Marie Louise McConville: Twenty years of the best frys in west Belfast and still going strong

Mary and Jim McIlwaine have been running The Coffee House Bistro on the Andersonstown Road in west Belfast for 20 years
Mary and Jim McIlwaine have been running The Coffee House Bistro on the Andersonstown Road in west Belfast for 20 years

A strong sense of community can make all the difference to people.

There's just something about that feeling of belonging that can change an outlook on life.

I used to be a big fan of the US comedy Cheers for that very reason.

Set in Boston, Cheers was a bar run by Sam Malone, where people from different walks of life would meet and put the world to rights.

And the show's theme tune reminded us that: "Sometimes you wanna go / Where everybody knows your name /And they're always glad you came."

Cheers was just that type of place, a home from home, where people were genuinely glad to see you and where you felt welcome and safe.

Of course, anyone from my native west Belfast never had to venture the 2,977 miles to Boston to find that special place as we have always had one on our doorstep.

The Coffee House Bistro on the Stewartstown Road in Andersonstown is currently celebrating 20 years in business.

However, this is no normal coffee shop.

Owned by Jim and Mary McIlwaine, this eatery is a place where every single person who enters through the door is welcomed with open arms and treated like family.

I first discovered this little gem many years ago and when I met Darren, introduced him to Jim and Mary also.

Every Saturday morning it was our go-to place for delicious pancakes, which quite frankly should win awards, and great craic.

Married for just over 30 years, Jim and Mary exude a warmth matched by no other and for them, nothing is too much trouble.

On the morning of our wedding the pair showed up, champagne in hand, at my family home with a VIP breakfast.

And later, when I was pregnant, they catered for my every craving and didn't raise any eyebrows when I would order a mushroom omelette with a side of brussel sprouts.

But that's just them, always thinking of others.

Every Halloween and Christmas, they bring joy to children and adults alike with sensational decorations.

The couple have always been at the heart of the west Belfast community, have always contributed to raffles and giveaways, and I know if anyone is ever in need, the pair will go above and beyond to help, never telling anyone else.

I'm not surprised the business is celebrating its 20th anniversary as it's a special place, somewhere the lonely find company, the worried find support and where those in need find a listening ear and help.

Congratulations to Jim and Mary on their fantastic milestone.

I have no doubt there will be many more years of success for them and their family.

Thanks for all you do for west Belfast. Many would be lost without you, especially your amazing frys.

Now get them pancakes on...


Has anyone else been watching new BBC drama Blue Lights?

I wasn't really sure what to expect to be honest, but it's really good.

The new six-part series from local creators Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn explores the unique challenges faced by the PSNI, as it follows three rookie police officers in their probation period.

The casting is great, especially Richard Dormer as Gerry and Sian Brooke as Grace.

The series moves at speed and I have to admit I'm really enjoying it.

Hope there's a series two in the planning.


Who fancies an "impossible to put down" read?

Deception by Rob Sinclair has been described as "an adrenaline shot right to the heart".

James Ryker knows the ghosts of his dark and violent past are never far away.

Yet he’s still taken aback when he sees Leia Devereaux’s face at his door.

Even more surprising is that the woman he knows to be a lethal assassin claims she’s not there to hurt him, but to ask for his help in keeping the stranger accompanying her, David Muller, alive.

She says Muller is more valuable than Ryker can imagine. But Ryker isn’t given any time to investigate before chaos descends upon them.

In the aftermath, Devereaux disappears and Ryker is left with only questions. To find the answers, Ryker has only one choice – fight back.

I have three copies of Deception to give away.

If you would like the chance to win a copy, simply email your name, address and telephone number – along with the answer to the question below – to

Closing date for entries is noon on Tuesday April 11 2023.

(Q) Who wrote Deception?

Normal Irish News rules apply.


The winners of the Elave competition are Teresa Pearson from Dungannon, Dolores Rodgers from Annalong, Maurita Murray from Cullyhanna, Briege Gault from Belfast, and Anna Poland from Newry.