“ Address: 25-39 Arthur Street / Town Centre / Belfast / BT1 4GB / Northern Ireland „
Café Vaudeville is a bar/restaurant - or as it describes itself a "Luxebar & Dining establishment!" based on Arthur Street in Belfast City Centre. It doesn't seem that long ago since it first opened but thinking back it must be open now since at least the end of 2005 or early 2006. Before it opened I hadn't even been aware that there were plans to refurbish the building in which it is located but then all of a sudden it was open and ready for business.
Prior to the building being a bank headquarters it was back as far as 1825 the headquarters of Dunville & Co. which became Northern Ireland's premier whiskey distillery exporting throughout the world. It then became a bank headquarters for a number of years before becoming the pretty exclusive bar/restaurant that it it today. The building is ideal for such a venue and the decor and amount of detail inside is fantastic.
Entrance to Cafe Vaudeville is off Arthur Street which is a pedestrianised street in the centre of Belfast not too far away from Belfast City Hall and right in the vicinity of all the main shops making it a great place to call into during the day for lunch if you are out shopping on early in the evening after all your shopping has been done. To enter Cafe Vaudeville (of Vaud or Cafe V as many people tend to call it for short) you have to go up about 4 or 5 steps. When you walk in through the front door for the first time it is very impressive. The whole place is very spacious and stretches quite far back and there is a lot to take in. To the very left as you walk in there is a seated area which is used for dining during the day and early evening. There is also a small cocktail bar in this area too. Over to the right of the entrance is another seated area which is also used for dining during the day and evening. Straight ahead and down a few steps is the main bar area which has about 5 or 6 circular bar tables with bar stools around them in the centre of the area and the long bar to the right of this area. The bar is quite an elongated oval shape which serves to the main bar area and the narrower, quieter seated area on the other side of it! (It would be so much easier if I could draw a diagram!!) Anyway, at the very back is a raised seated area which food is served at and also a bit of space which tends to become the dancefloor area on a busy Friday and Saturday night!
There is also an upstairs VIP area which is meant to be a champagne bar - or that's at least how it was originally marketed. The upstairs bit has a normal type bar which serves all the same drinks that you can get downstairs but at a slightly more expensive price! There aren't many seats at this part but it's more of the kind of place where people are happy enough to stand about looking around them anyway! It's also good for looking down at everyone below to see what's going on....or in the case of some people...'spotting their prey!!' The upstairs VIP section extends around the full length of the venue with more seated areas but this upstairs side bit is normally cordoned off for private parties, so even if you are able to get upstairs its not very often that you will get into this bit. The rules for private parties in this area consist of having to buy at least one bottle of champagne for every 5 people in your party.
The toilets are quite often a topic of conversation for those who visit the place for the first time! I have since got used to the 'trek' up three flights of stairs away at the back of the venue to get to the toilets but a lot of newcomers are often unaware of this! I have now become accustomed to setting off on my trip to the toilets a few minutes before i need to - especially on a busy Saturday night as there are a lot of factors to be taken into account such as having to push yourself through the crowds and bumping into someone you haven't seen in a while who keeps you back another few minutes! Once you get there though the toilets are always in good condition and there are plenty of them. The downside is by the time you get back to where your friends were standing they have wandered off to another part of the bar which then involves doing a couple of circuits of the place on your own until you find them again!
For those who smoke there isn't much of a smoking area really - just a small area outside the front of the building which isn't covered over so if it's wet the smokers will just have to get wet. There is also the same problem with going to the smoking area as it is with the toilets - by the time the people you are with go off for a cigarrette and come back again you end up hanging around for what seems like ages unless you go with them!
That was probably quite a lot of detail on the layout of the place which wont mean a lot unless you go there!
Vaudeville is quite nice for lunches and dinner. It has a very relaxed atmosphere and the spacious surroundings mean that you are squeezed in on top of other customers. The food is fairly much what you would get in most places - burgers, salads, pasta dishes, fish dishes etc. A lot of the courses have the option of a smaller portion for about £6 or £7 and a large portion for around about £12. The grilled sirloin is £18 and all side portions are additional. The desserts are all over £5 which is dear enough for a dessert! The food is not particularly over priced but it is an expensive enough place in general and the drinks tend to be about 10-20p more expensive than a lot of other bars - for beer anyway!
Friday and Saturday nights are probably the best two nights to go to Cafe Vaud and they are the busiest. All of the dining areas become used for the main bar and you oftern get a lot of people who book a table for dinner so that they can keep the table for the rest of the night for drinking at. It attracts an age group of about late 20s upwards and the crowd is decent. I don't think i've ever seen any trouble in it at all. Early evening there is a live Jazz group playing in the background but that finishes up around 7-8pm and from about 9.30pm onwards the place gets busy. From about 10pm there are queues to get in which can take quite a while to move sometimes. The good thing is though there is no entrance fee at all but there is quite a strict door policy. After about 10.30pm the whole place fills up and there is a DJ playing all the latest kinds of pop music. The bar can get annoyingly busy and it can take a while sometimes to get served which im not too fond of.
Luckily, from going there regularly and a lot of good relationship building between us and the doormen over the months (basically one of my mates being a good bull**** talker!) we no longer have to queue to get in and we get straight up to the VIP area upstairs which is much easier to get served at, plus we are one floor closer to the toilets which makes such a difference! The VIP area is much better too for getting chatting to people. It's also great because once you have been stamped to get up there you can come and go up and down as you please throughout the night as it's often good to go up there to get your drinks then go for a wander downstairs and see who is about! The downside about the VIP area is that it's pretty much the same faces that you see there most weeks! It is good to give it a break for a week or two before it gets too boring.
Overall, I like this place and would recommend going to it. At first I wasn't too fussed on it because of how busy it can get and because it took ages getting served but after a while I began to like it. I think if you get there early enough you dont notice it filling up and getting served at the bar doesn't seem as much as a hassle. It's mainly when you walk in fairly sober and it's already busy that it can be annoying. It has the tendancy to be slightly pretentious in many ways but apart from that it is good for a fun night out. It closes at 1am though so if you are in the mood for staying out later you would really need to start moving on elsewhere before that!
A Luxebar & Dining establishment.