Yorkshire and The Humber

Gatehouse Coffee, York

8 August 2009

Us York-ites are spoilt for choice when it comes to indie coffee shops.  As if we needed another, up pops Gatehouse Coffee, one of the most interesting cafés you could wish to find.

Gatehouse Coffee, York

It’s nestled into Walmgate Bar, one of York’s many ancient sites (note: in local parlance, a “bar” is a gate and a “gate” is a street).

The Bar is a bit out of the way (about 10 minutes walk from the centre) and there’s not much else around, but it’s a wonderful building and well worth the trip.  This is what it feels like to stumble on to Platform 9 3/4 (I imagine) and into a bygone age of stone and leather.  More charm than a Professor Flitwick class, you might say.

And because it’s out on a limb, it’s a perfect place for sitting reading for a few hours (I’ve happily filled a couple of work-related study days here).

Gatehouse Coffee, York Gatehouse Coffee, York

The coffee comes from Union Handroasted, a well regarded London roastery which supplies a few other cafés in this blog.  The baristas are passionate about their coffee and they do a fantastic job.  I’ve popped in a few times over the last couple of months and tried a few brews, all really good and very well presented.

Intriguingly, most of the voices I’ve heard on my trips have been American, including those of the baristas.  Many are students of the nearby Bible College (more on that below).  They’re a nice, friendly bunch.

Equally intriguingly, to reach the toilet you have to walk behind the counter.  Surely a health and safety issue?!  If you still fancy food, there are a limited number of basic options (including a few sweet things).

Gatehouse Coffee, York Gatehouse Coffee, York

Now for the interesting part.  Gatehouse is owned by Calvary Chapel, an evangelical Christian fellowship originating in the USA with a branch and Bible College nearby.  It used to be housed in the Bar and, after moving to bigger premises in 2008, it kept the building and turned it into a café.  But this is no pale church room with 50p instant coffee, it’s a right proper coffee shop.

Almost every book on the amply-filled bookshelves has a Christian theme.  There are various religious adornments.  Christian rock, the Vogon poetry of the music world, plays constantly through the speakers.  It’s no surprise that I’ve seen a lot of customers wearing headphones. Bring an iPod or chatty friends (seriously).

Gatehouse Coffee, York

The baristas tell me that Gatehouse is first and foremost a missionary;  it’s more an extension of the Chapel than a business.  Even the price of the coffee is kept low to entice visitors and to spread the word of God.

Even the loyalty card quotes the Bible, and it seems that things don’t bode well for unbelieving customers like me (“whoever believes in him [Jesus] shall not perish but have eternal life”).

Gatehouse Coffee, York Gatehouse Coffee, York

After an internal struggle with one of my least favourite things (evangelical religion) on the one side, and one of my favourite things (a decent coffee shop) on the other, I’m glad to say that the friendliness and comfort of Gatehouse won the day.  I’ve been back and I’ll be going back again.

I’m sure some will find the Christian theme a bonus, and others a novelty.  For the rest of you, be prepared, and hopefully you’ll enjoy the friendly atmosphere, good coffee, comfy chairs and smashing olde worlde surroundings.

Just remember the headphones.

Gatehouse Coffee, York Gatehouse Coffee, York

In the ancient Walmgate Bar, near 3 Lawrence Street. Map icon is a little too far to the east.

Some information about Walmgate Bar at the York Council website.

Walmgate Bar
YO10 3BP

We visited on 8 August 2009.

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  • Hannah Dawes 27 August 2009 at 9:53 pm

    I agree – this coffee shop is truly fantastic. The coffee is first class and always fresh!
    I personally suggest NOT to bring headphones and I like the Christian music and the Bible too!
    Anyway – recommended!

  • Sunara Isherwood 28 August 2009 at 10:18 am

    A truely relaxed coffee shop a place i love to visit and have wonderful coffee, and fantastic warm welcome you dont feel a stranger, who ever you are. And also a place that if you have a worry or a fear someone will give you comfort. They are not there to make a profit, to line the pockets of wealthy business men. They do it to reach those who need the overflowing love of Jesus!

  • Eddie Bennett 29 August 2009 at 8:13 pm

    A nice, warm, friendly place and a decent cuppa coffee.
    A nice place to relax, especially after walking the city walls.
    And if your in need of a prayer, the friendly coffee team staff will pray for you too.

  • Iain & Mel 15 October 2009 at 10:59 am

    Sublime coffee, great staff, sensational location. You couldn’t ask for more! It’s only a pity it’s 90 miles from where we live, but it gives us a good excuse to go to York again!

  • Tim McBryan 20 October 2009 at 8:40 pm

    As a Londoner who needs to regularly escape, whenever I am in york I make a point of stopping by the Gatehouse coffee shop! I love their chai lattes and mozzerella panini’s. The staff are always very welcoming and friendly. Those who find a Christian environment uncomfortable are free to come an go as they so choose, seems like the almighty will always be there.

  • Brendan 8 November 2009 at 5:02 pm

    When I was a post-graduate student at the University I spent many hours writing, drafting and rewriting my thesis at Gatehouse. Gatehouse provides a relaxing atmosphere that is great for getting away from the hustle and bustle of life. I have tried many of their coffee selections and they are GREAT. Also, the paninis are GREAT!!!!! My favourite is the Chicken and Pesto, but they run out of this panini FAST. Not only is the food, drink, and atmosphere GREAT, the staff is superb!!! They always provide service with a smile and always ask how people are doing as they come in the door. They show an interest in their customers that is unique. I must say that if you are in York, you HAVE to visit Gatehouse!!!

  • Rachel 25 February 2010 at 11:33 pm

    I like your review! I am the wife of the manager and I couldn’t resist commenting on the toilet being a health and safety issue 🙂 At least I thought you might find it interesting.
    Because the building is a national monument, we could not actually change anything much. We even have to use the old nails and hooks in the walls as we can’t be putting new holes in them. All that said, there wasn’t much we could do about the layout of the loo being near the kitchen, as the plumbing is all in one spot. So we got permission to “allow” the public behind to use it if they ask. Otherwise it is not “technically” a public toilet.
    Anyway. Great review! Very honest.

  • grounded 23 March 2010 at 7:27 am

    What a find, a friendly place, an oasis of calm, and coffee like no other! Superb taste with milk frothed and served to perfection. And then there are the cakes. Fresh, full of flavour. I know that I’ll be going back again.
    Unique place, unique ethos. Forget the headphones,
    You have to go there. It could change your life.

  • Tony 31 March 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Not only did the Gatehouse make the best Macchiato i’ve ever had, it also provided the most comfortable, wonderful and friendly environment you could want for.
    I wonder what motivates them!
    Keep up the great work, I know your Dad is well pleased.

  • Charles 3 April 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I am with the headphone recommendation. The mass of Christian literature found here will be to some peoples taste but found among it is hate propaganda such as “Sodom’s Second Coming”. I would suggest Cafe Harlequin instead. Better coffee too.

  • Emma Rees 26 April 2010 at 11:48 am

    I worked at this coffee bar a few years ago and loved it! A great place to get away for some peace and quiet in a big old armchair with an excellent cup of whatever-you-fancy!

  • Tom 27 April 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Not a bad place, decent & cheap coffee. However I won’t be going back since being questioned about my belief in God several times. The staff, both American and local, are generally friendly but tend to intrude rather too much. OK I get that the place is meant to serve a missionary purpose, but the way in which it was tried on me left me feeling confronted, unwelcome and an outsider. Once I had politely indicated my non-Christianity I feel that I should have been left alone in peace; after all, I was paying for their coffee, but sadly this didn’t happen for some time. Yeah and the music is probably the worst feature of this place. I do wonder why all Christian rock has to sound exactly the same…

  • Callum Curnin 4 May 2010 at 12:18 pm

    While I personally don’t agree with the Gatehouse mission’s stand on life, the universe, and everything, I do know a good coffee shop when I visit one. Great drinks, great food, great service and great prices at that. If you can put up with, or even enjoy the Christian nature of the place, it’s a nice relaxing little cubby hole, tucked away from the tourist crowds of the city cente and the student hub of the University. Much recommended!

  • Angela 3 January 2011 at 8:41 pm

    I often visit my son who’s studying at the Uni. and over the years we’ve visited quite a few pubs and cafes. But it wasn’t until the end of last year we decided to try this particular cafe. What a find! It’s so unique and especially warm and friendly. I must admit I was so absorbed in ‘chatting’ I failed to notice the Christian theme – sorry. For me it was simply a cosy, relaxing place; ideal for a peaceful, relaxing cuppa. Each time we’ve called in, it’s been quite busy so clearly other people think the same!

  • sarah 4 April 2011 at 9:24 am

    Best Coffee shop in York! Its so hard to find friendly, genuine people these days, but the baristas truly are! Great prices, kind staff, wonderful coffee and a perfect study place! You can stay all day and study without being made to feel like your welcome is warn out! Every coffee shop, restaurant and cafe has its own environment and Gatehouse is that of a Christian one . Personally I think the Christian message, the music and the welcoming environment is a definite plus! I would take it any day over the swearing staff, explicit music and money making mindset of many other businesses out there. Its definitely a place to visit!

  • ellie 25 January 2013 at 10:24 am

    Always of an excellent standard……….and, I believe, the best in York over the last 2 or 3 years.

  • Danny 6 April 2013 at 1:19 pm

    A little out of the centre but worth the walk. High quality coffee, great value and excellent surroundings. The upstairs is decked out with wood paneling and books. Dead ringer for a Sherlock Holmes study.

  • ellen 21 July 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Serves up the best coffee in York(and there really are some decent ones in the city).

  • Richard 28 January 2015 at 6:22 pm

    I have frequented this beautiful historic site many times, in fact I still do. I worked there and occasionally bake for the coffeehouse, it is an amazingly relaxed and friendly place, for those who commented about the music, it sounds just like most indie music out there in the world, so I don’t see the problem with the music. The chatty, friendly staff are always happy to converse with you, if the Gospel message comes up it is never forced on you. They only want to build relationships with locals and visitors and ensure you get a quality coffee and cake. The cakes are pretty good, but I am biased.