best streets and the winners will be decided by the public who have until May 22 to cast their vote.
Other Northern Ireland streets shortlisted include for the UK’s Most Romantic Street, Whitepark Road, Ballycastle, Co Antrim, and Main Street, Crawfordsburn, Co Down; and for the UK’s Best Shopping Street, Lisburn Road, Belfast, and Royal Avenue, Belfast.
The real Henry Street — which can be found on Google Maps if you search by postcode — is in north Belfast and runs from York Street to North Queen Street, its most prominent landmark being the former Gallaher cigarette factory. Not an area known for “art galleries, shops, cafes, bars, restaurants or street art” as per the |short-listing criteria. Nevertheless, the residents of the Hill Street area seem delighted with the nomination.
“It's small, it's cobbled, it's full of cool venues and all life passes through here,” said Joe Nawaz, of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. “It's in one of the oldest parts of Belfast, the architecture gives the area a real bohemian feel, and it would be great if it won the award.”
The contest winners will be announced in June. To vote go to http://maps.google.co.uk/beststreets