North East

Leonard’s Coffee House, Durham

10 February 2008

Leonard’s is a wonderful coffee shop tucked away behind and beneath Durham’s cobbled streets. Head for Silver Street and look for the sign to Rumbletums.

Leonard's Coffee House, Durham

You’ll soon emerge into Fowler’s Yard, an unexpected and welcome little cubby hole full of “creative workspaces” on the banks of the Wear.  The other way to find this secret garden is to head down from Millburngate Bridge, towards the back end of the indoor market.

Leonard's Coffee House, Durham Leonard's Coffee House, Durham

Leonard’s is a boring name (no offence Leonard) for an interesting coffee shop.  But I’m thankful the eponymous person wasn’t tempted by an “o” suffix to make it sound that little bit more italian… it’s much more down to earth this way (just how I like things).

Leonard's Coffee House, Durham Leonard's Coffee House, Durham

Leonard’s was too busy for us at lunch time (on a Sunday); it’s obviously a popular place, overcoming the fact that there seems to be very little passing trade.  We came back at about 4pm when there were tables free.

It’s fairly small (cosy, certainly) with tables spilling out onto the quiet street . Sugar cubes are lumpy (a good thing) and the white mugs have an Escher-like windy style. The paper menus are wound up in mugs and there are other little details to spot as your eyes wander. There are even “pretty fairy lights that look like berries”, as one of my companions commented.

There is the usual coffee selection and the coffee is good. There is an array of delicious cakes, biscuits, muffins etc, and of course lunchtime food. And everything is good value.

The food is tempting, but if you just want to sit with a coffee this would be perfectly acceptable. Inside or out, it’s equally nice.

Leonard's Coffee House, Durham Leonard's Coffee House, Durham

Leonard’s oozes pride and detail. It’s the nicest coffee shop I’ve found in the region so far.


1 Back Silver Street
Fowler's Yard
Durham City
DH1 3RA.

We visited on 10 February 2008.

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  • Andrew Ashcroft 17 June 2008 at 11:43 am

    Hi, I work just across the road from Leonard’s and i suppose that makes me biased, but i agree that this is the best coffee shop in the area.
    I can also let you know that they do offer fair trade coffee and other items:-)

  • Louise 17 August 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Leonard’s is the best coffee shop in the area. The food is delicious, as is the coffee, and the staff are very friendly.
    A large reason as to Leonard’s having become my local coffee shop is that the cater for people who are gluton in tolerant, such as myself, and will volunteer information on what they can provide for you.
    In addition, they offer fair trade items.
    They also do the worlds best jacket potato’s. Ever!
    Just don’t tell your gran that 😉

  • Moira 9 May 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Lovely hot chocolate and cookies. Only down side is the tiny size of the cafe! Would be great in the summer when they open up the doors and you can sit outside. Highly recommended – if you can get a seat!

  • Sally Pillinger 30 May 2009 at 9:19 pm

    I think the name Leonards is great, but then I am a big Leonard Cohen fan!
    This is easily the best coffee shop in Durham. I’ve just spent a week in the City and, although there are other places with a better view, Leonards is friendly, does a great mocha and an absolutely fantastic scrambled egg.
    The small size adds to the cosiness of the place – a real hidden treasure.

  • Jonathan Ayre 26 August 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Leonard’s is the best coffee house in the region by far! And as for the name – only a select few will ever know the reason behind Leonard’s – it is far from a boring name 🙂
    The big fat bacon roll is the best breakfast ever!

  • Mark & Jude 17 September 2010 at 2:41 pm

    We’ve used Leonards for breakfast when staying in Durham (not wanting to pay hotel breakfast prices). Very good food, great ambiance and charming service. Highly recommended.

  • David Ballantyne 19 October 2010 at 11:16 am

    Leonard’s is my favourite coffee shop by far. I am something of a coffee enthusiast. Durham has a very good selection of coffee houses for a relatively small city. Leonard’s is the best. I don’t know if they do something different with their coffee but it is definitely the best I have tasted. The cafe itself is beautifully decorated and styled to a high standard. It’s a real treat to go there.

  • ‘Teapigs, Tetley, Tata and telling the absolute truth’ by The Foodie Gift Hunter | ThatBluebirdGirl 20 December 2012 at 4:13 pm

    […] while at university, long before Bluebird, as it was stocked in our local independent cafe, Leonard’s – the breakfast destination of choice after the early morning sessions on the […]

  • CoffeeFanatic 23 September 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Am originally from London and passionate about coffee. Have been to Leonard’s 4 times.
    Every time I’ve ordered a flat white or latte, and every time the milk is massively overheated, the latte art lacking or non-existent
    Result is thin milk with no texture and a coffee that’s mediocre at best. They use a blend from Pumphrey’s (spelling) in Newcastle that’s ok but again nothing special.
    Baristas seem to have a comparatively low level of skill.
    The decor is lovely, the food pretty good, and, if you’re after a nice place to have lunch, I’d have no hesitation in recommending it. But if you’re after a proper coffee, then I’d say it’s simply not appropriate. Would love to see them hire someone to train up their baristas properly and raise their game; the more places that can do this, the better!

    On the other hand, there’s Flat White, tucked away off the Elvet Bridge, which makes stunning flat whites (in small glasses) with perfect latte art and textured milk every time. Their coffee blend (Ouseborne Foundry blend 1), whilst not quite in the same league as Hasbean, Square Mile et al, is still far superior to that used at Leonard’s (and better made too). The owner used to work for the famous Antipodean ‘Allpress’ brand, and he and all the baristas are top class craftsmen.

    NB: I don’t work for Flat White, but having tried all the other cafe’s in Durham, I’ve voted with my feet (and palette lol). If anyone doubts me, take the pepsi challenge and try comparing for yourself 🙂

    Pink Lane and 9Bar in Newcastle are also both outstanding!

    • Cosy Coffee Shops 23 September 2013 at 1:04 pm

      Fab comment, thanks CoffeeFanatic.

    • Beanthere 8 December 2013 at 6:39 pm

      Sounds like Flat White should be on your map ?
      How about a proper review and a general map update, oh and as far as I know, Brown Sugar hasn’t been there for about 4 years. A site like this is great – if it’s kept up to date.

      I always liked Leonards as a step up from the usual chains, but I’m always keen to improve the experience so I’m off to Flat White next to see for myself.

      • Cosy Coffee Shops 9 December 2013 at 11:05 am

        Hi there, thanks for recommending Flat White (it’s already on our ‘go to’ list), and for letting us know that Brown Sugar has closed. We do our best to keep Cosy Coffee Shops (which is something we do for the love of it, in our spare time) up to date.