I’m one of those people filled with hatred when walking past a Starbucks or Costa to see a queue of people waiting impatiently inside. Why fill the pockets of huge corporations when you can support the local industry? If it’s independent coffee shops and award winning baristas you’re searching for then York is a great place to be. Dotted amongst the chain coffee shops is a wonderful selection of cafes and tearooms. That said, here are my favourites:
Brew and Brownie (Museum Street)
Best for: Treating yourself to an indulgent breakfast
Proud to serve locally sourced Yorkshire produce, Brew and Brownie is a delightful addition to York’s ever-growing coffee culture. The café is what some may call ‘shabby chic’; modern furnishings are accompanied by brown paper menus and slate board specials.
Getting up for breakfast isn’t the easiest task, but I can assure you it’ll be worth it when you’ve sampled what Brew and Brownie has to offer. A popular choice is the American pancake stack, served with toppings such as maple syrup, streaky bacon and blueberries (it’s good, trust me). Offerings such as organic granola and Bircher muesli suit those of you looking for a healthier option.
For later in the day, Brew and Brownie’s sandwiches are served on locally made artisan bread and are delicious; the fillings are fairly classic but the quality and presentation is very good. Fillings include roast beef, horseradish crème fraiche and crispy onion, and mozzarella, basil and tomato. There are also salads on offer, which are a little pricier.
Things to note: the café is not open on Mondays. You might be paying a little more than at your average café, but the cosy environment and attention to detail at Brew and Brownie make it worth every extra penny.
Goji Café and Deli (Goodramgate)
Best for: A great selection of vegan and vegetarian food
Loved by vegans, vegetarians and healthy eaters alike, Goji is a vegetarian café that fills a niche gap in the market in York, offering vegan, gluten free and raw food in a cosy atmosphere. The menu includes salads, pastas, burgers and curries, not forgetting the daily selection of raw vegan desserts, with offerings such as chocolate fudge cake with cherries and pistachio, and raspberry, fig and pistachio cheesecake. Popular lunchtime options include the Goji hotdog and portobello mushroom and halloumi burger served with sweet potato wedges, all at reasonable prices. Drink-wise, don’t forget to try one of the flowering teas, which look and taste lovely. What’s more, Goji functions as a café during the day, but is also open during the evening serving a set price evening menu. If you’re still not tempted, there is also a 10% discount on all food and drink for students.
York Cocoa House (Blake Street)
Best for: All things chocolate
Chocolate is the order of the day for breakfast, lunch and dinner at York Cocoa House. As well as holding chocolate making workshops and exploring the history of York’s chocolate making industry, York Cocoa House also boasts a fantastic café.
Anywhere with a chocolate breakfast menu can’t be going too far wrong and there’s proof – the café holds the accolade of Visit York 2013 Cafe and Tea Room of the year. There is a vast selection of hot chocolates on offer, ranging from low to high cocoa percentages and also white chocolate. There are also ‘specialist’ hot chocolates if you’re interested in trying something new, including rose, peppermint and caramel. For something extra special, try the afternoon tea. You can sample their signature hot chocolate or cold chocolate, chocolate and cherry scones, rocky roads, and a selection of savoury chocolate items all for a bargain price of £13.50 per person.
For something a bit different, the chocolate savoury menu is full of interesting options containing chocolate in one form or another. Be sure to try the smoked salmon and wasabi cream with white chocolate and York Cocoa house rarebit, a dish of chocolate stout and Wensleydale rarebit.
Mannion and Co (Blake Street)
Best for: Upmarket tea and cake
One of my absolute favourites. From the moment you step inside, a glass counter of freshly baked sweet treats awaits you – think macaroons, meringues and delicate French patisserie. My particular favourites have been the passion fruit curd tart and chocolate éclair, although offerings change daily. Equally fantastic as the sandwiches, made from artisan bread baked on the premises every morning and filled with delicious fillings such as one of my favourites – bacon, brie and chutney. There is also a daily specials board. Other tempting options include the cured meat and cheese platter with homemade focaccia bread and chutneys. For breakfast I’d recommend the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, and for a light snack, don’t leave without trying a homemade sausage roll; you’ll never want to look at a factory made one again. In terms of drinks, the café serves Jeeves and Jericho loose-leaf teas, full of flavour and among the best I’ve tasted. One thing to note is that like Brew and Brownie, Mannions is only small; therefore it’s hit and miss whether you’ll be seated straight away. The wait, however, is usually no more than ten minutes and it’s well worth it. Conveniently, the two are only a few minutes walk away from one another.
Crumbs Cupcakery (College Street)
Best for: Cupcake lovers
This guide wouldn’t be complete without cupcakes. Crumbs Cupcakery is a cupcake lover’s heaven, serving a wide variety of delightful looking cupcakes in a variety of flavours. Combing a vintage décor with floral armchairs, you feel like you’re in the land of Cath Kidston; Crumbs Cupcakery is a typical cupcakery therefore don’t pay it a visit if you’re wanting anything else. However, do if you’re wanting a pretty picture to Instagram. The cupcakes are good value for £1.70, with a good amount of icing, not too much that they are sickly sweet, and a nice sponge. Flavours include red velvet, real fudge brownie, raspberry swirl cheesecake, and chocolate orange, and cupcakes are served on china plates with quaint miniature cutlery. There are also gluten free cupcakes available. There is also a selection of Teapigs teas, and homemade milkshakes on offer.
Spring Espresso (Fossgate)
Best for: A premium espresso
Nestled at the top of Fossgate, the street fast becoming the heart of York’s food and drink scene, is Spring Espresso. The café is perfectly suited for grabbing a coffee to take away, or alternatively, doing a bit of uni work on your laptop in a nice atmosphere (if that’s the sort of person you are.) If not, you could always admire the interesting photography that fills the walls. Spring Espresso take their coffee seriously, serving award winning Square Mile coffee and also artisan guest coffees that are made with love, care and technical skill. There is a good selection of delicious homemade cakes and sweet treats on offer that are made in house every morning. A good choice for premium quality coffee in a welcoming atmosphere; it’s no wonder it’s known as serving the best coffee in York.
Dyl’s café bar (Skeldergate bridge)
Best for: Hot Chocolate by the river
Nestled in the little motor house on Skeldergate Bridge, I stumbled across Dyl’s during the first few weeks of freshers, although had to make a return visit as it was closed due to flooding (it is situated literally right on the river.) You can sit outside by the river, or on one of the quaintly decorated three floors inside. The food on offer is mostly homemade scones and cakes, which are reasonably priced; the giant scones, fruit, apple and cinnamon or dark Belgian chocolate are great. There are also a few sandwiches, however perhaps try Brew and Brownie if you’re wanting a proper lunch. Dyl’s hot chocolate is their signature drink and one of the best I’ve tasted, and it’s clear why. It arrives as a glass of hot milk alongside a ramekin of Belgian chocolate drops; you can choose from milk, white or dark. The chocolate melts into the milk to make a silky smooth hot chocolate that is well worth a reasonable £2.80.
Harlequins (King’s Square)
Best for: Good coffee without the extra frills
It’s a shame that Harlequins isn’t particularly noticeable from the outside as it is well worth a visit. Once through the inconspicuous looking doorway and after navigating your way upstairs, you’ll find yourself in a bright and airy café popular with locals. Harlequins has a traditional coffee shop feel, more tearoom style than modern café. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that its offerings are unequal to that of the modern café in York; Harlequin serves great coffee and a good range of substantial food options. Its sister café, The Attic is situated one floor above, serving not only award winning coffee but also a range of quality bottled craft beers. This makes it a great option if you and your drinking partners have differing tastes.