Gone are the days when we connoted tea rooms with our Grandma and her friends from the WI. Tea rooms, tea barns, and farm shops are increasingly becoming millennial territory. Twenty-somethings are flocking to their local cosy café, eager to chat with their friends over an Insta-worthy latté and afternoon tea so perfect that it belongs in the most prestigious corners of Pinterest.
We're about to countdown the North East's best hidden gems, so prepare yourself for an overdose of cheese scones, fairy lights, and the word 'cosy'.
5. Homer Hill Farm Shop, Rainton Gate
Homer Hill Farm Shop belongs to the Haswell family who have been proudly serving the North East of England with prime quality meat for over 100 years. They originally made home deliveries from a huge basket attached to the front of a bicycle which is still owned by the company today (see pic below). These wholesome beginnings are at the heart of their farm shop, tea rooms, and butchers, where young and old (their impressive playground had me wishing that I was ten again) are invited to enjoy the best produce that our region has to offer.
Due to popular demand, they have recently extended their tea rooms, meaning that more people can sample their famous Fish Fridays (with homemade batter), traditional Sunday Roasts (served 11.30am-3pm), and exquisite afternoon teas. Don't worry though, hearty home-cooked meals can also be found throughout the week as they offer everything from a crispy lamb flatbread with feta, pickled red onions and harissa, to a hot beef sarnie served with thrice-cooked chips and gravy. If you fancy a light bite, I highly recommend the cheese scone, served with cream cheese and a red onion chutney. Or, if you have a sweet tooth, get there in time for breakfast to sample the finest buttermilk pancakes in County Durham. The dishes are reasonably priced and always served with a smile – what more could you ask for?
After enjoying your meal, you can even take a little bit of Homer Hill home with you. Their farm shop serves raw and cooked meats, pies which are made on the premises, and a superb selection of local cheeses. Homer Hill proudly supports local suppliers, such as Jean's Jams, Carrolls Heritage Potatoes, Chain Bridge Honey Farm, and the Northumberland Cheese Company, making it a one-stop-shop where you can sample the very best regional produce. They also sell their freshly baked bread, meaning that you can tear 'n' share their goats cheese, thyme, and sea salt focaccia with friends and family (or just scoff it in the car outside – we wouldn't blame you!). Pick up a bottle of local beer from The Durham Brewery (NOT to be consumed in the car – there would be serious judgement passed for that!) and even some homemade gifts.
Homer Hill provides a great day out for all the family with hearty food, homemade ice creams, and a party of Shetland ponies (see a pic of me trying to keep my cool below). This tearoom is an asset to our region.
4. Vennels Café, Durham City Centre
As History students, it's easy to understand why Vennels is one of our all-time favourite tearooms. Situated down one of the winding alleyways in Durham city centre, the sixteenth-century building holds an important place in local history as it played a significant role in the tale of Mrs Clements. In 1720, she discovered mustard as we know it and her recipe was so popular among locals that King George I patented the product. The original Durham condiment is now in the hands of Colemans of Norwich and is more widely known as English Mustard. It is therefore very fitting that everything that is served in Vennels is made on the premises.
My favourite hot dish on the menu is the homemade soup. It's served with their freshly baked bread and, let me tell you, I never thought that plain bread could taste so good. Vennels' soup is deliciously wholesome and for only £4.50, it's a steal. However, a trip to Vennels wouldn't be complete without a slice of their homemade cake. I'm slowly but surely working my way through their menu – the banoffee pie is incredible and I'm dying to try their lemon cake, which looks absolutely sublime.
For me, the best part of visiting Vennels is the stunning courtyard outside. The flower wall is any blogger's dream and, better yet, the place is often filled with the cutest pooches that Durham has to offer. Result! If you're not lucky enough to visit on a sunny day (let's face it, we don't get many of them here in the North East), there's no need to worry because the outdoor seating area is heated and canopied. Their indoor seating is extensive, with over 150 seats across three floors, yet the exposed wooden beams, crooked ceilings, and original fireplaces make it feel warm, cosy, and compact.
So, after visiting Durham's cathedral and castle, be sure to venture down the winding passageway (just next to Waterstones) and immerse yourself in the historic ambiance of Vennels – you won't be disappointed.
3. Bayberry Hollow, Tanfield
I'm not over exaggerating when I say that Bayberry Hollow is everything that you would want a tea room to be and more. The food and drinks are obviously delicious but what is really impressive is the amazing atmosphere that they have created in such a small space. Although the seating area and store are separate, the energy runs throughout, with the sweet scent of infusers blending seamlessly with the smell of coffee and cake. The whole place, from its decor to its menu, is calm, cosy, and comforting. The service is always super friendly and you feel as though you're sitting in a family member's uber stylish living room, eating homemade pie and drinking a pot of tea.
This place is très chic – think muted tones of creams, greys, and browns, paired with melted candles and floral wreaths, encompassed by rustic wooden beams and exposed stone walls. If you're looking for unique home accessories or gifts with an authentic feel, look no further than Bayberry Hollow. The store contains so many hidden treasures that you will soon be making space in your living room for quirky clocks and snuggly soft toys. We love that you are able to recreate the beauty of Bayberry Hollow in your own home – if only we could make scones that good!
As well as their set menu, be sure to check out their specials board as it changes daily and offers something a little different from your average café. Their specialty scones range from strawberry and white chocolate to sundried tomato, cheese, and caramelised onion. I'm also obsessed with their freshly baked pies. I've tried the steak and ale and the chicken, leek, and wholegrain mustard – both are equally delicious. If you're feeling especially peckish, you can even make it a meal by adding salad and potato wedges.
They've recently released their new menu and I can't wait to sample it. The new range of Bayberry's Brews look incredible – they're all organic, fair-trade, and exclusive to Bayberry Hollow. Even better, they offer an afternoon tea menu for just £12.50 per head – although booking is essential. In addition to the classic combination of sandwiches and scones, the three-tier tea also comes with chocolate dipped strawberries and Victoria sponge cake. Mouth-wateringly good.
2. Bradley Gardens, Wylam
Feeling rather uninspired and seeking some blog-post inspiration, I Googled 'North East tea rooms' hoping to discover a hidden gem that I hadn't visited one hundred times before. To my surprise, my Google search delivered exactly that. I was enticed by the chic decor of the tearoom, but nothing could prepare me for the ambiance of Bradley's.
When entering the walls of the beautiful gardens, I sharp realised that photographs couldn't do this place justice. I felt as though I had stumbled upon a secret garden, where fairies hide among the flowers and ladies of leisure stroll along the gravel paths. My first impressions were solidified when I discovered that Bradley's is in fact an eighteenth-century walled garden! There is something very magical about an old stone wall concealing lively greenery and a bustling tea room. I felt as though I had discovered a precious relic of the past and I wanted to both shout it from the rooftops and selfishly keep it as my own little secret haven. Nevertheless, I slowly but surely convinced myself that this place was too good not to share.
The little wooden sheds that are scattered across the grounds hold beautiful treasures, ranging from gardening tools to handmade gifts. It is the combination of gardens, tearooms, and unique homeware stores which sets Bradley's apart from the rest. If it's a sunny day, I'd recommend sitting outside of the tea rooms on the quaint garden furniture, to really admire the stretch of green in front of you. However, if, like us, you forget sunscreen and hay fever tablets, the interior of the tearoom is equally special. It is housed in one long conservatory meaning that you are never shut away from the beauty of Bradley's bustling gardens.
A tea room staple for Rachel and I has to be the classic cheese scone. We must have sampled over one hundred and therefore feel qualified to judge Bradley's as the best. They're served with a side of spicy tomato chutney so delightful that butter has been rendered eternally insufficient. We've heard that the Sunday lunches are sublime and with an offering of honey-roasted pork, apple and cider compote, and sage stuffing, we're not surprised! They also offer Afternoon Tea, but be sure to book twenty-four hours in advance.
Something that makes this place even more unique is the beautiful Bridgewater Home-store, located just next door to the tea room, offering quality handcrafted furniture and home accessories. The layout of the store is particularly special, with a fully working kitchen and room sets throughout, so be prepared for some serious living-room envy and interior design inspo that surpasses every Pinterest board you've ever laid eyes on! Amazingly, the magic of Bradley's doesn't end there – they're adding a deli, another café/coffee bar, and even some beauty rooms. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for this hidden gem!
1. Pity Me Nursery and Tea Barn, Pity Me
I was first introduced to Pity Me by a close friend and it's been a firm-favourite ever since (thanks Kathryn!). We had been Christmas shopping and fancied something a little more wholesome than Greggs or McDonalds. I was expecting a tiny cafe, but I instead walked into my personal Santa's Grotto. Fairy lights danced from the exposed beams, festive wreaths decorated the stone walls, and a small dog lazed by the open log burner (extra bonus points for being pup-friendly!). Sitting in the conservatory, we watched families choose their Christmas trees from the outdoor garden centre and I immediately began to plan my next visit. When I returned in the New Year, I was delighted to find that the cosy ambiance of Pity Me was not limited to the festive season. Whether you're clutching a hot chocolate by the fire, or basking in the sunshine sipping an iced vanilla latte, the warm welcome of Pity Me is withstanding.
The tea room's country-style decor is perfectly suited to the hearty home-cooked meals that they serve. The hot beef and caramelised onion sandwich is to die for and the toasties never disappoint (I've sampled cheese toasties from more locations than I'd like to admit and Pity Me's are by far the best). From pies, to pastries, to scones – all the traditional goods are served here and often with an exciting twist. They love to experiment with the latest trends and flavours, creating unique dishes to excite the tastebuds. This August Bank Holiday weekend they are redefining the classic burger so be sure to pop along and sample their tasty creations!
Pity Me deserves a special place in heaven for their range of homemade cakes. They change daily, but their exceptional quality is guaranteed. With an impressive gluten-free menu, the range that they offer is unrivalled. From a contemporary mint Aero cheesecake to a traditional lemon drizzle sponge, this tea room serves the most indulgent dishes for an exceptionally reasonable price. The Nutella, caramel, and chocolate pavlova will satisfy the most experienced chocolate fiends, whilst the strawberry and white chocolate cheesecake trumps all expectations of a quintessentially British dessert. We love these cakes so much that we're determined to work our way through the menu, so stay posted for a more in-depth review of all that Pity Me has to offer.
With the friendliest staff, beautiful surroundings, and delicious food, you'll never want to leave this tea room. It's the perfect place to take your Grandma for lunch or to have a gossip with your friends over coffee and cake. You can even burn off the baked goods by having a stroll around the nursery afterwards. Guilt-free cakes and beautiful flowers? Sounds like the perfect day out.
Please let us know your favourite tea rooms in the comment section below – we love finding new spots. If you've enjoyed reading this blog post, be sure to check out our Top 10 Restaurants in the North East where we review the best restaurants that our region has to offer!
Lauren and Rachel xx
If you would like to see more content like this, enter your email address below: