Biz-R Coffee House Durham review

Biz-R Coffee House Durham

Friday 20th March 2015 was a very strange day for a review, mainly because everyone was completely transfixed by the day’s main event – the big Solar eclipse. We’d been intending to watch from Wharton Park up near the train station, but a last minute change of heart meant we parked in South Street and wandered down to Framwellgate Bridge to get a view of it above the Cathedral/Castle. We were joined slowly by around 50 other people, all hoping to get a glimpse.

Bizr coffee house durham

Some had professional looking kit with tripods and others were trying to use mobile phones to get a picture, no doubt with varying degrees of success. It was quite amusing when a delivery driver pulled his van up blatantly in front of everyone, obliviously obscuring their view. My own efforts yielded a couple of good shots, so I went to the cafe happy.

We shuffled our way into the Bridges Shopping Centre to the Biz-R Coffee House, hidden just behind Ciao Ciao. Took a while for the name to click. Biz-R opened its doors in late 2013. The cafe was very quiet and we ordered coffee and went upstairs. It was still quite dark outside, but the place is decorated in very bright colours that made the twilight outdoors even more intense. There’s a nice collection of furniture in various colours too, shabby chic-ed to impress Mrs Durham Food and Drink.

They have a nice line in muffins (blueberry and cream cheese anyone?), milkshakes, cakes and savouries as well as coffee. We opted for just coffee on this occasion and we ordered downstairs and sat upstairs. The coffee arrived in about 5 minutes. Nice deep flavour and colour, with a biscuit on the side. We sat looking at the eclipse photos we’d taken and by the time the coffee was finished, the second dawn had arrived, the birds had come back to life and we went to the seaside 🙂

A nice stop off from shopping, right in the heart of Durham.

Bizr coffee shop Durham interior picture

BizR Coffee House Durham
34a The Gates
Durham

Tel: 0191 3862471


Durham Food and Drink Ratings
First Impression : 8, Service : 8, Food : n/a, Value : 8

Biz-r coffee house Durham rated 8

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Vanilla Mamas Durham Review

Vanilla Mamas Durham

This little place was a pleasant surprise. The Durham Food and Drink bus struggled up the bank from the Stonebridge pub up towards Neville’s Cross junction and on the left was a liitle cafe awning that looked interesting. It was a Saturday afternoon, the last day of Winter, and the traffic was lighter than normal, so there was more time to look around. I’m sure we’d been past this way before and never saw Vanilla Mamas at all, but this time we managed to park in front and dash in. Got to confess, we needed a cafe with a loo, and poking our heads in the door, it didn’t look as if it had one, but asked anyway. Oh yes, but you have to go back out of the front door and use the door to the left. This just looked like the entrance to a house, but the passage led past the kitchen to the place I needed.

vanilla mamas durham

Whilst i’d been ‘exploring’ for the netty, Mrs Durham Food and Drink had bought hot drinks and cake. There are only about 3 tables in the place, and we got the last one. The two lads sitting in the window were having a fried breakfast, which looked magnificent even at 2:30 in the afternoon. Must have been students, we thought. Two ladies nattered over coffee to our right. Our coffee and claggies arrived just as the owner turned the ‘Open’ sign on the door to ‘Closed’, but reassured us not to worry, she wasn’t chucking us out.

The coffee and sweetness arrived shortly after and we shared a Raspberry Bakewell Slice and another claggy cake that I can’t remember the name of (it was cherry and white chocolate sponge-Ed), but it totally hit the spot. The lads in the window had polished off their breakfasts and were now ready to face the World, while we took a little more time looking around at the eclectic selection of pictures, mementos and nick-nacks and planned how we were going to attack the next DIY project. A short hop from here back home to Gilesgate.

vanilla mamas durham

Vanilla Mamas is a really nice, quirky little place that totally surprised us. The bill was only £6.50 altogether, so excellent value for money and 100% worth the visit.


Durham Food and Drink Ratings
First Impression : 8, Service : 9, Food : 8, Value : 9

eight

Vanilla Mamas,
10 Fenwick Terrace,
Neville’s Cross Bank
Durham

Phone : 0191 375025

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Treats Coffee Shop Durham Review

Treats is a nice little place for a cup of coffee and a snack. Treats is about half way up Silver Street on the left hand side on the way up from Millburngate Bridge towards the Market Place. Once again, it’s up a flight of stairs, so maybe a bit daunting if you’re not walking 100%, but it’s worth the climb.

treats durham counter

Service is at the counter, but meals are delivered by the waitress to the table. As usual, we only went with the intention of having a cup of coffee and a scone, until Mrs DFD declared she loved the look of the Corned beef pie in the display case, then I had to follow her with some steak pie and chips, both served with mushy peas, so it turned into a total main meal at breakfast time 😉 Both pies arrived super fast and were delicious and with the little jug of gravy proved to be just the job for a cold morning this early in town.

Despite the stairs, the cafe is very popular with older folks, who use it as a place to get out of the hustle and bustle and have a natter, which is nice. Nothing is hurried, service is pleasant and the place is warm and welcoming. Note to the owner though, you need to invest in a proper Xmas tape next year, Dean Martin’s ‘Let it Snow’ became a bit annoying after the 45th consecutive play! 😉

Price wise, Treats Coffee Shop is very competitive, with a meal for two with drinks coming in at around £16. This was ok for us, as we needed to keep our pennies for xmas presents, but this set us up for the fight on the shop floor.


Durham Food and Drink Rating
First Impression : 8, Service : 8, Food : 7, Value : 8

eight

Treats Coffee Shop
First Floor
27-28 Silver Street
Durham
DH1 3RD

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Cafe Continental Durham Review

Cafe Continental Durham

“Cafe Continental is a family run cafe / restaurant situated on Elvet Bridge in the centre of Durham City.

Occupying two properties dated back to the late 1800s; there is a cafe situated at ground floor level which leads up to a restaurant area arranged in a number of quaint rooms; reflecting the character of the grade two listed building. Seating is available for up to 60 people with some tables overlooking the river wear.

Boasting a large menu serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner; Cafe Continental offers dished from ‘light bites’ such as homemade soup, paninis, sandwiches, crepes and baked potatoes to homemade daily specials, reflective of the season; which include a large number of dishes suitable for those with vegetarian, gluten and dairy free diets”.

cafe continental outside view
An, up until now, undiscovered place we always seem to walk past but never go in, The Café Continental is sandwiched (no pun intended) between The Half Moon Inn and Tealicious, at the bottom of Elvet Bridge In Durham. The downstairs facade is of a small, pokey cafe, but there’s an upstairs to the place as well, and this opens out into an extensive area with several sub rooms and niches. It’s a Grade 2 listed building. The walls are painted a grey colour, and windows are sashed, without curtains. This sounds drab, but actually works ok. I’d think this would be great for ventilation in summer, but we found that the cold creeps through the glass into the window seats in winter, a little bit uncomfortably. Maybe some curtains would help a bit?

Climbing the stairs (make sure to shut the door behind you to keep the draught out) takes you up to the main restaurant dining area, and we were shown to a table straight away and given some menus. These are huger than huge, and a bit unwieldy, but there’s a great selection of stuff on there. A selection of the grub is also highlighted on the numerous blackboards hung around the place, which is a bit bewildering to begin with, but once we homed in on what we wanted it was ok. Taking of our order was a little slow, but it was a busy shopping day just before Christmas, about two o’clock in the afternoon, so we can forgive them that I think. We noticed that the food is actually prepared ‘down below’ and arrives via Dumb Waiter. It’s a long time since I’ve seen one of those used in anger. Fascinating for anyone who hasn’t seen one operating before.

Mrs DFD had ordered a Moussaka and I had Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie from the Home-made section. Both came with chips and mine had veggies too. The puff pastry lid on the pie was about 4″ thick when it came, and needed removing to let off steam and get at the filling, which was of course blowlamp hot, but it lacked volume and was a bit bland to be honest. The chips and veg were fine. Mrs DFD’s Moussaka looked quite dry, but tasted ok (I was offered a morsel or two), although it too would have benefited from a few veggies I think. For drinks, we had a cappuccino coffee and a Pepsi.

After the mains, a small dessert menu (very small and hand written on a card) drew us into sharing a Ginger Sponge and Custard for our afters, which was lovely, with a good bite to the ginger. I could have done some serious damage to the cake cabinet as well (it was full of gooey looking, fancy gateux), but that would have just been making a pig of myself (again, never stopped you before -Ed). The food in the Café Continental overall was nice, without really being outstanding. The place was quite full when we got there, so it seems a popular place to eat and there was a good cross section of punters, from students to families. Our final bill came to £23.50, which wasn’t going to break the bank for a two course meal for two with drinks. Most main courses on the menu seem to be £7-8 and sarnies are cheaper, so there’s no need to spend that much if pennies are tight, and it would be quite possible to get a decent meal for £10-12. A canny enough place to take the weight off your feet if you need to, slightly out of the main shopping mayhem on a busy day.

 

Price : £23.50 for two

Durham Food and Drink Rating
First Impression : 7, Service : 7, Food : 6, Value : 8

cafe continental rating seven

Cafe Continental Durham
87a/b Elvet Bridge
Durham
DH1 3AG
0191 386 0000

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Queen’s Head Durham Review

“The Queen’s Head is a nice friendly pub that’s recently been refurbished downstairs in the bar area. In the bar we offer FREE WiFi to all of our guests as well as FREE parking on site. We are in a perfect location of Durham, just 1 mile away from the City centre. The bar provides an excellent menu, with both a choice from our traditional menu to our chef’s specials boards. Everything on our menu is home-made. Our bedrooms are basic but kept very clean and tidy. All rooms are with shared bathroom facilities, but each resident gets fresh hand towels & bath mats.”

queens head front

The other ‘local’ is the Queen’s Head in Gilesgate, just down the road from The Shoes. It’s a typical fronted boozer, but like the Shoes it’s had a bit of money spent on it recently and the lounge looks just right for eating. We’ve been in here twice recently, once for a lazy Sunday dinner and most recently again for a minor celebration.

I always reckon that if the pub is full on a Sunday then they’re doing something right. The Queens actually serve their Sunday lunch right up until 8pm! We rolled up at about 2pm and got a table without booking, but felt a bit guilty when a local old timer arrived and looked disappointed to see us sitting in what was apparently his seat, where he’d probably had his Sunday dinner every weekend since 1976. Anyhow, he got sat down somewhere else by the waitress and we felt less like robbers. The waitress took our order almost immediately.

queens head lounge

Sunday lunch was pretty good, with pneumatic Yorkshires, bigger than barrage balloons, but crispy and dry. There’s a selection of the usual roasts, and what is amazing is that it all arrived about 3 minutes after it was ordered. Very impressive! I know that means they must pre-prepare it, but as long as it tastes ok and hasn’t gone crusty round the edges that’s fine by me. The roast was tender and juicy and the gravy was nice and thick, just how we like it. We had pud as well after all of this, Mrs DFD had Apple Crumble and Custard and I had the Rice Pud, which came absolutely dry without milk, so I pinched some custard to moisten it up. Unusual but strangely enjoyable.

Our second visit, on a Tuesday night saw us ordering from the Chef’s Special menu. There were four mouths to feed this time and we ordered

Belly pork, served on a bed of fluffy mash potato, black pudding wrapped in bacon complimented with a diane sauce topped off with crispy onions

Duck breast marinated in a hoi sin sauce on a bed of noodles mixed through with chilli, spring onions & ginger

12oz Rump steak served with tomato, portobello mushroom, onion rings, homemade chips

Chicken balentine with chorizo, jalapeños & mozzarella wrapped in parmaham in a mariner sauce accompanied with sweet potato chips.

When we arrived they asked if we were eating and drinks orders were taken at the table. Service of the meal took about 20 minutes from order to plate this time, and I have to say the presentation of the food was superb for pub grub. All the meals looked terrific. Even I liked a taste of the belly pork, and I don’t generally do belly pork very well. It was great. Testament to this were the four clean plates at the end of it, we’d removed the patterns as well, it was so nice. We decided not to have a sweet this time, although we had drinks added to the bill at the start and it all came to just over £60 in all. Great value for pub grub.


Durham Food and Drink Rating
First Impression : 7, Service : 8, Food : 8, Value : 8

queens head rating eight

The Queen’s Head
2 Sherburn Road
Durham
DH1 2JR
T: 0191 3865649

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The Queen’s Head also offer accommodation, with a Single Room including breakfast for £30 and a Double/Twin with breakfast for £50

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The Shoes Durham Review

The Shoes, Durham in Gilesgate is one of those pubs where you just don’t know what it’s going to be like inside when you’re outside. It’s on Sunderland Road, on the East side of Durham, just past the fork in the road that takes you to Sherburn Road, on the way to the big Dragonville Industrial Estate. It’s sandwiched between Mahan’s fish and chip shop and Sainsburys.

the shoes durham in gilesgate's lounge with drinks and menu

The car park doubles up for both the supermarket and the pub, and there’s usually plenty of space if you need it. It looks nowt special from the outside, but don’t let that put you off at all. Only when you go in do you get the feeling of what a friendly pucker place it is. It’s newly done up, and looks clean and tidy. The Shoes is a traditional, family run bar offering a good selection of pub grub on a canny sized lunch time menu, which is served 12 noon til’ 6pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The Shoes also has three bedrooms for those who want to stop out just that little bit longer on a night, with en-suite bathrooms and TV/Wifi for the guests. It’s in a very handy spot for Durham, being less than a mile from the city centre. You can get there either by Shankses Pony (on foot), or by using one of the plentiful buses that pass every 10 minutes or so. The pub is regularly filled by it’s darts/dominoes and poker league teams, has live entertainment twice a month and a Sunday night quiz and bingo. The pub is also popular with the gee-gee fraternity during the day and shows Premier League football during the season (I believe the landlord is a Sunderland fan for his sins). They also have a beer garden at the rear for summer nights of al-fresco drinking and star gazing.

view of the shoes, durham bar area.

Since moving to Gilesgate, this is our local, and when we first went in before we bought our house, we were talking to the landlord who was genuinely interested that we were living on ‘The Duffy’. The next time we called in, some 6 weeks or so later (we were hard at work on the DIY), he remembered our faces and asked if we’d moved in yet. This really made us happy, that he was taking notice of his customers, considereing he’d only seen us just the once back then. We’ve always been made to feel really welcome since and everyone seems genuinely friendly in there.

We’ve yet to try the meals in The Shoes (although we’ve seen and smelled them as they’ve gone past), but the menu looks good and if you want traditional pub grub then you could do a lot worse, with starters pitched between £2 and £3 and the most expensive main course being less than 7 quid! Beer is well priced too, with Desperados (the drink of our choice at the mo) only £3 per bottle, which is cheaper than a lot of other places, and real ales and beer for just a little bit more. The beer seems to slip down easier as well, knowing it’s just a short stumble back to the gaff.


The Shoes
16 Sunderland Road
Gilesgate
County Durham

Tel: 0191 3844099

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