“ BAR. 23-27 Malone Road, Belfast. Tel (028) 9066 0460. Fax (028) 9068 7122 „
The Botanic Inn, affectionately known by locals as 'the Bot' is one of Belfast's busiest and most popular bars and has been for generations. Located on the Malone Road near to Queen's University this bar has been the place to go for students and young professionals for many years and its popularity has never dwindled whilst other bars in Belfast have come and gone.
The main bar is quite large with an upper area which has some seats and a bit of a space which sometimes turns into a dancefloor by the end of the night. There is also a smaller bar area off to the left of the main bar known by those who go there often as 'the old men's bar' as this is where the older non-student types tend to prop up the bar during the day/early evening until the students take over! This side bar is often used as a meeting point on a busy night as it's easier to find someone in here and it's sometimes easier to get served at this bar when it's busy. This bar is also quite handy for smokers as sometimes you can smoke outside if the fire escape door is open. There is also the upstairs nightclub called the Record Club which is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and plays great cheesey 80s music - however it has been the same music played in the same order for goodness knows how many years - possibly since the 80s! There is a large dance floor and large bar but it can also get very packed and sometimes take a long time to get served. Upstairs was great in its day but unfortunately I am much too old for it now! The average age upstairs is about 19-22 and anything older is pushing it a bit unless you are in a very large crowd of people the same age and just there for a laugh!
Most students tend to 'graduate' to the downstairs bar after the first couple of years of frequenting the Bot 4 or 5 times a week! They soon realise that downstairs is actually much better and you soon start to recognise the familiar faces you once saw up in the disco now drinking in the downstairs bar aswell! Downstairs can be just as busy, if not busier than upstairs! Wednesday night is a very busy student night with a live band playing downstairs. The place starts to fill up about 10pm onwards and all of a sudden it becomes packed. Wednesdays are particularly busy around the start of every new term when all the students are back in Belfast. Thursday night is also much of the same with students and Friday tends to get a slightly older crowd - normally those who used to frequent the bar as students and are now working but still want to hang on a bit longer to the good old days of university! Saturday night is more of a local Belfast crowd with much fewer students around and the atmosphere can be a bit different. Sundays can sometimes be quite busy with the hardcore students who have called in for a hangover cure and ended up staying on for the day! Sundays will also be very busy if the next day is a public/bank holiday.
The bot is probably one of the best bars in Belfast for watching sport - though get there early to ensure you can catch a glimpse of a corner of a TV screen!! There are plenty of large screens and other TVs up when big matches are on so even if you don't manage to get a seat you will usually be able to see a TV screen from some angle. It does get very crowded and hot though! It will be busiest for any Ireland rugby matches, Champions League, Euro/World Cup or Gaelic Football. The atmosphere though is great and there is very rarely any trouble but on days like that anything goes and be prepared for drunken people falling into you or spilling drinks over you etc. St Patrick's day is also traditionally one of the Bot's busiest days where the queue to get in is usually already down the road by 11.30am!
The Bot serves food but it's nothing special! It's fine to get a buger and chips or something like that if you are out for an all day drinking session and need to line your stomach a bit but it's not really the kind of place you would purposely go out for a meal to. The service is generally good considering how busy the place can get and the bar staff, some of which have been there a long time always seem to be able to keep their cool and it normally doesn't take too long getting served.
Many people thought that the introduction of the smoking ban would result in the demise of the bot as there didn't seem to be anywhere that an outdoor smoking area could be accommodated and they didn't seem to be making any changes right up until the last minute but more or less overnight a wall or two was knocked out and restructed and before we knew it there was an outdoor smoking area constructed which now has an outdoor TV screen as well and is usually just as packed as indoors! The downside of the smoking ban however is that on a busy night the place can really stink!!
Foreign students and tourists also love the Bot due to it's traditional Irish feel and the live music playing a lot of well known irish type songs! It's also a good bar for Guinness. It's a good place for foreigners to go to as everyone is very friendly and there's never any hassle.
The Bot was probably one of my favourite haunts as a student. I spent many an afternoon - probably when I should have been doing something else as well as Wednesdays Thursday's and Friday nights there and probably spent enough money over the years to buy the place! Nowadays, I end up there on work nights out maybe every few months or so but it's not like the good old days! It used to be that you would know everyone or at least recognise the majority of people no matter when you go now if I go there I usually don't recognise anyone apart from occasionally I bump into someone else from my student days generation hanging on to their last piece of nostalgia also!
On the whole this is a great place to go and I would definitely recommend it if you are on a visit to Belfast for the first time. If you are in your 20s you could still manage a wednesday or thursday night just about but if you are late 20s and older i'd leave it for a Friday or Saturday night but if you are heading there to watch sport in the afternoon or early evening it doesn't really matter what age you are.
This was my favourite bar in Belfast when I was a student. It was so good I probably spent three or four nights a week in it drinking and partying. It is a typical student bar, packed to the rafters all day long from lunchtime until kicking out time - the place must make an absolute fortune!
The best thing about the Bot was that you knew everyone who was there and it was always so full that you were bound to run into someone you knew.
The bar staff were always very fast at serving (with the exception of one slower member of staff) but in the evenings they do unfortunately fall into the old trap of serving good looknig girls first - who can blame them - but it is frustrating.
Bot Sunday was a great tradition - carvery, beer and football, what a combination!
The reasons why I loved the Bot are probably the reasons why I am not such a big fan. It is absolutely packed, so crammed that you are lucky to escape with just beer on your clothes (thank goodness the smoking ban is in, so no more burnt holes). people are absolutely wasted, falling all over the place. It is a student bar, full of the great unwashed!
The Bot is what it is and it does it very well. Maybe I am just sad that I am no longer a student!