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 ūüôā

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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Zen Durham Thai Restaurant Review

 

Zen Durham Review

zen durhamZen Durham is a superb Thai restaurant in the heart of Durham City. It is tucked away around near to Durham Prison, but don’t let that put you off. It’s an asian restaurant, with a bit of fusion going on. The aptly named Court Inn is the pub just next door. They also serve pretty decent bar food, but if it’s the insurance of a proper restaurant meal you want/need, just pop to Zen. This eatery is in a pan-asian foodie greenhouse, all exotic lighting and ambience. It looks quite swanky rich and to some folks, probably is. One good test of how good an ethnic restaurant is – do the people who’s cuisine is represented actually dine there themselves? Zen Durham seems to pass that fitness test, as there’s a good cross section of nationalities eating there, including Far Easterners.

The Durham Food and Drink Bus arrived, as it normally does, quite late and un-booked. Our little trip to the Durham Brewery in Bowburn had lasted longer than expected, and like the amateur fools (copyright Mr. T) that we are, hadn’t had any tea. The waitress told us we’d have to order before 10pm. That gave us 10 minutes, so we got our skates on and picked our food and drinks and still had a couple of minutes to spare. We were both starving, so that wasn’t really too much of a problem.

Starter was DIY Pancakes (¬£12.50), which is the usual Duck and Hoi Sin Sauce and crisp salad. The pancakes are served in a little bamboo container to keep them warm, and there’s a large bowl of sauce to add. The duck was chopped and shaped into pieces, rather than pulled and shredded. We prefer shredded actually, but it was still ok and didn’t last long enough anyway to give us too much grief. The drinks had arrived too, a Bellini for Mrs Durham Food and Drink and a Long Island Iced Tea for me. Both were priced at ¬£7.00

zen durham mealThe main courses we selected were Massamam Lamb (£14.95) and Satay Chili Chicken (£14.95). Both were served in a nice little white bowl with fluffy boiled rice. The cutlery provided by Zen allows you to either eat with proper Chopsticks or cowardly select the english option. I have every intention of using chopsticks, but never seem to be able to wrap my fingers around the things properly without food flying off at tangents, so to avoid inconveniencing our fellow diners I took the cowardly route.

They didn’t attempt to hide the chili on the Satay Chicken. The little blighters were there, brazenly glistening on top of the dish, drawing me in like sirens do to lost sailors. I took a bite and …. Flash, Bang, Wallop ! I’d have been better off sucking on a chunk of semi-molten magma! Delicious though, and like all good Thai fusion food, the flavours come through and enhance, rather than masking the taste of the meal altogether. Still too hot for Mrs DFD though, poor lamb. Speaking of lamb, the Massamam Lamb was also top class, with a dryness and total lack of fattiness that most lamb dishes have. It was an inspired choice as well. The rice was exceptional, like a culinary fire blanket that could be used to dampen the chili flames when needed.

I must say, the drinks were a bit of a let down, with no real depth to them. With hindsight, maybe they were used too much like quenchers after the chili, so I should give them another chance next time we visit Zen Durham.

Price was £56 for two. The drinks jacked this price up by at least 14 quid though, so the food price was better value than the value score might suggest.

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

zen durham eight rating

Zen Durham,
The Cathedrals,
Court Lane,
Durham,
DH1 3JS

Phone: 0191 384 9588
Email : info@zendurham.co.uk

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Durham Brewery Review

Durham Brewery

durham brewery header

This was a neat little visit we went on with a tour voucher Mrs Durham Food and Drink had bought me for Christmas. The Durham Brewery isn’t actually in Durham, it’s on an industrial estate in Bowburn. It’s been running since 1994 and the place is well known to the real ale fraternity, but maybe not so for the casual drinker who mainly likes to trough a bit (us).

We were fortunate that we were able to get a lift there from the young ‘uns, instead of firing up the Durham Food and Drink bus, maybe paying back some of the free taxi service that’s been lovingly provided for them in the last few years? Anyhow, we were last in, with the tour and talk due to start at 7:30pm on the Friday night. It’s very dark in the car park and could maybe do with an extra light for these evening tours in winter, but we found the right door eventually.

Steve Gibbs and his wife do the talk, running through the theory of making beer and demonstrating how the raw materials affect the flavour of the finished pint, playfully interrupting each other along the way. We started sampling with the lightest beer and ended up on a dark Porter Stout (“Temptation“), all included as part of the brewery tour fee. We then went over to the storage area where the casks/hogsheads/firkins are kept, and saw the actual production facility where Steve and his brewers do 3 brews a week to keep the locals supplied with Durham Brewery beers.

The brewery tour was very informal but informative, there were lots of questions and even a bloke from another brewery (at Appleby) had come down to see how Steve and his crew do their thing.

At the end of the tour, you can buy bottles of the Durham Brewery beers, which are nicely packaged up in a little carrier to help get them home safely. We came away with 3 bottles, including their 1994 Anniversary Imperial Pale Stout, a White Stout and a bottle of the “Temptation”.

We’d thoroughly recommend Durham Brewery to anyone, even if you’ve never drunk a single pint of real ale before. It’ll make you appreciate what goes into making all the different beers available to us in the North East, and is delivered by a man who is clearly still so passionate about his brewery.

Website : http://www.durhambrewery.co.uk.

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Caffe Capriccio Durham Italian Review

Caffe Capriccio Durham

caffe capriccio durham frontWe¬†have walked past Caffe Capriccio on many many occasions, in favour of other cafes, as it always appeared incredibly small, with only a few tables inside, and a few outside, but ooooohhhhh how I wish we’d¬†visited sooner, it was fab!

We visited at about 10am on a Sunday morning. There were more tables than expected on the inside, although still not very many to choose from, due to the quirky shape of the building.¬†We decided on a window seat so we could watch the world go by. On one side of the doorway we had the choice of a breakfast bar style table,¬†and on the other side¬†of the doorway, there was a¬†slightly squished two-seater table.¬†We opted for the squished two-seater, but when we sat down, we didn’t even notice the lack of space, as the ambience of the¬†Caffe Capriccio¬†far outweighed any other thoughts.¬†We were¬†served by a pleasant¬†and friendly lady behind the counter, and in the background was the sound of Italian singing, no not the radio, it was¬†a gentleman¬†going to and forth from the kitchen with the happiest sounding singing voice.¬†The happy-Italian-singing lasted for the whole of our visit, with the exception of the odd conversation in between, and it was like a breath of fresh air to go into a place where people are naturally happy¬†at what they are doing, not because of good training, not because every customer¬†demands a high¬†quality service with a smile nowadays, but because some people appear naturally happy, happy with themselves, happy with the world, and happy with their work.¬† On this occasion we only ordered 2 coffees, and two caramel slices, but without a shadow of a doubt, we will definitely be returning, on a lunch time next time around.¬†When we left, we were waved goodbye by both the lady and gentleman.

Before entering, we had the impression that it was going to be a tiny place inside, and it would feel more like a coffee take-away¬†shop, rather than a caf√©, but how wrong we were.¬†The size is part of it’s charm, it is perfectly formed, with happy-characters,¬†and we left with a smile, with every intention of returning.


Durham Food and Drink Rating
First Impression : 8  Service : 8  Food : N/A  Value : 8

cafe capriccio score eight

Caffe Capriccio,
26 Elvet Bridge,
Durham
DH1 3AA

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Filini Durham Radisson Blu Italian Restaurant Review

Filini Durham

Firstly, it’s often been said that Filini at the Radisson Blu is one of the best restaurants in Durham City. For that reason, I’d booked it for a Valentine’s Day meal. I wanted it to be right so that we could have a nice romantic meal out.

filini durham restaurant

The Radisson Hotel is quite an imposing structure by the river, opposite where the old Durham Ice Rink used to be. The new Millennium Bridge joins The Radisson to the Gala Complex, with its bars and theatre. We’d been delivered to the rear entrance by our taxi and went straight to the little bar and had a cheeky cocktail whilst waiting for our table time to come around. There was a wedding party having photos taken in the hotel but there was also quite a lot of people milling around, including a bunch of lads who suddenly appeared in sports kit and shorts, so it was a strange old mixture.

Our table at Filini Durham was at 7:30pm, so we wandered through. The entrance to the restaurant is just off the hotel reception area, but isn’t that prominently signposted. Quite surprisingly, there was no-one working front-of-house to greet us and show us to our table, we had to actively go to attract a member of staff’s attention. This was right down at the far end of the restaurant, where the point of sale stuff was. Our table had a name tag on it. Were they expecting us to wander in and just find our own table? I don’t know, but that is what it seemed like to me. The restaurant space is a large one, with the tables arranged in no particular order, and although a contemporary light jazz tape played background ‘muzak’, the place had little atmosphere. Some tables had candles, ours didn’t, again a little inconsistent. We ordered a bottle of pink prosecco (¬£25).

The Filini Durham menu was a little different from the one posted on their website. We’d had a sneaky look to pre-select what we’d like to eat, but a lot of the options were no longer there, so we had to choose again. Our two selections for starters were Italian Sausage (¬£6.50) and Crispy Oxtail (¬£8.50). The sausage came with onions and gravy. It was slightly spicy and not bad. The oxtail was presented in four cubes, which weren’t really crispy, except on the outside. They tasted a little strange. In the meantime, the wine had arrived, but it was just put on the edge of the table in a cooler. No-one asked if we wanted it opening. It was in a screw top bottle as well, maybe something else we were expected to do ourselves?

filini durham main course
For the main course, Mrs DFD had chosen Sea Bass (¬£17.95). I’d gone for a Sirloin Steak (¬£26.95). The Sea Bass was slightly pink but had a nice light texture. It was served on a bed of peas and carrots. The steak was cooked nicely to my medium/well done instruction, but was served on a wooden board with handle, which wouldn’t stay still on the table whilst I was trying to cut the meat. Very annoying! Both meals came with vegetable accompaniment. The baby carrots were served in a little glass jar and the roast potatoes and parmesan fries were also provided as a side, but both were completely lacking any form of presentation whatsoever. Not good really.

We did choose to have desserts, which were presented a little bit better: Chocolate ice cream (me) and Pannacotta (her), which were very nice but a little pricey at £5.75 and £5.95 respectively. The ice cream was garnished with mint, with strawberries and grapes. The Pannacotta had a nice firm consistency, although a little too firm for Mrs DFD. Finally, two cups of americano coffee to finish. These were good and strong.
filini durham desserts

Overall, we were quite disappointed by the experience of Filini. There was nothing to make you feel special as a customer, I could only describe it as like a restaurant with caf√© style service. I’m not criticising the waitresses who were pleasant and always accommodating, but it didn’t feel right and the quality of the food was very average for what was being charged. The bill came to ¬£103 altogether for the two of us, so not cheap. I don’t mind paying good money for good food, but felt short changed at the end of this.


Durham Food and Drink Rating
First Impression : 6, Service : 7, Food : 6, Value : 5

six

Filini Durham Restaurant,
Franklin Lane,
Durham
DH1 5TL
Tel: 0191 372 7200

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