This perhaps pointless exercise was prompted by a feeling that the county town must surely be the tea and cake capital of Yorkshire, perhaps even the north of England.
Occasionally I tried to count them, but always came up with a different number. This is what happens when you count in millions.
Of course it depends on whether the data collection area (I’m a bit of a nerd about these things – Sylvia says it’s a typical boy thing) covers the whole town and Romanby, or whether the boundary is drawn more narrowly into the town center or just the main street.
I mean, Barkers doesn’t just have one cafe, it has three (four if you count the Home Store – but that’s not on the high street). I hope you follow me here.
I think we’ve been to all but one over the years – the Central Coffee House – at the north end of the High Street, a hundred meters from the Town Hall roundabout.
It’s hard to call it difficult given its location – like The Terrace down the Ginnel (or Vennel, Snicket, Yard, Gasse, depending on regional dialect preference) near the town hall – but it’s more likely to be hiding in plain sight.
Our visit was sparked by a single comment on social media – “the best cup of coffee in town” – and so we went there for breakfast and a cup of coffee on a wet Saturday morning.
It’s small, with only a handful of tables inside, three outside that wouldn’t get much use on this miserable morning, and what looked like a tiny serving area and small kitchen. Condensation forming on the large window facing the main street was the unwelcome taste of impending winter.
There’s a nice, cozy neighborhood atmosphere, and regulars call in to pick up their take-out drink orders, many of them on first-name terms with the staff. It clearly has a loyal following.
Rather unusual for today, the owner’s name is above the door. Emma Scaife is the boss. I like this kind of responsibility.
The menu is quite adventurous. What I mean by that is if you came in and asked for a plain ham sandwich, I’m sure it could be made, but it’s not on the menu. Instead, there’s a selection of ciabattas, toasted paninis and somewhat exotic (at least exotic by Northallerton café standards) salads – halloumi, sun-dried tomatoes and avocado, for example, with rocket, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. They also do afternoon tea.
The breakfast items are more in line with traditional cafe standards. So there’s the full English breakfast, bacon sandwiches and eggs Benedict, as well as a breakfast burrito (bacon, sausage, chili jam and cheddar cheese) and bacon, smashed avocado, poached egg and chili on toast.
We chose the last of these (£9) and the full English breakfast – or a Yorkshire breakfast as described on the menu (£10.50) – with a pot of tea and a latte.
They were great. And perhaps best of all was the butter that came with the toast that was served with the full English dish.
Now readers of this column over the years may remember my rants about the awful, individually wrapped little sticks of butter that are popular in many places for obvious reasons of convenience and waste reduction.
True, it was an individually wrapped package. But it was quite a large piece and it was unsalted. We gloss over the fact that the Netherend Farm it comes from is in Gloucestershire – so something of a dupe as part of a ‘Yorkshire’ breakfast.
But it showed that Central Café really cares about what it serves and has simply set the standard for everything else on our plates. Avocado with just the right level of ripeness and not too many chili flakes, good meat sausages cooked in split halves to ensure they’re cooked through, a perfectly poached egg with really firm white and runny yolk, super sweet cherry tomatoes, a crispy hash brown.
Oddly enough, considering the reason for our visit, the only thing that was a little off was the coffee. Sylvia thought her latte was strong. But a few days later I called to order a cappuccino to go and found it to be just right.
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Therefore, I would conclude that Central Coffee House probably serves the best coffee in town if you generally prefer a stronger coffee. But you’ll have to try all the others to see if I’m right, which may take a long time. So maybe just take my word for it. I think that’s the point of this column.
The central coffee house
229 High Street, Northallerton DL7 8LU
Tel: 01609 774712
Open: Tuesday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday
Ratings (out of ten): Food Quality 8 Service 7 Environment 7 Value 9