There's more than meets the eye to Stranmillis Village

Nails (before painting!) at Beauty Haven, Gotto Sports, Hugh Clawson at Canvas Galleries and Sinnamon

Birdcage goodness with a stunning pecan and pear salad, jam jar cocktail and a Sara O'Neill illustration in the loo!

I must be the only person in the world who managed to go to Queen's University for four years and didn't know Stranmillis Village inside out. Like Ballyhackamore, Stranmillis has seen major regeneration over the last number of years with new food outlets being a big draw. So knowing that I was a newbie to the Stranmillis area, a little tour was set up for me for the day. It was easy to park down a side street on a Saturday morning as many of the students had gone home for the weekend and the atmosphere in the Village was very relaxed. Below I have detailed the places I visit and the places I definitely want to go back to see. 

I was well aware of Sinnamon from my university days as they also have a branch on Botanic Avenue. Sinnamon is a great coffee shop for those who like to support local and you won't be left disappointed. The Stranmillis store is bright and relaxed. Their wide away of teas, coffees and sweet treats spoke to me early on a Saturday morning. I opted for some green tea from NI's very own Suki brand and a pain au chocolate. 

There are many salons in Stranmillis but on Saturday we opted to go to Beauty Haven. The salon has been in operation since 2005 and they are well known for their laser hair removal along with waxing, facials and other beauty treatments. My friend was with me and as I already had my nails done, she had a little file and polish in the OPI colour Tapeless Beach. The therapist Becca, was lovely and both of us had a good laugh with her whilst she was doing my friend's nails. And the best bit? 5 days on my chum is still chip free! They do a great range of skin treatments and I was very drawn to their skin peels to help the skin looking fresh. They would be great for this time of year to prepare the skin for the summer. 

There are also many other salons in Stranmillis but I particularly liked the look of Claire McIntyre Beauty. Their Decleor facials sound fabulous! 

Gotto Sports seems to be a Stranmillis institution. They sells all varieties of running and tennis shoes, rackets and lots of sportswear. My interest in the store was largely to do with their gait analysis that they offer for free so their customers choose the most suitable shoe for their sporting activity. As someone with orthopaedic problems (don't ask!), it's a topic I feel quite passionate about particularly for growing teenagers. We had such an interesting chat about the service and I saw first hand how the shoes could change someones running posture. I will be back to try out this service to make sure I'm in the best shoes possible for my own light running endeavours. 

After visiting Gotto Sports, we called into the art gallery next store. I was somewhat taken in by their fabulous painting in the window. On chatting to the owners, we found they have a great range of paintings by both established and up and coming artists. I loved the work of Belfast's own Deborah Toner (especially the fabulous hand sewed City Hall) and Hugh Clawson. Hugh's work consists of old fashioned receipts which then have famous NI buildings painted on top. I thought these were really interesting and would make a beautiful piece in any sort of home (see one above of The Merchant that I liked). 

Of all the places I heard most about in Stranmillis, it was undoubtedly Birdcage. I had heard tales of their (very large) jam jar cocktails and amazing chicken recipes. We visited for Saturday lunch and I loved the interior. It's really fun and was full of students and families alike. I opted for a pear, pecan and halloumi salad with a side of chicken brochette and sweet potato fries. I also had a non-alcoholic jam jar of apple, ginger and cranberry. The portions were absolutely huge and I was impressed by both the variety and affordability of the menu. It's a great restaurant that I will bring my family to in the future as it suits a variety of tastes. Also, their art will keep you amused! I loved the Sara O'Neill illustration in the toilet!

Thank you to all of the businesses in Stranmillis for making me feel so welcome.

Let me know where you love in Stranmillis Village below or by tweeting me @GemmaLEBond.