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Spaghettata restaurant, Durham
Kyle Wong ©

The 19 best restaurants in Durham

Want to dine with a view over the River Wear or gorge on good pub grub in a UNESCO World Heritage site. We've got you covered.

Written by
Lisa Harris
Daniel Dylan Wray
Amy Houghton

With its charming cobbled alleyways, grand cathedral and romantic bridges, Durham is an impressive city based on its looks alone. But prepared to be properly blown away when you taste all the culinary goods it has to offer.

Whether you're in the mood for classy fine dining over the River Wear, some elevated pub grub a stone's throw from Durham Cathedral or a downright dirty burger in the studenty Viaduct area, you'll not be disappointed. Here's our pick of all the very best places to eat in Durham. 

🍽️ The best restaurants in Oxford 
📍 The best things to do in Newcastle
👀 The best restaurants in the UK

At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Best Durham restaurants

Restaurant 17

1. Restaurant 17

Why go? For a special dinner with views, candlelight and a modern European menu.

With riverside views of the historic Elvet bridge, Restaurant 17 has the perfect picture-postcard Durham location. Food, such as roasted duck breast with duck leg ‘sausage’ roll, Thai Penang chicken curry and chargrilled steaks, is seasonal and artfully arranged. Mid-range/high-end.

Cellar Door

2. Cellar Door

Why go? For international fine dining in a thirteenth-century cellar conversion with stunning views of the River Wear and Elvet Bridge.

Find Cellar Door through an inconspicuous entrance on Saddler Street and down a narrow flight of stairs and you’ll be rewarded with a seasonal, locally sourced menu that touches cuisines from around the world and has included Northumberland smoked gnocchi, tandoori chicken thighs, and crispy mung bean fritters. High-end.

The Rabbit Hole
The Rabbit Hole

3. The Rabbit Hole

Why go? To experience an opulent 1920’s Shanghai-inspired supper club. 

The Rabbit Hole place is intended as “an ode to a bygone era of decadence and indulgence, re-lived in all its glory” so if you fancy a meal in somewhere that looks and feels a little different then you’re covered here. For a more relaxing daytime bite you can enjoy the Dim Sum Parlour, which serves up Asian tapas, dim sum and soups or for “a more indulgent Oriental offering” hit up the A La Carte menu.


4. Tealicious

Why go? To take a tea break from sightseeing in a cute little café.

With 24 blends of loose-leaf tea served in elegant fine bone china teacups, Tealicious is the place to have a cuppa in Durham. You can’t miss its distinctive pastel blue exterior, and you definitely shouldn’t miss its homemade scones, toasted teacakes and sandwiches made to order. It also does a cracking high tea. Mid-range.

Fat Hippo

5. Fat Hippo

Why go? To forgo the diet and sink your teeth into Durham’s dirtiest burgers.

With cool hanging light bulbs and an exposed brick interior, Fat Hippo has to be Durham’s hippest place to get burger juice all over your face. Mile-high beef, chicken or vegan burgers come on metal trays, complete with wedge-cut chips and trimmings. Drinks are just as epic, with alcohol-laden slushies and shakes. Mid-range.

The Curious Mr Fox
The Curious Mr Fox

6. The Curious Mr Fox

Why go? To enjoy this unique building, which is made up of three old properties all of different layouts and designs, resulting in a multi-themed venue.

At The Curious Mr Fox you can tuck into snacks in the bar or head upstairs to the ornate and elegant Oyster Room or the floral-themed Ivy Room – both of which overlook the cathedral. There’s also private dining options with your own private cocktail bar. Think classic pub food with a modern twist. Mid-range. 

Flat White Kitchen

7. Flat White Kitchen

Why go? For excellent small plates and even better coffee.

Flat White is famous for its coffee and killer brunches. Founded in 2010 and set inside a seventeeth century, Grade II-listed building, it is a staple among hungry and hungover students of the city. From volumptuous buttermilk pancakes to a hearty full English, this cafe goes the extra mile on all the breakfast classics. Visit its sister coffee shop, Flat White Café on Elvet Bridge too. Mid-range.

The Town House

8. The Town House

Why go? For a romantic date with a difference.

If you like kitsch you’ll love the decor at the Town House – it has leopard-print carpet, heavy draped curtains and tassel-trimmed chairs. This place specialises in steaks and old-school classics like Chateaubriand, scallop, beef carpaccio and prawn cocktail. And it’s part of a plush hotel with private hot tubs. High-end.

Undercroft at Durham Cathedral
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Undercroft at Durham Cathedral

Why go? How often can you say you've dined in a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

The finger sandwiches at Durham Cathedral's restaurant are so good they've won awards. If that isn't reason enough to go, then consider the fact that no trip to the cathedral would be complete without a stop-off at the west cloister. Sat beneath the stunning vaulted ceiling, you can enjoy County Durham toasted teacakes or Cumberland sausage sarnies. They also serve afternoon tea in the Monk's Garden. Mid-range.

Amaani at the Pumphouse

10. Amaani at the Pumphouse

Why go? For Indian fine dining in a spectacular converted pumphouse.

Just ten minutes out of town down a farm lane, Amaani at the Pumphouse serves tandoori grill platters of juicy lamb tikka, sheek kebabs and king prawns, as well as south Indian thali, Goan lamb and Bhuna-style mushori chicken. The mezzanine feels glamorous (maybe it’s the chandeliers and mirrors). Mid-range/high-end.

The Raby Hunt Inn
Frasershot Studios

11. The Raby Hunt Inn

Why go? It’s worth the 30-minute drive south of Durham for this two-Michelin-star tasting menu.

Self-taught chef James Close cooks theatrical, yet seasonal and simple food. The only options on offer at Raby Hunt are a 12- or 15-course tasting menu where each course transforms a single ingredient into a dazzling dish. If you can, book the kitchen table to see the chef at work. Look out for the signature skull and Buddha dessert too. Blow-out.

The Cartologist at The Garden House

12. The Cartologist at The Garden House

Why go? To treat the family to a pub lunch with a difference.

With ramshackle country furniture and cosy nooks, The Cartologist (formerly The Restaurant at. Garden House Inn) feels like a real pub – but what you'll find is pub food executed with a touch of fine-dining finesse.  Mid-range.

Akarsu Turkish Restaurant & Grill

13. Akarsu Turkish Restaurant & Grill

Why go? For family-style Turkish feasting just minutes from the castle.

If you can forgive the slightly kitsch decor and Turkish lights, Akarsu is a hidden gem. Its hot and cold meze include Muska boregi crisp feta cheese triangles, sucuk spicy Turkish sausage and clay-cooked prawn guvec. It doesn’t matter how big your table is, there will never be enough space for everything you order. Mid-range.

Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Zen

Why go? Contemporary Thai dining in a historic city.

If you're with all the family or a big group of mates with a hankering for Thai food, then Zen is the perfect place to head. They have large, inviting curved booths, sharing plates called 'Thaipas' and even a fully-grown cherry blossom tree indoors, which is something to marvel at if nothing else. You'll find all your typical Thai dishes here, plus some modern Pan-Asian bites. Mid-range.

Vennels Café

15. Vennels Café

Why go? To meet friends for a generous slice of cake or a doorstop sandwich.

Vennel’s does a proper lunch, including corned beef and potato pie, quiche of the day and crispy jacket potatoes. Enter from a narrow alleyway (or vennel) off Saddler Street to find hops hanging from the ceiling, with crooked wooden beams, converted treadle tables and original fireplaces creating a ramshackle feel. Mid-range.

La Spaghettata
Kyle Wong ©

16. La Spaghettata

Why go? Italian cuisine on a budget.

While the restaurant is only open until 10.30pm, there's a bar upstairs that keeps going until 2am, which makes La Spaghettata a pretty handy first date venue. Especially if you're looking for fun, as this place has quite the relaxed atmosphere. The servings are large, if not the best presented, and you can order a pizza with spaghetti as one of the toppings. Budget.

Bells Fish & Chips
Photograph: Shutterstock

17. Bells Fish & Chips

Why go? To eat straightforward award-winning fish and chips for Friday night supper.

With five locations around town, Bell’s is the best place to get your chip butty or battered cod. Portions are massive and fried in beef dripping – so not for the faint-hearted. There are great views of Durham’s historic marketplace from the main branch so you can watch the world go by over mushy peas. Mid-range.

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill

18. Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill

Why go? To celebrate a special occasion in a beautifully restored red-brick building.

Old Shire Hall has been converted into Hotel Indigo, featuring Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse. The intimate round booths that comprise the multi-level seating echo the circular room and domed roof. This upmarket restaurant brings MPW’s attention to detail to classics which in the past have included fish pie, roast pork belly, baked Camembert and its signature 35-day aged steaks. Mid-range/high-end.


19. Tia's

Why go? To get rowdy with your enchiladas and Texas two-step rack of ribs.

Locals and students don their sombreros at Tia’s family-run Mexican restaurant, which has been feeding Durham fajitas for more than 20 years. Famous for its frozen margaritas and speciality tequilas, it has a Tex-Mex vibe with chimichangas, nachos and gamberoni dishes. There’s a vegan and gluten-free menu too. Mid-range.

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