Flat White Durham Cafe Review

flat white bikeWe’d been wanting to try Flat White for such a long time, but when we walked past it was always either full or closed. The place is mega-popular! Then, a cunning plan was hatched – we’d go on a Sunday morning when everyone was still sleeping off their hangovers. We parked up on the little access road for Baths Bridge (parking is free there all day on a Sunday) and scuttled along the river bank past The Boat House, under Elvet Bridge and up past Klute nightclub (voted 2nd worst in Europe apparently, but haven’t been in since I was 18) to the cafe which is tucked into a little niche behind Vanmildert clothes shop. At first glance you’d think it is a suicidal place to put a business as there’s little to no footfall, but it works.

Outside is the famous Flat White Bike, and a couple of tables perched on a crazy angle as the road outside slopes back towards the river. We decided to go inside as although Spring had officially Sprung, the outside tables are still in the shade and it was still nippy at such an early hour.

 

Poking our head in the door, expecting there to be plenty of seats, we were astonished to find only one free table! Flat White is indeed much in demand, even at a silly hour on Sunday morning by people with hangovers. Seriously though, the place was rammed with people of all ages, some enjoying just a coffee and others going for food too. We’d had no breakfast, so decided to eat too.flat white durham inside

 

Inside Flat White is like someone has set up a cafe in a large shed. It’s L-shaped, arranged around the main counter. There’s all kinds of brick-a-brack adorning the walls and it’s very ‘busy’, but the decor in flat white just gives a feeling of homeliness and acceptance. Each rustic table has free newspapers and a clipboard with the menu on it. Not a lot of money has been spent on presentation here, but it doesn’t seem to matter as it all adds to the charm of the place. Don’t spend time waiting for waitress service (there isn’t any), you order the food at the counter and pay for it on the spot. It came to just a shade under £15.

We selected Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Egg on Toast (£6.50) for Mrs Durham Food and Drink, and I opted for Wensleydale Cheese and Mango Chutney Sandwich (£4.50). We both had an Americano Coffee (£1.85) to wake us up. Flat White Durham is one of these places that doesn’t serve op plates, they use (bread) boards. They use a paper sheet to cover and the food is served on top. Again, this fits in well with the rest of the quirkiness. Mrs DFD reported that the scrambled egg had ‘melt in the mouthiness’ and the salmon was first class too. My cheese sandwich was also really tasty, served in brown bread with crisps. The Wensleydale cheese was shaved thin like Parmesan and the Mango Chutney gave it that exotic almost West Indian feel.

flat white durham smoked salmon and scrambled egg on toast

flat white durham wensleydale cheese and mango chutney sandwich

We both decided we could probably spend a good deal of time in Flat White Durham. It could easily become our regular Sunday morning indulgence, just chilling and leafing through the Sunday Times whilst taking our early morning caffeine hit. A lovely place, tucked away where you’d least expect to find it.

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

Flat white Durham rated 8

Flat White Durham,
21a Elvet Bridge,
Durham,
DH1 3AA
Tel: 07789 951149

[su_gmap address=”Flat White DH1 3AA”]DH1 1WA[/su_gmap]

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Bells Fish Restaurant Durham

We called in at Bells Fish Restaurant Durham for lunch on Good Friday. The restaurant is on the corner of the Market Place and used to be Bimbis Fish Restaurant. The place has just been totally redecorated and looks great inside. Like the Gilesgate takeaway, the shop has a big feature of an ornamental fish tank just inside the door, with tropical fish. This seemed to keep the kids entertained nicely.

bells fish and chip restaurant durham

Bells Fish Restaurant Durham

No cheap ‘cafe’ style decor for us; no plastic tables or chairs. At Bells we feel that a world class dish, served in a world class city centre, should be served in a world class place. Hence our heavy investment in our restaurant on both equipment and fixtures and fittings.

At Bells we are proud to serve local people as well as guests from all over the world. You’re sure of a warm and friendly reception here at Bells. Just take a look at our menu and remember, at Bells we are now serving beers and wines too.

If you’d rather enjoy your fish & chips the ‘traditional’ way, our first class takeaway service is available just alongside our restaurant.

We had to queue for a while in the rain to get into Bells, but were able to jump the queue a bit as a table for two came up and those in front of us needed 3 or 4. Felt a bit guilty there as we passed them all in the queue; their faces seemed to harden slightly as we breezed past. The restaurant was fairly full, everybody from adults to babies in there! The seats are nice and comfy and there’s more room upstairs if the lower deck is overflowing (it was). The waitress (all were smartly turned out in their uniforms) took our order straight away. We stayed with traditional Cod and Chips with mushy peas, although there’s plenty to choose from on the menu, including Sea Bass, Salmon and Steamed Mussels. And dandelion and burdock is compulsory with fish and chips isn’t it, along with a slice or two of bread and butter? Oh, go on then.

We amused ourselves by pulling silly faces at the baby on the next table until our food came. All the while people were coming and going, but they seemed to have it all worked out, with a lad clearing tables to make sure new incomers had a clean place to sit, rather than staring at the previous leftovers for 5 minutes. The food took about 10 minutes to arrive, and was delivered on Bell’s fish shaped plates. That was totally effective, raising a smile and reminding us where we were. The cod was cooked beautifully, no soggy batter or bones, all nice and crisp. The chips were also nice and dry, and the mushy peas were a perfect paste consistency. Time to nip our noses and dive in! We stayed for about a half hour, but they were still queuing outside in the rain, so we didn’t hang about any longer and let someone else have their turn to dry out and feast their faces. I was still feeling a bit guilty about jumping the queue to be honest 😉

bells fish and chip restaurant durham

Price was £24 for two, which wasn’t cheap, but when you consider that fish and chips for two from a normal chippy will cost best part of 12 quid these days, without the sit down, drinks and service, it wasn’t too bad.

Bells have got things very right with their Durham restaurant. The food is very nice, the menu extensive and the service is fast, efficient and polite. Recommended if you don’t mind queuing to get in.

Bells Fish Restaurant Durham,
11 Market Place,
Durham,
DH1 3NE
Tel: 0191 384 8974

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


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

Bells fish restaurant Durham rated 8

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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

[su_gmap address=”Millburngate, DURHAM, DH1 4SL”]Millburngate, DURHAM, DH1 4SL[/su_gmap]

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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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[su_gmap address=”DH1 4JJ “]Vanilla Mamas Durham DH1 4JJ[/su_gmap]

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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 flazen durhammes 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

Gallery
Photo Gallery

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[su_gmap address=”Zen DH1 3JS”]Zen Durham DH1 4JJ[/su_gmap]

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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 café, 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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