Durham has multiple charming, independent cafes and restaurants dotted throughout the city. For all those freshers just starting up in the northern hub, here is our guide to 10 cheap and cheerful local joints.
This local and independent cafe oozes trendiness with its bicycle sign, distressed floorboards, and its crowded interior with a mismatch jumble of tables and chairs. However, its image is not the only reason behind its considerable popularity. Every day brings coffee straight from the Newcastle roastery, and fresh scones, cakes and sandwiches – think salami, rocket and cream cheese bagels, or wensleydale and mango chutney sarnies. This laid-back venue is busy year round, as its customers spill out onto its courtyard tables where cushions and blankets are provided for the crispy Northern chill.
Saddlers is in the heart of Durham city, tucked up on the Bailey on the way towards the cathedral. It’s a cosy spot to enjoy breakfast, lunch and tea, with a warm atmosphere, friendly staff, and seats overlooking the hustle and bustle of Saddler Street. Here you definitely get value for your money, with stacks of pancakes generously topped with bacon, blueberries and maple syrup, paninis and baked potatoes stuffed with all sorts of fillings, and enormous doughy scones. If you’re after a more Northern speciality, go for the fish finger butty with a side of coleslaw.
Leonard’s is perhaps the most secluded of the coffee shops. Down in Fowler’s Yard, the lovely Leonards staff serve great coffee, with lumpy sugar cubes (the sign of a first-rate establishment), and an array of fresh cakes.
This small independent cafe, at the top of the Claypath hill, offers the most inventive breakfast and lunch food, with the highest quality ingredients. There is a large garden at the back in which they grow as much of their own fruit and vegetables as possible. They also have a fantastic range of cheeses and chutneys from Durham, Cumbria and Northumberland. For breakfast think homemade muesli or banana French toast, and for lunch tuck in to deli platters, grilled halloumi, or the New Yorker sandwich with pastrami and pickle. Definitely the most creative light food Durham has to offer, and well worth the steep walk uphill.
Though perhaps not the most gourmet option, the Dun Cow does the job. Located on Old Elvet its timbered black and white building dates back to the 16th century. It is a snug little pub with good ale and simple food. Grab yourself a bowl of chilli or one of their baps: we recommend the roast beef and horseradish or the cheddar and mango chutney in particular. This is the main haunt of the hockey team, so perhaps avoid going here on game days if you want a quiet pint.
Nudo is a chain restaurant worth a mention. It’s founded on the idea that the North of England was lacking in good quality high-street sushi. Durham certainly was and Nudo’s freshly prepared and affordable sashimi, futomaki and nigri boxes have been a welcome addition. On one of those miserable library days treat yourself to a Nudo sushi box.
Velvet Elvis is a vintage clothes shop and quirky cafe. Located on Framwelgate Bridge the cafe has great views of the River Wear and the cathedral behind. Once you’re done browsing the clothing collection, take a trip upstairs: it’s like walking in to a living room but with far better food on offer. There promises to be a great selection of bagels, mezze platters, and milkshakes of many flavours (including oreo). A true student haunt, and it even hosts Free Cinema Thursdays and Sundays, in which there are 25 free seats and a menu of drinks, popcorn and hot dogs.
In a student town late-night food options are a must and Falafel Al Hana serves this purpose wonderfully. Located just beyond the main strip of fast food joints on Claypath it is the perfect place to avoid the post-Loveshack food rush whilst still enjoying (greasy) goodness. It serves all the classics of pizza, burgers, doner kebabs and falafel wraps with hummus and more.
The best burger in town is to be found in Tango. Though there are a few veggie options, this is really a haven for meat lovers. All the cuts are from well-bred and well-fed animals, sourced from the local Wallington Estate cattle in Northumberland. The burgers come with a variety of toppings, from guacamole and jalapenos to blue cheese and mushrooms. Full of original touches, such as drinks served in jam jars, a witty menu, and fleecy blankets for the outdoor diners, this will fast become one of your favourites.
If you’re in search for some fresh and flavoursome Thai food, head to Crossgate, where Nadon Thai awaits. It is completely unpretentious with charming staff and reasonably priced authentic dishes. The classic pad thai is a crowd pleaser but if feeling slightly more adventurous, try the weeping tiger sizzling plate, with thinly sliced sirloin steak in a spicy sauce. Nadon Thai is a real treat and it’s definitely worth splashing out on all courses: it’s a good place for lunch when your parents are up for a visit.