Note: This page is currently being updated for 2017.
Top ten lists are always a little controversial, even more so when you throw restaurants and food into the mix, having said that we thought we would try putting together a top ten list of places to eat in Durham. These are within Durham City itself, we know there are some fabulous restaurants in County Durham but they are for another day. Here are our top ten places to eat in Durham, displayed in no particular order.
If you are visiting Durham from out of town you might also be looking for info on what to do in Durham.
We would love to hear your feedback on the list, we’re sure some of you will agree with the restaurants we’ve gone with and some will strongly disagree! Either way we’d love to hear from all of you!
Top 10 Places to Eat in Durham
0191 383 9290
Sometimes we think this is a real hidden gem in Durham, that is until you try to walk in and get a table on a weekend and walk straight into a queue of people snaking down the stairs! La Spaghettata seems to have that perfect combination of good food, reasonable prices, great service and a lovely setting making it one of the better restaurants in Durham. The restaurant is a traditional Italian and the food is excellent, the oven baked Parmagiana and the salmon pasta in particular are very tasty.
A couple of things to note; access isn’t great as you have to go up a few flights of stairs to get to the restaurant, there doesn’t appear to be any disabled access at all. Also you cannot book ahead, it is first come first serve so have a back up plan and/or try to get there early to ensure you get a table because it will fill up.
0191 597 8774
Located right on the River Wear with great views of the Cathedral and Durham, occupying the building that used to house Numjai Thai, Central Thai offer good authentic Thai cuisine.
Now the location may offer spectacular views of Durham but it isn’t exactly the easiest restaurant to get to. If the Gates shopping centre is open then you can simply walk straight through to the restaurant, but on a night when the Gates is closed it can be a little tricky to find an alternative route; there are some stairs leading up from the riverside and you can also get to it from the bridge crossing the river.
Overall we feel that Central Thai is the best Thai food you can get in the center of Durham, the Thai Green Curry is very good as is the Pad Thai. They have some delicious and reasonably priced lunch specials too which are worth checking out. The inside of the restaurant is delicately decorated with traditional Thai designs which makes for a lovely setting.
Oldfields Eating House
Sadly Oldfields has closed it’s doors for the final time. Find out more here.
0191 370 9595
Oldfields Eating House offer traditional British food, promoting fresh local ingredients. The food is very good and though the prices may be a little higher than some of the restaurants on this list we feel it is very much value for money. Oldfields is located, like a lot of restaurants on our list, on Claypath just a short walk from Durham marketplace.
In recent months we have seen a lot of Groupon or Living Social deals for Oldfields which make a visit all the more appealing, we recently took advantage of an Afternoon Tea offer and it was excellent value (we even upgraded to the champagne Afternoon Tea).
Oldfield’s is a great place to meet, chat and chill out with a cappuccino, glass of wine or beer, with some of the best food in Durham.
Leonard’s Coffee Shop
0191 384 0647
Strictly speaking Leonard’s is more of a coffee house or bistro than a restaurant but it does serve some lovely food and it is a particular favourite of LoveNE so we’re including it.
Tucked away in the Fowler’s Yard area, so it will take some finding if you don’t know the area, it is absolutely worth searching for even if you are just looking for a relaxing cup of coffee or more of a light meal. Leonard’s is a fairly small place and it can get quite busy but on a nice day you can site outside with a cup of coffee and listen to the river flowing by.
If you manage to get into Durham early enough it is well worth heading down to Leonard’s for breakfast, the chunky bacon sandwiches or the eggs with smoked salmon are really worth the visit. Whether you are looking for breakfast, cake and coffee or a light lunch, Leonard’s is a great choice. Oh and the salted caramel chocolate brownies are unbelievably moreish!
0191 383 1390
The Fat Buddah is an Asian restaurant and cocktail bar, bringing dishes from all over Asia including Thailand, Malaysia and China. The restaurant itself is very roomy and has a great, almost decadent feel about it. The cocktail bar downstairs does some fantastic cocktails, though the beer selection is a little limited.
We have yet to have a bad meal at the Fat Buddah, we have had a couple of average ones however and the Thai dishes are in no way comparable to the quality you would get at Central Thai. That said the lunch menu is very reasonable and there is a decent choice, the Malaysian Chicken Curry being a particular favourite.
All in all the Fat Buddah is a lovely place in the centre of Durham, it is a great venue for couples, date nights and nights out with friends. Worth a visit if you are a fan of Asian cuisine.
0191 370 9999
Classic British with a modern twist
A lot of the restaurants on this list are located in the center of Durham City, Finbarr’s is a little further out though still just a 5 minute walk from the bus or train stations. Its location away from the busy city centre means there’s plenty of parking available and access for people in wheelchairs or parents with buggies/prams is very good.
The food on offer is excellent and there is always something to catch your eye even if you have been before, it is certainly not your run of the mill British restaurant as dishes like King Prawns with Crab Meat Stuffing and Oxtail Ragout with Wild Mushrooms & Roasted Onion Risotto will confirm.
The prices in Finbarr’s maybe a little on the high side, especially if you start adding wine to the bill, though not massively expensive and the food quality is so good that it makes it a great place for a special occasion or treat.
Finbarr’s is garnering a very good reputation as one of the finer restaurants in Durham so it is definitely worth visiting for anyone looking for somewhere a little bit special.
0191 384 4007
El Coto is by far the best Tapas restaurant available in Durham and has a deserved reputation for excellent service built up over the years. A little out of the way, much like Finbarr’s though across the other side of the city, El Coto is well worth taking the time to discover.
The food is authentic Spanish tapas, prices are very reasonable and the quality is excellent. Don’t be fooled by how small it looks from the outside as the restaurant is deceptively big.
The atmosphere and staff coupled with the great food and wine make El Coto an excellent place for a nice, relaxing meal.
0191 340 7209
Much like Leonard’s above Claypath Deli is more a cafe/bistro than a fully fledged restaurant but it more than deserves it’s place on this list. Claypath Delicatessen offer a wide range of carefully sourced produce to eat in and to take away, produce sourced locally as well as from Italy, Spain and France.
Claypath Deli is open for breakfast and lunch and offer something a bit different from the usual sandwiches and salads, like the hummus and slow roasted tomato sandwich or the classic NY deli sandwich with pastrami and swiss cheese.
There’s proper Italian coffee and hot chocolate too, so head up Claypath and find this “hidden” gem.
0191 386 8803
There are a few other Indian restaurants in Durham, like Alishaan and Spice Lounge, but for us The Capital is the best Indian restaurant in Durham. Having visited more than a few times we have yet to have a bad meal and the service has been top notch.
The Capital is not the biggest restaurant you will ever frequent, in fact it is very much on the small side, and it can get very busy so it is advised to book ahead if you can. The menu is pretty much your typical Indian menu with a few specials but the quality of the food is very good.
If you have a hankering for Indian food in Durham then I can heartily recommend heading up Claypath to The Capital, you won’t regret it.
0191 384 6777
Lebaneat is located on North Bailey, in the shadows of Durham Cathedral and it is definitely one of the better places to eat in Durham. Lebanese cuisine is not something that is particularly prevalent around the County Durham area so it is really refreshing to have a “different” restaurant putting out great tasting food.
The menu is extensive and includes a lot of lamb and chicken cooked with spices but you can also find more familiar items such as pizzas. Having a vegetarian wife one of the real pleasures of Lebaneat is the wide choice of vegetarian dishes. The couscous and vegetables cooked with traditional spices was very tasty.
The service is excellent and the prices are very reasonable.
Lebaneats is a very busy and vibrant restaurant, we would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a place to eat in Durham. Try to book ahead though to avoid disappointment.
So there is our list of the ten best places to eat in Durham, we would love to hear your thoughts on any of the places we have included or indeed any we may have missed off. If you are visiting Durham then you may also be interested in our guide on things to do in Durham.