Bean Social is a discrete, hidden gem, tucked away along the top of North Road. The vegetarian café and coffee shop is cosy, intimate and immerses you in an oasis of calm as soon as you step inside. From the fairy lights strung along the window to the comfy, low chairs tucked into each nook of the room, Bean Social feels like a home away from home.
After a long day, Bean Social is the place to go for a detox from the hectic day-to-day life in Durham. The soothing atmosphere, low lighting and accommodating servers render the café the perfect place to go when in need of some self-care, a catch up with friends, or a quiet space to get some work done.
When my friends and I visited Bean Social for the first time, the seating in the main room was all taken up. We thought we would have to come back another time, but the members of staff kindly offered us a seat in the ‘secret garden’ instead. This little spot was beautiful and transported us to an entirely different realm: you’d swear you were anywhere except North Road.
A small water feature trickled softly nearby, garden gnomes had their ceramic feet sunk into the soil of the flowerbed, and planters packed with ivy hung around the hand-painted wooden slates. Our coffees were brought to us in delicate, double-walled glasses. The flavour of my mocha was earthy and intense, mellowed by rich, sweet notes of cocoa. The drinks were served alongside a little plate of sugar cubes and miniature tongs.
As well as the delicious coffee, Bean Social boasts a wonderful menu of fresh food, with endless choices to suit vegetarian and vegan diets alike. Savoury options include sandwiches, paninis and burgers (including the choice of vegan cheese!), and for the cold, wintery months there is also the offer of hearty soups. In addition to all this, there is a glass counter generously laden with freshly baked cakes.
Not to be missed is the highly popular breakfast menu. Until 12, you can feast on fluffy crumpets, posh beans, light omelettes and overnight oats served with mixed berries. If you’re not out of bed early enough to make breakfast, then you should try their stone-baked pizzas made in-house. They have a wide variety of unusual but scrumptious toppings, including pan-fried garlic halloumi strips, falafel, veggie sausage and sweet potato pakora. If you want delicate flavours and food that feels like home, then this is the place to come.
From start to finish, the experience at Bean Social felt otherworldly and fairy tale; as if I was having afternoon tea in a doll’s house. When you look up at the canopy that cradles the ‘secret garden’ in its cosy embrace, there are zigzags of string lights intertwined with glow in the dark stars. On the rusty tintable, there is a small selection of travel sized board games and packs of cards for you to help yourself to. I felt much more like I was a guest staying in a relative’s house than a customer sitting in a café.
If you’re bored of Starbucks and ready to branch out to something new, or somewhere to take your veggie friends, give Bean Social a go – I can guarantee that you won’t regret it.
Images: Josie Lockwood