Cat cafes, dog cafes, cafes that solely sell cereal; the list of specialist cafes is ever growing but unfortunately none of these places exist in Northern Ireland (standard). However, we do now have a board game café! Recently opened on the Upper Newtownards Road, Jack Straws is Belfast’s only board game café, one which boasts 400+ boards games of all varieties and for all ages.
As someone who doesn’t really drink much or go out to pubs/clubs that often, I always find myself a bit bored on the evenings I’m not working and most of my friends would be the same. There’s very little to do for our age group in our local area (going out for dinner gets a bit boring when you have limited restaurants to choose from!) so we’re always on the lookout for something fun to do!
It was one of my best friends’ birthdays in March and my other best friend was visiting from England over Easter break so we decided to celebrate and a visit to Jack Straws was on the cards (no pun intended).
Not one who likes being disappointed, I decided to see if I could book a table. Also not one who enjoys talking on the phone (who’s with me?!), I went on to their website and was glad to have found a reservation page. Bookings can be made up to two weeks in advance which is super handy if you’re an organiser and want to plan ahead (I am not). I only booked in around two hours before we wanted to go and I got an email back within minutes confirming my booking!
I also had a gander at their menu (food and coffee are deal- breakers for me) and I was pleasantly surprised! I wasn’t sure they’d have much to offer with their focus being on board games but they have set platters, soups and a wide variety of sandwiches, desserts and hot drinks to choose from!
After an eventful afternoon trampolining, we made the journey up to Belfast which is around 40 minutes from where we live. Like the grown-up I am, I was glad to see plenty of parking spaces and there’s parking available in the surrounding area too! Size wise, I wasn’t too sure what to expect – it’s the standard size for a café and it’s brightly lit and well laid out with a private room out the back which is available to hire for different functions (hint hint friends who are reading this, my birthday is coming up!)
The welcome we received was lovely and the staff were brilliant the whole night! The lady who served us explained how the café worked really well; £2.50pp for an hour of gaming or £4.50pp for up to three hours. The games themselves are laid out by category; thematic, strategy, knowledge-based, classics, party games, word games and numeric games – the choices are endless! On the back of each menu they have a flowchart which has loads of different options depending on how many is in your party, how long you have to stay, or what kind of game you feel like playing.
They have a breakfast, lunch and evening menu and we ordered platters to share between us; a bread and dips platter and a meat and cheese board along with some nachos. The platters are aptly and humorously named The Mouse Trap, Cluedough, Meatopoly, Battle Chips, Settlers of Choctan (my personal fave) and Tropical Pearsuits!
The food didn’t take long to arrive at all and the small kitchen/coffee area had no impact on the quality of food/coffee whatsoever. The homemade dips were incredible and the portions were just enough for us all! They also serve their own roasted coffee along with some incredible looking desserts!
(Soz for the bad quality #InstaStory #notarealblogger)
We didn’t know where to start with what game to pick so we went with the recommendation from Sarah, who had been there once before. We picked a card game called The Voting Game. I’m not gonna explain it that well but basically you each get a number (eg 1-5) and you get a voting card for each number except yourself. The cards have various statements (‘Who was more likely to have stolen money from their parents?’ or ‘Who has most recently wet their pants?’) and you each have to vote for the person you think is most likely! The person with the most votes has to guess who voted for them and if they win, they keep the card. Poor Danielle ended up with something like 23 cards ha!
We played it for the whole evening so we didn’t even get a chance to look at what else their was because we were laughing too much! The staff (also known as the Game Gurus) were really attentive and were always at hand to explain anything, take more food orders, or recommend more games! We decided to order some homemade fudge and coffee while we were playing and it was incredible!
They had five different flavours on so we opted to try them all. There was Eton Mess, Red Velvet, Plain, Oreo and Malteser! Although I find fudge quite sickening, 8 pieces split between 5 of us was perfect. Over the course of the night, the café got packed out and even the private room was being used at the back for an 18th birthday so I was glad I had reserved a table! We stayed for the three hours and only headed home because some of the group had work the next day.
It’s open Monday (until 4pm) to Saturday and to 11pm 5 nights a week with Fridays and Saturdays reserved specifically for gaming from 5pm onwards – you can drop into the café just for food and drinks, there’s no obligation to play board games but I reckon you’ll find it hard to resist playing at least one!
So, if you’re looking somewhere to go or something to do with a group of friends, definitely check out Jack Straws (sorry if you’re not from Northern Ireland though – guess it’s an excuse to pay a visit?!) – it’s definite value for money, it’s good craic and it gives you a chance to play all kinds of board games to figure out which ones you like!
Check out their website here!
What are your thoughts on a board game café?