Café Royal – Afternoon Tea

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Last month I wrote a review of Café Royal, the place I had originally wanted to be my first blog post but I chickened out of taking any photos, because I was a scaredy cat. This has been one of my favourite places in Newcastle since my lovely friend Heidi introduced me to it back in 2003.

I’ve eaten breakfast, brunch and lunch there on countless occasions, stopped for a coffee or a pot of tea and a slice of cake after traipsing around town on a busy Saturday afternoon, but I’ve never been for afternoon tea… Until now!

Afternoon Tea is served from 2.30-5.30, Monday-Friday and costs £25 for two with tea or coffee and £30 for two with Prosecco. We opted for tea and coffee, this won’t surprise anyone who knows me. My mum (who is incidentally a veggie) was my dining companion and I was very interested to see what would be on the menu for her. She’s not a fussy vegetarian, she just appreciates it when there’s an effort made for veggies, rather than a cheese or egg & cress sandwich.

We were shown to a table upstairs (I’ve never sat there before) and I was very happy to see there was a nice little spotlight in the ceiling right above my chair – no dark photos.

Our menus were laid out in front of us so I thought we had to make some choices but was informed we got one of everything on the menu. At this point I realised I was pretty hungry. There were a few things on the menu that I was excited to try, things I’ve not eaten a lot, like smoked trout, crab and blue cheese.

Mum’s menu looked great too, I could tell she was impressed before the food had even arrived – that’s quite some feat, seriously.

Now for the food photos!

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Wild mushroom, red pepper relish & goats curd granary roll

Wild mushroom, red pepper relish & goats curd granary roll

Pickled beetroot, horseradish cream & beetroot blini

Pickled beetroot, horseradish cream & beetroot blini

Spiced crab & coriander tart

Spiced crab & coriander tart

Caramelised shallot tart tatin with mordon blue cheese

Caramelised shallot tart tatin with mordon blue cheese

Courgette, feta & coriander pancake

Courgette, feta & coriander pancake

Smoked trout, horseradish cream & beetroot blini

Smoked trout, horseradish cream & beetroot blini

Chorizo, manchego & romesco on toasted focaccia

Chorizo, manchego & romesco on toasted focaccia

Caramelised onion & mature cheddar scone

Caramelised onion & mature cheddar scone

Raspberry scone

Raspberry scone

Lemon & passion fruit custard tart

Lemon & passion fruit custard tart

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Chocolate & Earl Grey cake

Chocolate & Earl Grey cake

Coconut & mango rice pudding with pistachio

Coconut & mango rice pudding with pistachio

I realise there are a lot of photos but the food was so well presented, I got carried away. It happens.

My absolute favourite savoury item was the smoked trout, horseradish cream & beetroot blini. I’ve never (knowingly) eaten trout before, it was delicious – not too smokey and just perfect, paired with the horseradish cream. SMOKED TROUT. Who knew?! Mum’s favourite was the courgette, feta and coriander pancake.

The trio of desserts were little morsels of decadence. It’s too hard to pick a favourite, not that anyone is actually asking me to do that, but if I could eat one right now it would be the lemon & passion fruit custard tart. The coconut & mango rice pudding with pistachio was mum’s favourite. She had left the chocolate & earl grey cake until last and said she was too full to eat it, one second later I heard her say ‘ooh it’s not too chocolatey and you can really taste the earl grey’.  Delicious.

I love the variety & combination of things on the menu. I also love the thought that’s been put into this afternoon tea, it’s not like anywhere else I’ve been. There’s nothing wrong with those afternoon teas of course, it’s just refreshing to see something entirely different.

Exciting news… I’ve been informed by head chef Gavin that they’re launching High Breakfast very soon, an afternoon tea type of concept for breakfast – this could possibly be my favourite thing ever. Keep your peepers peeled for news on when that’s launching!

I really enjoyed afternoon tea at Café Royal and I’ll definitely be back (let’s be real, I’ll be there for brunch in-between afternoon tea visits), if you’re looking for a new place to try afternoon tea I think this is just the ticket. Make sure you call up and book beforehand! Would love to hear what you think if you go or have already been.

* This afternoon tea was free of charge for review purposes, but as with everything on my blog, my opinions are 100% honest*  

Anna Hedworth – The Grazer

I first met Anna the week she opened her amazing new venture Cook House (in 2 adjoining shipping containers!) back in August last year. I popped along with my mum for breakfast, you can read about that here.

Anna started out by writing a food blog, The Grazer which has become, in Anna’s words, her ‘food-life journal’. In addition to running Cook House, which serves breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, Anna also runs her own dining events from supperclubs to pop-up kitchens and markets. Cook House is also home to a small Food School programme. As part of the Food School, I saw Charlotte from Charlotte’s Butchery break down a full lamb, which was amazing.

Anna has been featured in Marie Claire, The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Living North to name a few and has been shortlisted for too many awards to mention. Busy girl! I was chuffed to bits when she kindly agreed to take some time out of her hectic schedule to feature on my blog.

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1. Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you get started with The Grazer?

I started writing The Grazer in 2011, I began it as an online archive of recipes that I made and enjoyed. I still use it as that myself, looking things up on it when I want to cook, so from my point of view it is very useful! Other people seem to think so too which is nice, and it currently gets about 10,000 views a month, so hopefully people find it useful and cook from it, which was always the idea. Sometimes people send me pictures of things they have made from it and I love it! It has led to all kinds of other food projects since I began too, such as my seasonal Graze markets, starting supperclubs, working with the National Trust and loads of other interesting people…

2. How did Cook House become a reality – how long was this in the making?

In my head I have been planning it since around the time I started my blog, but it was always a bit of a pipe dream. I still had a lot to learn and financially opening a restaurant is a huge undertaking, which I couldn’t afford. In reality it was last February that I decided to leave my job in architecture and set up in the shipping containers on Ouse street. It was a way of starting out that didn’t cost much and didn’t involve huge overheads and suddenly it all just fell into place. I left my job in May and opened in August. Then people actually came, which was a relief! The cafe has a steady trade, of people working in and around the Ouseburn or people coming specifically to visit me, and the supperclubs are hugely popular, I have bookings well into the year now.

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3. You change your menu daily – what’s been the most popular Cook House lunch so far?

People seem to like pretty much everything I’ve put on so far, thankfully. Things like game terrines and potted meats are popular, and the salt beef bagels; they go down a treat. The salads are popular too, I make 2 or 3 hearty imaginative salads everyday, which I think you struggle to find elsewhere. People love the homemade cordials too, especially the ginger one.
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4. Your blog, Cook House, supperclubs, pop-up kitchens, markets, food school – how do you manage to fit this all in and still have time for friends/family?

Well I do struggle, I work hard and a lot of hours but I enjoy it and I want to be successful at what I do so it’s worth it. Since opening Cook House I’ve had a lot less time to socialise, but luckily people can come and see me at work and have lunch, and my friends and family love eating and drinking so it all works out ok!

5. What advice can you give to budding food bloggers – where should they start?

With reading, other well written blogs, and books in general. The importance of really good writing is overlooked sometimes I think. A blog might be chatty and quick and daily, but it still needs to be informative and well written. Spelling, grammar and punctuation are all hugely important in my eyes. Lovely pictures too, I think good photography makes a huge difference to a blog. I looked at lots of other blogs and websites before I began mine, taking note of which sites I liked and why and then incorporating those ideas. I love Recipe Rifle at the moment, a very entertaining good read…

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6. Tell us about teatime at Anna’s – what’s your favourite thing to cook?

I’ve been cooking a lot of Chinese food recently, from Fuscia Dunlop’s book, Every Grain of Rice. It’s not a style of cooking that I have dabbled in much, but I’m really enjoying it. Dumplings, stir fried Chinese greens, braised belly pork with ginger and star anise and a chicken and peanut dish have all been delicious. I go to the big Chinese supermarket in town and stock up every week or so.
 
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading! Is anyone else hungry now?
 

*Photographs provided by Anna*

Café Royal

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Café Royal will always and forever remind me of my good friend Heidi who introduced me to this hidden gem back in 2003 (I realise it’s very well-known now). I remember being shocked that I’d never heard of it, yet it was so close to Monument (I used to spend all of my spare time & money in Waterstones – which then became H&M and has recently closed down). Thanks Heidi!

When I started my blog last year, I wanted Café Royal to be the first place I featured. Off we went, very early one saturday morning, we ordered breakfast and I just couldn’t bring myself to take any photos (even though I had taken my camera out of my bag). It was already full with hungry diners and when a man glanced over, I assumed he hated me because I had a camera. Paranoid or what?! So a year later, I thought it was time to take some pics! I did get some funny looks, but I never photograph other diners so carried on doing my thing.

Located on Nelson Street, opposite the Grainger Market and a minute’s walk from Monument, it’s always been a favourite of mine over the years. I always turn up with the expectation that I’ll have to wait to be seated. It’s always busy, no matter when I go, which speaks volumes really. It’s an SJF establishment, but doesn’t feel like part of a chain at all. If anyone asks me where to go for breakfast/brunch in town, this is always my first suggestion.

Not surprisingly, I went for breakfast with my friend Julie and as always we discussed our food choices at length so there was no chance of food-envy :) I usually opt for Eggs Benedict/Florentine or Scrambled Eggs… but on this occasion I picked Waffles with Bacon & Maple Syrup and Julie chose the Café Royal Big Breakfast. I fancied a fruity juice as well as coffee so ordered the Berry Nice (I think that’s what it was called) and a Flat White. Tea for Julie. Obv.

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The waffles and bacon were both crispy and delicious and there was more than enough maple syrup (I do worry about running out, there’s nowt worse than a dry waffle). I know this is going to sound odd, but despite really enjoying my food, I wish I’d chosen Scrambled Eggs or Eggs Florentine like I usually do – they’re just so good. Julie’s breakfast looked great, Blagdon sausages, dry cured bacon, fried egg, beans and local black pudding. The toast arrived after I’d taken photos and it seemed cruel to make her wait any longer to eat. The verdict was that it was tasty and filling. The black pudding was softer than Julie’s preference and the beans were very different. I wish I’d tasted the beans – I do love homemade baked beans.

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I hope Fog on the Tyne is available next time I go in!

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Helpful! I usually pick a latte but didn’t feel foamy.

Once you’re seated you order at the till, where there’s a huge array of delicious items to tempt you. I now regret not getting a few things to bring home. Namely, a chocolate florentine and a cheese scone.

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I’ll take one of everything, please.

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Hiya

After realising he'd been snapped in the last photo, I got a full-on pose from this friendly chap!

After realising he’d been snapped in the last photo, I got a full-on pose from this friendly chap!

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I’m most likely to visit Café Royal for breakfast/brunch but lunch has always been brilliant too. I’ve not had the Afternoon Tea yet but it’s at the top of my list. It looks great and £25 for two is fine by me! It’s served from 2.30-5.30pm, Monday-Friday.

I’ve had both great service and average service during my countless visits, but it’s never been bad and I always go back… I love the feel of the place, as well as the delicious food. If you’ve not been, do pop along. If you’re going for breakfast maybe I’ll come with you!  Would love to hear what you think if you’ve already eaten here :)

What should I order on my next visit?

Curious Leaves – Grainger Market

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Mrs Pumphrey’s Curious Leaves Tea Shoppe is now open for business within Newcastle’s Grainger Market. Part of the Pumphrey’s Coffee family, Curious Leaves is all about the tea!

With lots of speciality teas to choose from, you can either sit in and sip (like I did) or buy a bag of tea to enjoy at home (OR BOTH).

I decided to go with the Indian Breakfast Tea (with milk) – I’m of Indian heritage and it was breakfast time. Made perfect sense at the time. The barista also brought over a timer to let me know when my tea would be ready to drink. Of course it took me ages to realise my timer had gone off and was beeping at me.

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There are also tasty-looking food items to go alongside your brew of choice, but for reasons unbeknownst to me, I didn’t eat ANYTHING during my visit. If I had to choose now, I would have a toasted scone or a slice of cake. Carrot cake. I did get to sample the lemon and ginger tea though, complete with a tiny slice of lemon. Delicious. The ginger wasn’t too overpowering which I much prefer, more lemon, less ginger.

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I’ll have one of each please.

This location in the Grainger Market is a lot quieter than Pumphrey’s, which I liked. I ended up chatting with the lovely girls working (hi Amy and Lidia!) and also made friends with a very sweet lady who sat on the bench next to mine.

Amy informed me that you can BLEND YOUR OWN TEA to take away! The way she explained it was: a lot of the teas have health benefits but might not taste great on their own so you can blend with something that’ll taste lovely. e.g. Echinacea Herbal Infusion could be blended with Lemon & Ginger Herbal Infusion in the nifty blender.

The blender!

The blender!

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At the bar, there are 4 stools for tea drinkers and little bowls with loose tea in for you to look at (and sniff, if you’re like me). I sat in one of the little booths – there are three of those available, so yep it is pretty tiny but they’ve definitely made the most of the space they have.

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I’ve got both of these at home – delicious.

If you’re a Grainger Market obsessive (there are many of us, I know!), or are just passing through, stop by Curious Leaves for a cuppa and a slice of cake. I’m going back soon to get some tea blended. I’m very tempted by the combo Amy suggested!

I think I’ll also go for a pot of flowering Jasmine tea – just look how pretty it is!

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Curious Leaves are on Instagram and Twitter – follow them!

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Let me know if you do pop in for a cuppa or if you create your own special blend of 3 teas – I need inspiration!

Before I go, I’ll leave you with these wise words…

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Maxine Ashleigh – Little Miss Delicious

I first heard about Little Miss Delicious from my friend Julie, which won’t be a surprise to any of you who know Julie! Little Miss Delicious is an independent online shop that specialises in handmade jewellery made from polymer clay, as well as accessories and apparel that are so adorably kawaii. I’m talking pizza slices with cute little faces on, or a charm bracelet with brightly coloured donut charms (WITH SPRINKLES!), I could go on and on and on!

Maxine Ashleigh is the owner and brains behind Little Miss Delicious, she runs designs and hand makes each item herself! Maxine took time out of her hectic schedule to answer some questions for me :)

Maxine Ashleigh

How did Little Miss Delicious come to exist?

I first started making jewellery when I was 15, but back then it was very different to the designs now! As soon as I discovered polymer clay I fell in love. The freedom to be able to create something completely unique from a lump of brown clay was just amazing, and I haven’t looked back since. At first I made items for myself and friends, but soon other people started asking where they could purchase my designs so I set up an online shop, and it’s continued to grow ever since! By the time I was ready to leave university, I was lucky enough that my business was already at a point where I was able to go full time straight away, and it’s been my full time job for 5 years now!

LMD Pieces

Little Miss Delicious pieces before they’ve been glazed

What has been your biggest inspiration? 

I find inspiration everywhere – from a certain colour combination, a food I’m craving or even just while brain storming ideas. I’ve always had a huge sweet tooth and so my designs come from my love of all things cute, while incorporating lots of my favourite foods. Pinterest is quickly becoming one of my favourite places for inspiration – it’s full of so many cute and yummy food pics, I’m a little addicted! You can find me there at – pinterest.com/lmdelicious

How do you manage to fit everything into your working week! Could you give us a little peek into a day in the life of LMD?

I’m honestly not sure haha! My average day is very hectic, and tends to involve working at least 15-18 hours a day. My day tends to start with replying to emails, updating social media and scheduling posts for the rest of the day. As well as running LMD, I also run social media for other brands too, so this can take anywhere from half an hour to 3 hours depending on how much online work I have to do that day. Then I spend the afternoon either sculpting, painting or sewing depending on what is on the schedule for that day (my days are planned out with very in depth to do lists and schedules to keep me organised!). I package and post orders around 4pm, then once I get back from the post office it’s right back in my studio sculpting, painting or sewing until it’s time for bed! I give myself a hour after work to relax before I sleep, a few hours to cook dinner and do any cleaning, as well as little breaks through the day for kitty cuddles!

What’s the main challenge about being your own boss?

I’ve definitely found it a struggle to get the right work/life balance. It can be very easy to forget when to stop working and neglect everything else, so I’ve started trying to take at least one day a week off – but it’s so hard when you love your job and just want to work 24/7!

You’ve created so many tasty little characters, do you have a favourite?

That’s such a hard question! I love all of them, but I think the Double Scoop Ice Cream and Home Slice Pizza’s are definitely up there as favourites. They were some of the first things I ever made, and although they’ve changed drastically over time they’ve still got a special place in my heart.

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Look at them!

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An actual battenberg necklace ladies and gentlemen!

Do you have any advice for creative crafters out there who want to start up their own business?

The first step is to make sure it is something you really want to do and something you are very passionate about as it’s very difficult to establish a stable income, so be prepared for some hard times, even if you have lots of funding right from the start.

One of the most important pieces of advice I think anyone can give to someone thinking about starting their own craft related business is to create something original. Find a way to put your own signature mark on it. For me, I find the way I paint the faces on my pieces and the colours I use help identify them as my brand, and I can’t stress how important it is to be able to create something identifiable. I also make sure I do a quick search online when I have new ideas to make sure there isn’t anything similar already out there, and if there it is means I can take appropriate measures to make sure it’s as different as possible, or change my idea completely. The fashion world and many other business areas are extremely competitive, with new brands popping up all the time, but if you can bring something new to the table then you’ll go far!

Starting your own business is not easy, there is a lot of hard work and long hours involved. However, the more work you put it, the stronger your business will be, so it all pays off!

I’ve done various blog posts with lots of tips for small businesses, which cover different areas such as taxes, social media and pricing. Definitely worth a look if you’re thinking about setting up your own business – FAQs.

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In actual love with these kawaii coasters!

Lots and lots of thank you’s to Maxine for featuring, hope you’ve enjoyed reading.

To see more of Maxine’s delicious little creations you can find Little Miss Delicious here:

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*All photos have been taken from the Little Miss Delicious FB page with Maxine’s permission*

Post Box Ponteland

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Post Box is the brand new café that has just opened on Main Street, Ponteland. Sandwiched in-between Bridgfords and Ponteland Tandoori, Post Box really stands out – it might be something to do with the pretty red bench outside, freshly painted front and kilner jar lights hanging in the window.

My friend Sarah and I have had this in the diary for quite some time and went along this morning – on their opening day.

Inside, the decor is cosy and inviting. Exposed brickwork, a wall made from scaffolding boards, wooden floorboards and loads of natural light from the lovely big windows. Next time I go, I’m definitely aiming for one of the window booths.

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A wall made of scaffolding boards!

A wall made of scaffolding boards!

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Post your comments cards here!

Post your comments cards here!

We had a quick look at the menu and made our choices, I hadn’t eaten breakfast so ordered Eggs Benedict whilst Sarah picked a slice of Victoria Sponge. Post Box serves Ouseburn Coffee (readers of my blog will know this is my favourite) which I was already thrilled about… imagine how happy I was when my cappuccino came with a little square of chocolate tiffin. On the second page of the menu there was a “Clean Eating” section which Alex (whose exciting venture Post Box is, along with business partner Hayden) explained would appear on the blackboard on the wall, in the next few weeks and options would change every few days. Loving this idea. The team will also start serving Afternoon Tea in the next couple of weeks. YESSS.

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Just like us, lots of people have been waiting for Post Box to open, so I wasn’t surprised to see a steady stream of excited customers coming in for a peek & a cuppa. The team have been posting teasers on their Facebook page for a few months now so it almost felt like I’d been there before.

The staff were helpful, attentive AND they offered to pose for a photo when they spotted me awkwardly trying to take a picture of the counter. Thank you!

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A closer look at the cakes...

A closer look at the cakes…

I went to school in Ponteland and lived there for about 10 years, working in Safeway (RIP) after school and at weekends. People in Ponteland still recognise me from my Safeway days. Ha ha. MEMORIES (although, that stripy white and green uniform should be forgotten). That was over 15 years ago and very little has changed in Ponteland Village in that time, so I’m sure locals will be very happy about this new venture. I am.

The opening hours are 8am-8pm, every day, which suits me just fine. Quite often after work I really fancy a nice cup of coffee and somewhere cosy to catch-up with friends… this is just the ticket. Alex also told us that they’ll be hosting a variety of classes in the evenings, creative writing and origami were mentioned amongst others (which I’ve forgotten).

It’s clear Alex and Hayden are perfectionists, have put loads of work into this and have thought about every last detail. They’ve spent over a year doing their research, looking at cafes at home and abroad as well as working with their chef and coffee roasters to create something that really fits in Ponteland. It’s paid off. I like that they’re not rushing to do everything at once. The team are brand new, getting used to their new surroundings and the service was already great, I look forward to my next visit!

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you decide to pop in.

Bill’s Restaurant, Durham

Ever since my friend (who lives in Lewes) told me about Bill’s, I’ve wanted to go. I love their story, oh and the food looked rather delicious… I was chuffed to bits when she told me they were opening up in Durham.

Bill’s opened their doors in Durham about a month ago and is located on Saddler Street in a Grade II listed building. It’s right in the centre of town and dead easy to find, nestled in amongst the cute little shops.

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My friend and I went along this morning for a late breakfast. Breakfast is what Bill’s first became famous for, so I knew my first trip had to be for breakfast (I love breakfast food for any meal, often dinner). Having checked out the menu beforehand, I was really looking forward to it but typically hadn’t been able to make up my mind. Life is hard.

Bill’s fits in very well in Durham. It looks like it’s always been there. From the outside, I was expecting it to be quite small and cosy… I was right about the cosy part, but small it most certainly is not. The decor is a style I like and have seen in lots of places over the past few years – eclectic furniture, lots of wood, vintage style chandeliers, painted brick walls, exposed metal work. There are also shelves full of Bill’s groceries for sale, you can even order groceries from a tick-list from the comfort of your table. I was tempted by the pink lemonade, just look at how pretty it is.

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We ordered coffees, had a quick look at the menu and then the very lovely Henry showed me around the place so I could snap some pics. There are two main dining areas plus a private dining room which is gorgeous and bright with a great view. They’ve also begun work on an outdoor terrace, which will be lovely for the summer.

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Our coffees arrived while we perused the breakfast menu again. I picked the blueberry & buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and bacon (after a lot of inner turmoil choosing between this and eggs florentine) and my friend ordered the granola with yoghurt, plus some toast because “granola is too healthy”. Ha!

Ready for food photos?

LOOK AT THE BACON! This was the right choice for sure. Perfectly crispy bacon and thick blueberry pancakes soaked in maple syrup. I could have done with a little pot of maple syrup on the side for good measure. Luckily for me the granola & yoghurt came with a small pot of warm honey which my friend didn’t want. I took it.

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We sneaked a look at the lunch & dinner menu and there is a great selection to choose from. When there’s a combined lunch & dinner menu, it’s hard to get the balance of options right but this works. I’ve got my eye on the mac ‘n’ cheese with butternut squash. Or the burger. Or the cod fish finger sandwich. They’ve also got a really comprehensive Allergen Menu  to comply with new requirements – super helpful & lots of gluten free options from the looks of things.

I know Bill’s is a chain – but it doesn’t feel like one, nor does it look like one and most importantly it doesn’t taste like one. Maybe I’d feel differently if I’d known and loved Bill’s before they were bought out. The staff were attentive, friendly and given they were rushed off their feet, service was mostly quick. Our second coffees took a while to arrive but we were busy eating and talking so I didn’t mind too much. Henry brought them over and apologised for the delay. The place was packed, people without reservations were turned away as all tables were accounted for.

If you happen to be in Durham and looking for something tasty, I’d recommend paying Bill’s a visit. It’s definitely worth booking ahead to avoid disappointment. Their phone number is 01913 867 672 (or you can email durham@bills-email.co.uk). I’ll be back soon, I couldn’t wait and posted a photo on my Instagram earlier today so I’ve already got a few friends who are interested in a trip to sample the menu.

Would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve already been!

* Our meals were provided free of charge for review purposes, but as with everything on my blog, my opinions are 100% honest*