A proper café experience done just right. The team at Flat White does it all to a “t” – the coffee, the food, the drinks, and the homey ambiance. It all seamlessly comes together for a laid-back experience at this charismatic café in the heart of Durham.
Flat White Cafe was established by Duhram locals, Patrick and Peter. The two both extensively traveled the world following their education in Durham. Upon their return they were left wondering why their hometown lacked “high quality independent, barista-led café in the glut of tourist-facing cafes or high street chains.” The pair saved up some money and built on their barista training obtained in the coffee capital of the world of Australia and New Zealand. Thus, Flat White was born on a perfectly snowy Saturday in December of 2010. – Flat White Kitchen
Even so, the people of Durham couldn’t get enough of what this place had to offer. Just five years after Flat White opened its café doors, the team fired up their stoves to offer high quality food and drink at Flat White Kitchen.
The Flat White establishments within the building at 40 Saddler Street…
“…is a five-floor mix of underground rooms, cosy hideaways, light dining spaces and a secret garden.” – Flat White Kitchen
The unique build of Flat White Cafe and Flat White Kitchen begs the question, “What did this building used to be?” And like anything goes in Durham, the building has a long history. Often times this is where the true charm starts. A curious customer, Margaret Ray, did extensive research on the building this is what she found.
The building itself was originally built in the late 1600s, the staircase that runs through the core of the structure was built in the mid 1700s, and the store front that facade that faces Saddler street is likely from the 1800s.
One census record even shows that the building used to belong to one George Smith in 1851 as a dwelling and as a solicitors firm. Records begin to firm up around the late 1800s, detailing that the building was sold a few times to clerks. As the Second World War began, the building was turned into tenements. By the late 1900s the building was split in to offices, then it was used for overnight accommodations for people employed by the British Rail, and then a renovation store by the name of Oxfam (now Wild & Funk) moved in.
Finally, two years after Wild and Funk left the space it was time for Flat White to write their pages in this building’s history.
Wooden benches protrude from the brick walls of the building and a mix of folding wooden furniture is gathered outside the front door for outdoor seating on your occasional sunny day in the north. A collection of earthy toned pillows are scattered here and there inviting you to take a seat and savor the heavenly moments that are about to come.
Inside are white walls to your left and a half brick wall to your right covered with shelves and for storing anything and everything like fresh bread. Up above, two strings of industrial setting lights hang from above giving off a gentle warm glow. Indoor plants hang from shelves up above and giant sunflowers or tulips fill the empty space throughout, subtly brightening a minimalist rustic décor coming from the the building’s character itself. Seating less than two dozen people in a tiny basement shop, you’re surely bound to say a friendly hello to your neighbor sitting beside you just over an arm’s length away. And yet somehow, amongst all the goodies on the shelves and people next to you, your attention is drawn to a sea foam green counter which sets the tone.
In the center of the counter sits a glass case illuminated with a warm glow, chanting your name. Inside, it contains a selection of luscious cakes and sandwiches that look just as good as they taste. To balance things out, they also serve a light menu of appetizing savories. All original recipes, all made in house, and all baked with the best ingredients and the utmost care – you won’t find these tasty morsels anywhere else. Each served up on a ceramic plate custom made by the local potter, also colored a gentle sea foam green.
Majority of their menu rotates and varies based on the seasons, so if you see something you like, you better go for it. Here are a few just to give you a tiny taste…
First think sweet. Sticky plum flapjacks, raspberry scones and homemade berry jam, fluffy blood orange rosemary loafs, dense ricotta lemon and raspberry cakes, layered caramel slices, blueberry and lemon frangipane, double chocolate brownies and not to mention their famous delectable stack of fluffy pancakes.
Now think savory. Prosciutto and cheddar savory croissant, butter bean or chorizo and cake with aioli house soups, a Wensleydale and mango chutney or classic bacon sandwich, eggs pretty much any way you want them: Benedict, Royale, or Florentine, or maybe a simple mozzarella, beef tomato and homemade pesto croissant will do.
To pair with the delicacy of your choice, Flat White offers a menu of drinks with something for everyone. From freshly squeezed juices and veggie or fruit smoothies, to cream soda and ginger beer, to the highest quality of teas from Rare Tea Company based in London and North East tea legends, Ringtons.
But let’s not forget the star of the café, the coffee. The reason Peter and Patrick started Flat White – to bring a high quality independent barista-led café to Durham.
(Vimeo video by) The Flat White Kitchen |Durham, England
Flat White is currently one of the select few proprietors who serve Ouseburn Coffee Co. in the entire country. Keeping things close to home, Ouseburn is a specialty coffee supplier and Newcastle’s first independent roastery. They operate on the foundations of ethically souring the finest seasonal beans and “focusing on fresh, quality produce from exclusive microlots to world renowned Estates.” Ouseburn even likes to push the envelope and explore unchartered territory by sourcing some of the most premium coffee from the forefront of emerging South Asian and Chinese producers.
Flat White also believes that good coffee comes from a good barista. You’ll be glad to know that they don’t just let their baristas loose on the public once hired. One must train for at least six months before serving their first proper cup of coffee to an actual customer.
The consistency and quality of Flat White coffee doesn’t come easy, but we all certainly appreciate the attention and dedication.
A similar ambiance as the café but a hint of evening romance, Flat White Kitchen serves up a diverse set of dishes with flavors from around the world. Serving bistro style brunch, lunch, sides and shareable plates, you can dine here any time of day. The plates here are novel and authentically executed, representing classic bistro character and other ethnic cuisines in a whole new way.
How about a smoked salmon salad with a pea shoot and butter milk dressing to go with an bistro staple of smoked bacon, gem lettuce tomato BLT? Or share a cornucopia of high quality cheese or charcuterie board with a friend. And if you still haven’t had enough to choose from take a gander at the rest of their shareable plates and sides like Korean fried quail, salmon pate, or burata with heritage tomatoes and roasted garlic toast.
Not to mention their stellar evening drinks you can enjoy in their secret garden seating outdoors – daily selection of wine, whiskey, and brews, or the all too expected espresso martini.
So whenever you’re in Durham, you ought to give this place a go. As a café and coffee enthusiast I like to say, “Café life will never be the same.”