#BestOfDurham: Cafés

8 cafés for 8 occasions

Phyllis Choi, café expert and student, shares her ultimate guide to Durham’s charming coffeeshops. 

Whenever I’m asked the question, ‘which in your opinion is the best café in Durham?’ I never really know how to respond, because our cozy little Durham bubble is literally scattered with awesome cafés. They’re actually one of the major reasons why I like Durham so much. So, instead of just talking about one café, I thought I’d make a list of a few of my personal favourites to recommend to those of you who enjoy café hopping.

The best café in Durham to:

1. Begin your café-hopping journey here at Durham: Flat White Café

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Located on Elvet Bridge near where Klute is, Flat White is a cosy artisan café. Their drinks and food dishes are all delightful and original and made from high-quality ingredients. The overall ambiance of the shop is lively and buoyant, and it’s just a very fab place to grab brunch! The menu is eclectic and the staff members are responsive and quirky –I personally consider Flat White to be one of the nicest cafés in Durham in terms of food quality, so if you’re a café hopper there’s no way you’re skipping out on this one. It’s just so good.

2. Take your vegan friends for some delicious vegan treats: The Jumping Bean Café

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The Jumping Bean Café, located on Neville Street, with its warm and laid-back interior is the best place to go to with your vegan friends (on par with the Green Guerrilla at the Market Square). Everything that’s being sold there is either vegan or can be made vegan. They sell a variety of toasties, sandwiches, stews and salads. They also do different types of lovely vegan cakes (3 out of 4 of their cakes are vegan), chocolate brownies and flapjacks which I personally highly recommend. Further, the staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the vegan lifestyle, and the café is scattered with little board games and magazines to keep you entertained when you’re chilling with your mates. The walls are also covered with photography and art, so it would definitely look good on your instagram.

3. Do some reading or light revision with friends: Vennels Café

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Situated in town right next to the Scorpio shoe shop, it’s got a quirky entrance and the best place to go to do some light reading or revision on your own, or with friends. It has an outdoor veranda, and two floors in the actual café, so you never have to worry about not being able to get seats. They sell home-made pies, breakfast meals and cakes as well as a variety of teas and coffees at an affordable price. The interior of the café is very homey and it kind of feels like you’re at grandma’s house; it’s pretty and quiet and just very relaxing.

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4. Grab ice-cream: Split and Glory

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Located on the top floor of Chapters, Split and Glory is the best place to grab ice-cream in Durham. With a fun interior like a retro diner, they do an extensive list of cheeky ice-cream flavours, as well as a variety of sundaes, smoothies and really nice banana splits – just the place for you to go and ‘treat yo’ self’.

5. Hold meetings: Lounge

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Located opposite to Tesco Metro in town, the Lounge café is very popular for holding society meetings and group revision sessions (or if you just want a really long chat you don’t have to worry about being asked to leave). This is because they open from 9am to 10pm (8pm on Sunday nights) whereas other cafés tend to close much earlier (around 5pm on weekdays). They sell delicious burgers, smoothies, and milkshakes, a variety of desserts (waffles and crepes) and good-quality, belly-warming breakfast dishes.

6. Chill out with friends on a lazy afternoon: Chapters Tea Rooms or 9 Altars

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Both are very good locations for you to grab coffee and catch-up with friends. Chapters Tea Rooms do very good light savoury dishes, and 9 Altars do a large variety of cakes, brownies and scones. In terms of location, Chapters is easier to spot as it’s on Elvet Bridge, and there are plenty of seats indoors as well as outdoors. As for 9 Altars, it is slightly harder to spot, but you only have to go down the stairs between Topshop and Café Rouge and it will be directly on your left. They also have an outdoor bit which looks out to the river, and its the best place to chill with a hot beverage in your hands!

7. Get really nice Belgian hot chocolate: Treats Coffee Shop

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I seem to encounter the same problem whenever I go to Treats, and that is: I get overwhelmed by the amount of options on the menu. Every time without fail. I always pop in for the standard Belgian hot chocolate with marshmallows, but I have yet to repeat the dish that I order with it. Their desserts and savoury meals are equally as delicious. I also really like this about Treats: they give you the option to customise and add flavours (ie. cinnamon, ginger) into your hot beverages! If you like to have a lot of options and love spicing up your coffee, Treats is the café for you.

8. Get fun and miscellaneous waffles: Waffley Good Company

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The best place to get waffles would be Waffley Good Company – located also on the Elvet Bridge. They do a variety of both sweet and savoury freshly made waffles, and they even allow you to do half sweet and half savoury if you’re simply feeling quite adventurous with your food! Highly recommended – go there for brunch after a rough night and you will be healed by the waffly goodness.

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