Blend and Brew is a Portglenone coffee house for the ardent coffee drinkers of Northern Ireland. But, they also do “brekkie, brunch, brews and bakes”.
The Vibe at Blend and Brew
I visited on a baking hot day in August. The place was newly opened and packed to the proverbial. Diners included the usual mid-morning summer cafe culture: business brunch-ers (us!), early working lunch-ers, leisurely students, and discerning retirees. Like an Alex Polizzi devotee, I watched the owner and preppy servers welcome visitors who were swiftly seated and supplied with a menu. I especially liked how they took our drinks order quickly, coming back in a few minutes for the food order (unexpected and more like restaurant service). And they also took care of older patrons who needed some chairs shifted around.
Pared Back Decor Showcasing a Confident Coffee Menu
Blend and Brew’s aesthetic echos the intensity of Established in Belfast and its equally sincere cousin up the road at Middletown in Ballymena. It has the same pared back, industrial vibe. Minimalists will dig the poured concrete floor and soothing grey walls. The visual tranquility is adorned with nothing but a tasteful neon sign and an elegant wooden coffee menu.
Fans of a possible second cousin in Railway Street in Newcastle will recognise the welcome relief offered by simple wooden benches, plump linen cushions and a conscientious lack of clutter. I appreciated that everything was spotless and tables were cleared and wiped promptly. (I was out for dinner in Bangor recently with a visiting friend from Vancouver, who noted that Northern Ireland’s habit of leaving dirty dishes on the table longer than it takes for a server to approach and clear them away is a firing offence in her city.)
What About the Food?
Blend and Brew serves an all-day-brunch. The menu looked like it could cater for everyone from a lean carnivore to a leaner vegan.
We had two brunches:
- Fill Yer Boots – a perfectly cooked, satisfying fry with all the taste
- French Toast – a pretty arrangement of sweet, egg-dipped, brioche topped with pear slices, drizzled with pear jus and scattered with strawberries, blueberries and crumbled honeycomb
My dining companion, not normally one for noticing crockery choices, commented on the useful lip on the edge of the reassuringly heavy plates.
- Iced Latte – the best I’ve tasted
- Hot Chocolate – awarded with a rare 10/10
- McDaid’s smooth banana cream
You can view the brunch menu here.
What Else is There to Do in Portglenone?
Portglenone is a tiny, but lively, village of just over 1000 residents. Famous for its Instragrammable bluebell forest that runs along the edge of the Bann river, and a 19th century Cistercian Christian community, Portglenone is home to the musical Gig ‘n’ the Bann and The Big Splash family festivals. River trips are available from Portglenone Marina, which has a kids park and short walks.
It is nestled among other small but teeming hamlets such as Glenone (separated by the river Bann), Innishrush, Bellaghy, Ahoghill, and Kilrea. The nearest ‘big’ towns for transport and shopping options are Ballymena (where visitors can catch trains) and Magherafelt, though local buses will pass through all these smaller places.
There are two ice-cream parlours and several food outlets in Portglenone including a few bars and restaurants, along with several take-outs and cafes.
Blend and Brew is a contender to watch.
- Mon – Fri, 08:30-18:00, kitchen 09:00-15:00
- Sat, 09:00-18:00
- Sunday 09:00-20:00
To find out more about what goes on in Portglenone:
- Follow Portglenone Enterprise Group for a dazzling selection of local community groups and events
- Portglenone Tourism website
- Boat trip listings on Lough Neagh Tours
- Portglenone Forest and Portglenone Sunflower Field
Cover image credit: blogger’s own
Other images: embedded from Blend and Brew’s Instagram page