Despite only discovering my love for coffee relatively recently, I now spend a lot of time searching for the best flat white, the best iced latte and the strongest pot of tea for my wife. With weekends often spent cafe-hopping (with a baby in tow), I’ve finally been able to pull together a guide to the best cafes in Newcastle.
Up until about a year ago I was not a fan of coffee. I desperately wanted to be but no matter what variation of coffee I tried, it just wasn’t for me. If a hot drink was to be ordered it was green tea or peppermint tea. I just could not do it. Whilst waiting patiently for the arrival of our baby girl, I thought if I’m going to be tired all the time, could I not at least learn to love coffee as a little pick-me-up. Tired but wired.
On my first trip to Horticulture in Newcastle, I’m not sure what came over me (it must have been the smell of freshly made espresso) but I randomly ordered a flat white and fell in love immediately. How on earth could I not have loved coffee? I’ve no idea what happened, maybe your taste buds change as you get older (the thirties are good for some things), but suddenly I’d found my drink. No more ordering green tea.
With a newborn baby, times have certainly changed and you’re much more likely to find me hunting out the next best café than the best bar or pub! Don’t get me wrong I will always love a day out on the beers but the last few months have been spent in cafes, drinking coffee and eating brunch, with a baby in tow. I found myself today rating baby changing facilities; Jesus Jamie, times have definitely changed.
Anyway, enough about me. This article is the culmination of exploring Newcastle’s quieter side and checking out as many cafes as possible. This isn’t just a hunt for the best coffee but also the best places for brunch or something light to eat. There will probably be places on the list that you might question whether they meet the definition of a café but this is 2022 so we’re being very inclusive over here.
A GUIDE TO THE BEST CAFES IN NEWCASTLE
Flat Caps Coffee
Kicking us off is probably my favourite cafe in Newcastle; Flat Caps Coffee. It’s been around since 2010 (I was only just graduating so now I feel old!) and almost certainly is one of the founders of the coffee scene in the city. In 2019, it was ranked within England’s top 50 independent cafes! You’ll find Flat Caps Coffee a 5 minute walk from Pilgrim Street and the Swan House Roundabout. I think if it was right on the main streets of Newcastle it might have lost it’s relaxed and welcoming vibe. This is a place where the coffee is incredible, the food is somehow even better and, on top of that, they are happy for dogs and kids to come along too. You can even bring a laptop and get some work done for a few hours. It is really chilled here.
A special mention to the food too, I promise you won’t be disappointed. My favourites so far have been the Celeriac Shwarma Flatbread and then the Maple Pork Belly, Black Pudding, Fried Egg and Potato Cake. Unreal.
My new favourite place to grab a coffee in Newcastle is right here at Yōso. Bringing those Melbourne vibes to a little hatch on the side of The Hoi Polloi barbershop (Alley 4 of the Grainger Market), the coffee cannot be missed nor can the current special; salted caramel hot chocolate with marshmallow fluff!
The name Yōso comes from the Japanese word for ‘elements’ which sums up this coffee spot perfectly. Not only does Sam bring elements together to create the perfect coffee but he is also bringing people together to build relationships and a community. We stood for almost half an hour just chatting all sorts. It wasn’t just about the coffee, I loved visiting here and I’ll definitely be back soon!
I don’t know whether Horticulture really counts as a ‘cafe’ (I’m pretty sure it doesn’t) but I couldn’t not include it on this list. The decor is very Australian I would say with wicker swing chairs and plenty of houseplants. The coffee’s obviously very good given that it turned me from a coffee hater to a coffee lover. Brunch is served from 10am to 3pm everyday with the Shoumi dish being my recommendation – Halloumi, mushrooms, avocado and poached egg on sourdough rye bread. From 5pm to 10pm though is when Horticulture really comes alive with a focus on small plates ideal for sharing.
Deep in Newcastle’s Grainger Market lies Pumphreys Coffee which has been roasting its own coffee since 1750. If you ask anyone where to find the best coffee in Newcastle, they’ll very likely say here. You can purchase freshly ground coffee beans here as well as grabbing your favourite coffee to take away. There are a few high tables to perch at and enjoy your drink or you can carry on exploring the Grainger Market.
Ernest is the first cafe on this list from Ouseburn; Newcastle’s coolest suburb. There aren’t many places where you can get away with a huge Darth Vader silhouette on the side of the building but Ouseburn is certainly one of them. Between 10am & 3pm, Ernest serves up brunch and I enjoyed the Local Hero Breakfast which includes sourdough from Pink Lane Bakery and sausage from the legendary Block ‘n’ Bottle. Things get a little more serious after 4pm with a different menu featuring a slow cooked lamb dish and falafel and smoked aubergine in a tomato sauce.
The coffee was good here and, for the tea lovers, Ernest offers Love Leaf Herbal Tea which is locally blended in Newcastle. There’s plenty of beer on draught, all of your usual alcoholic drinks as well as a few cocktails too if brunch gets a little rowdy.
Don’t miss Ernest’s younger brother Ernie which offers takeaway alongside the most amazing shop/deli you’ve ever seen. You’ll find fruit & veg, beers and wines and loads of other treats and gifts; mostly locally sourced, a lot handmade but the ethos here is ethical shopping! I like it.
Flore is a Parisian cafe and patisserie in Newcastle’s beautiful Central Arcade; an Edwardian shopping arcade dating back to 1906. Relatively new to Newcastle’s cafe scene, Flore certainly looks the part but all to often the food or the drinks falls flat. I was impressed with the great selection of drinks (I enjoyed the oat matcha latte and the strawberries and cream frappe) and the food looked very impressive though I didn’t try any of the main meals. There were plenty of cakes on offer, the white chocolate cookie was a little overbaked but the doughnuts would probably have been a better shout; they looked incredible.
North Shore Coffee
North Shore Coffee have set down roots in the city’s Grainger Market where it serves up great coffee all day long plus food perfect for a quick takeaway lunch such as toasties. The setup reminded me of the coffee shops across Melbourne; there were similar vibes to vendors in the famous Queen Victoria and Prahran Markets. I kept trying coffee whilst in Melbourne (I mean where better to try and get into coffee?) but whilst I didn’t enjoy the drinks, I enjoyed the cafes and the pop up coffee shops. Whilst I’m still waiting to get back to Melbourne for my honeymoon, I’m more than happy to get that cafe vibes here at North Shore Coffee.
Pink Lane Coffee
Opposite the train station, on (you guessed it) Pink Lane, is Pink Lane Coffee. The focus here is the coffee. Pink Lane Coffee source single origin coffee ethically and responsibility and then roast it themselves meaning that this is some of the best coffee that you will taste in Newcastle. Grab a coffee as soon as you arrive in the city and begin your day or take a seat and treat yourself to a bit of cake too.
Backyard Bike Shop
You’ll find Backyard Bike Shop within the By The River Brew complex between the Trakol restaurant and the HWKR Market. Technically it’s in Gateshead but you’ll not want to miss all that’s on offer here directly under the Tyne Bridge. The bike shop itself was rated in 2019 as the number one independent bike retained in the country but you’re here for the café which is open everyday apart from Sundays. Great coffee is available but there is also an outlet of Dot Bagels so you can guarantee you’ll be well fed – my go to is the Reuben but there are much more adventurous bagels that you can try.
Kiln is probably the most unique of all the cafes on this list. Surprisingly, it’s not just a cafe; it also houses a ceramic studio with the works created available for sale. If you want to up your dinner party game at home, look no further than the kitchenwares on offer here. Anyway, Kiln is in Ouseburn which automatically gives this place a gold star. What you really come here for though are the middle eastern inspired small plates bringing the meze culture to Newcastle. The middle eastern theme runs through both the brunch and dinner menus but don’t worry there are also a few dishes for those a little less adventurous. Alongside the food, a wide range of drinks are available (obviously coffee) but loose leaf teas, soft drinks as well as alcohol beverages.
Pancakes. You come to The Dispensary for pancakes. It’s as simple as that. Stacks of fluffy American pancakes with a variety of different toppings. Sometimes you can’t get away from the classic Strawberry and Nutella but the specials always looks incredible. The current menu on the website says that the special is Caramel Custard Pancakes and that sounds like something I would definitely enjoy.
The Dispensary is located in a modern building a little walk towards St James’ Park but it’s definitely worth it stretching your legs and working up an appetite.
Aidan’s Kitchen has been on my list for a long time but I just haven’t made it to this lovely looking cafe/restaurant on Starbeck Avenue up towards Jesmond. It reminds me of Flat White Kitchen in Durham with the bare wood tables, ratten lampshades and houseplants scattered all over. The food looks incredible again with the pancakes getting rave reviews. This is a hidden gem in Newcastle and I can’t wait to visit.
The Garage is Ouseburn through and through. Where else could you get away with a coffee shop in a converted garage on a petrol forecourt. Trust me though, this place is cool and is a lovely place to sit, relax and enjoy a good cup of coffee. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, the Garage has plenty of treats available as well as more standard brunch and lunch items.
The Camera Shop
A former camera shop opened in 1907 has been repurposed as this small cafe on Collingwood Street. It’s a great little coffee, breakfast and lunch spot so popular with locals there’ll often be a queue outside. In terms of food, we’re talking wraps, toasties and jacket potatoes meaning that actually it’s a perfect option for those on a lunch break from work.
Last on the list, but by no means least, is Sorcerer Coffee housed in the arches below the train tracks leading into Newcastle’s Central Station. A small cafe but off the beaten track so you are almost guaranteed a relaxing drink alongside a pastry. If you’re after something a little more substantial, the toasties look incredible!