A waitress inside the Dark Horse. Take a stroll along the atmospheric cobble stoned streets of the Cathedral Quarter, around to Commercial Court, and you’ll come across a piece of Belfast history. Bringing back the long lost tradition of the coffee house to the city, walking into the Dark Horse is like stepping back in time. Traditional Coffee House The little sister of the Duke of York, the historic pub that stands opposite in Commercial Court, the coffee house was the brainchild of the pub’s owner Willie Jack, who wanted to combine the atmosphere of a traditional Irish coffee house, such as Bewley’s, with a more continental flavour. He appointed Mark Hamill, also from the Duke of York, as manager and gave him free rein to develop his ideas. The Dark Horse was opened during a snowstorm in 2010 and after a slow start has become one of the area’s most popular venues. Special Atmosphere One of the key attributes of the coffee house is its old fashioned décor, an area which Willie Jack was able to influence directly. “Willie is also an antique dealer,” Mark says, “and has been able to supply a host of wonderful and constantly changing artefacts that give the place such a special atmosphere. For instance, we have had some lovely old oil lamps converted to ceiling lamps and we have some wallpaper from the same company that supplied Titanic. We also have a series of old Belfast trophies and lots of little things like a water jug from the Belfast Exhibition of 1895. They really bring old Belfast back to life.”