Ah, the sun is out shining, restaurant doors are opening, and rooftop terraces are booming… things are almost back to where they should be. The world of food and drink is slowly restoring itself, as eateries in Durham city centre are popping back open, refurbished, and ready to go.
It’s been a while since any of us have felt that sense of normality, and with exams being over and summer finally feeling like it’s in reaching distance, the normality of indoor dining is refreshing. Watching the queues forming outside the Food Pit, with a new Mediterranean bar having opened just next door and the Cosy Club’s terrace being a hot-spot over the river, the Riverwalk is competing with the North Bailey as the go-to dinner spot.
And let’s not forget the burger diners opening up soon too – adding to Fat Hippo and Tango’s love-list are two new hotspots on either side of the river: The Burger Pit, opening alongside Turtle Bay on the Riverwalk, and a new spot we’re waiting to hear more about, that’s replacing the beloved Esquires, directly opposite what will be set as another firm favourite at the edge of Framwellgate Bridge, Rib ‘n’ Reef – a steak and seafood spot opening up by the owner’s of Akarsu Turkish Grill.
So with burgers, seafood, all-time favourite bottomless brunches, and the new gin-tasting spots dotted around town, it finally feels as if Durham is returning to normal, coming back to life after a hibernation pulled through by Deliveroo and UberEats.
Perhaps you could start your day with the iconic pancakes or avocado toast at Riverview Kitchen. For regular customers before the pandemic, returning to their indoor seating area may feel like a déjà vu. Those lucky enough to bag a window seat can glance out onto the famed river view, people-watching as people row leisurely down the river. Better yet, when dogs join their owners for brunch, you have the privilege of dog-spotting and making a few new friends. After a long hiatus of collection-only, Riverview Kitchen seems to be bouncing back and thriving again. Though long, the queue outside the restaurant moved quickly and efficiently even for walk-ins, and the indoors was not congested. And the best part is, several of the uniquely Riverview touches remain intact: from the warm and friendly service, to my personal favourite — the free Daim candy with a hot drink.
And after celebrating the end of examinations (those 24-hour monstrosities) why not head to Cosy Club with your friends and loved ones? Located next to the Odeon cinema on the Riverwalk, the Cosy Club is especially popular on weekends – try to make a booking if possible, but you can also walk in and get a table quickly. For the aspiring influencers among us all, their vintage-inspired, Victorian decor offers several photo opportunities. Their food menu is fairly extensive, including vegetarian and gluten-free options, but somewhat more expensive than other places, but the very generous portions are worth the price for special occasions. Stuff yourself to your heart’s content with The Golden Dame Burger, which features a decadent Mac & Cheese patty and succulent fried chicken in a thick brioche bun (and comes with fries). And why not celebrate a good meal with drinks? Their espresso martini is perhaps one of the best in Durham – chocolatey and with a potent espresso flavour. On a hot summer’s day, their non-alcoholic mocktails are also very refreshing.
Especially in the heat of summer and post-exams bliss, the re-opening of indoor dining is an exciting (and mouth-watering) prospect for us. That being said, indoor dining is contingent on the Covid-19 cases in Durham and safety measures like contact tracing, the rule of 6, and masks indoors. So while tucking into delicious meals and sipping away at drinks in the sun, let’s be mindful of the restaurants that are working hard to stay safe against Covid-19.