The Butterfly Cabinet, Heaton Road, Newcastle
Having been a student locally, I was surprised I hadn’t heard of this little diamond of a place.
And don’t be put off by a queue of hungry students stretching around the corner. What you’ll get will be well worth the short wait.
It took all of five minutes for me to be seated and welcomed into the quirky, vibrant atmosphere inside.
The furnishings are all different, which gives a relaxed and carefree atmosphere – just what was needed for most of the clientele, who were looking to ease into their Sunday.
The menu ranges from large gourmet burgers to full English breakfasts along with club sandwiches and soups, including gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options, and also had 15 burger combinations - one of which I opted for.
I ordered the house burger special and I don’t think I could have made a better choice. The beef was fresh and succulent with melted cheese, salad and the kind of homemade chips your grandmother used to make.
The portion sizes were large but that wasn’t an issue as there’s no problem with packing any leftovers up for seconds at home - ideal for a student living on a tight budget.
The service was quick and, despite the ever-growing queue outside, it was calm, unflustered and smiley.
My meal and drink cost just under £10, which meant I could have got a dessert – if I hadn’t been so full.
So if you’re student living in Newcastle I would strongly recommend visiting the friendly and quirky Butterfly Cabinet for a delicious meal which doesn’t break the bank.
Chilli Cake Deli, 0 Baker Street, Middlesbrough, www.chillicakedeli.com , Monday-Saturday 9am-4pm
If Baker Street is an oasis of cool in Middlesbrough’s bustling town centre, Chilli Cake Deli is an oasis of cool in an oasis of cool.
The decor, which is as eclectic as the customers, mixes shabby chic with ethnographic touches; think up-cycled furniture and coffee sacks on the walls.
After scanning the specials board I ordered the cheeseburger (£8.95). The representative staff member who served me was quietly efficient and pleasant.
Sinking into the luxurious leather sofa, I settled into some people-watching. A mix of mums treating their kids and students meeting up for a gossip - or a free wifi session - were on show when I was there.
When my food arrived, it was clear this wasn’t just any cheese burger, it was a stack of burger, locally sourced cheese and black pudding, bacon and fried egg balanced precariously between two chunks of toasted ciabatta - served with sweet potato fries.
The food was superb. The black pudding in the burger was a more than welcome addition to the traditional burger, even if its flavour did dominate. The sweet potato fries were excellent too.
Given the quality of the ingredients, my meal was very fairly priced. The deli cabinet offers a tempting range of sandwiches for slightly less than a fiver and the take-home pork pie was a nice reminder of a delicious lunch. A place to visit again.
Good Apple Cafe, 18 Derwent Street, Sunderland www.goodapplecafe.co.uk , Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm and until 6.30pm on Thursday
Less than five minutes’ walk from Sunderland University City Campus, the Good Apple Cafe is in an ideal location for students, especially vegetarians and vegans. It’s the only exclusively vegetarian-vegan cafe in the city.
The cafe has a typical independent coffee shop style, with mismatched furniture and homely features including board games, books and potted plants on the windowsill, and despite being fairly small, the limited space inside is put to good use and the tables aren’t cramped together.
Although lesser-known ethical choices such as the organic tea brand Teapigs are available, I opted for the white hot chocolate with vanilla, costing £2.60. This was incredibly creamy, as expected, and, although enjoyable, did start to become sickly.
The range of food includes wraps, soup, ciabattas and bagels but I chose the £5 small veggie breakfast. This came after a 15-minute wait and I found the meal filling without the heaviness of a meaty breakfast.
I finished with a vegan, gluten-free pecan brownie, costing £1.90, which was deliciously spongy and moist.
The service at the cafe was adequate; the waitress who served me was sufficiently polite but lacked the infectious friendliness which creates excellent customer service.
Altogether I spent less than £10 for a satisfying lunch, dessert and drink, which I found to be good value for money.
Meanwhile, the cafe also offers a 10% student discount.
Vennels Cafe, Saddler Street, Durham, Monday-Saturday, 9.30am-5pm
Tucked away in a hidden courtyard off Saddler Street, Vennels has been an established mainstay of Durham for years.
Popular with everyone from lunching ladies to tourists and students, its style is best described as classically English and has won a legion of loyal fans.
Step inside and you could be in the cafe of a National Trust stately home. Exposed wooden beams and copper oddities are to be found in abundance. Look out for the old sewing machine tables upstairs too.
My visit was on a busy Saturday lunchtime, but there was still plenty of seating available upstairs and the smiling staff had a knack for speedy service without rushing.
The menu featured all the classic staples of sandwiches, soups and baked potatoes as well as salads, pies and a plethora of cakes and scones. I opted for the smoked salmon and asparagus quiche and received a door-stopper of a slice, along with salad and a generous spoonful of homemade coleslaw.
In a word, it was excellent. The saltiness of the smoked salmon contrasted wonderfully with the creamy filling, although there was distinct lack of asparagus - in my slice at least.
I did think £6.25 was a bit over-priced and that corned beef pie might have been a better choice, value for money-wise. Fruit scones had sold out by the time I ordered, so I made do with pistachio and white chocolate.
Golden on the outside yet soft and delicate inside, it was, in short, a revelation and any thoughts of it being overpriced at £2.50 were quickly banished.
Needless to say, garden-variety sultana scones won’t cut the mustard any more.
Quilliam Brothers Tea Room, Eldon Place, Claremont Buildings, Newcastle, www.quilliambrothers.com , Mon-Fri 10am-midnight, Sat 9am-midnight
Walking into the Quilliam Brothers Tea Room, you could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into a time machine.
The boxes of tea stacked behind the counter give the place a unique aesthetic and an atmosphere that I can best describe as Victorian bohemian.
As I walked in I was met by a friendly member of staff who explained how the place worked, and showed me to my very clean table.
The food menu is perhaps a little too sparse, but that is compensated for by its quality. I opted for a stottie (which the staff helpfully explained was a bread bun specific to the North East).
The Mexican pulled pork I had on it was cooked to perfection, and was complemented well by jalapenos and new potatoes.
This cost £5.45 (or £4.95 if you have an NUS card) and I consider this good value for money.
But in a tea room, the focus will inevitably be on the tea, of which there is an extensive range on offer. With about 60 different types to choose from, it would take a long time to try them all.
I chose special Fujian White, which cost £2.45 for a small pot that gave three cups. It too, was good value for money.
Made freshly in front of me, both the food and the tea were excellent.
With student discounts on offer and close proximity to both Northumberia Uni and Newcastle Uni, the Quilliam Brothers Tea Room promises to be a great place for students to soothe the stresses of study.