The LMDC Espresso Bar occupies the perfect spot for a coffee shop on Harrogate’s pedestrianised John Street. Nestled alongside numerous other bars, cafes and restaurants, LMDC doesn’t immediately stand out from the crowd, but it’s worth hunting down. There’s a pair of two-person tables outside on the pavement, one either side of the door, the whole area fenced off from the passing crowd. Stepping inside takes you into a small but lovely space, full of wooden furniture, with a stone-flagged floor and a low, wooden-beam ceiling, all of which adds to a cosy, welcoming atmosphere.
Talking of which, a warm welcome is assured from the owner, Leslie, and from Head Barista, Elliott. When it comes to coffee, LMDC Espresso serves Square Mile on espresso, using the ubiquitous Red Brick blend, while there’s a single-origin on offer through either V60 or Chemex, the options changing every couple of weeks. If you’re hungry, you can almost hear the counter groaning under the weight of the homemade cakes, while there are good breakfast and lunch options if you want something more savoury. These use locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible, prepared in the kitchen at the back, tucked away beyond the end of the counter.
Harrogate is a town with a compact centre, which is where you’ll find the likes of Bean & Bud, Baltzersens and Hoxton North, all within a five-minute walk of each other. The exception to this rule is Westmoreland Speciality Coffee, which is out in the sticks, on the very edge of Harrogate, a whole 10 minutes’ walk from the railway station and maybe 15 minutes from the far flung reaches of Hoxton North on the other side of town.
Set up in the summer of 2014 by the very lovely Jamie, it is an equally lovely place. It also wins Coffee Spot brownie points for being located on Westmoreland Road, on the corner with Mowbray Square. This isn’t its original location, by the way. Westmoreland was originally at No 8, a tiny spot just a few doors down Westmoreland Road, where it spent the first year of its life.
Serving an ever-changing choice of blends/single-origins (plus decaf) on espresso and pour-over from North Star, it’s very much a neighbourhood coffee shop, with a cast of loyal regulars. There’s loose-leaf tea or hot chocolate for the non-coffee drinkers. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there is a selection of sandwiches, cakes and pastries.
Hoxton North started life in October 2013 on Parliament Street in Harrogate. I did try to visit back in 2014, when I was in Harrogate to see the likes of Bean & Bud, but I foolishly came on a Monday and, back then, Parliament Street had Mondays off. By the time I returned to Harrogate at the end of last year, there were two Hoxton Norths with this, the second branch, having opened in October 2016, just around the corner on Royal Parade. For a while the two branches operated in tandem, but in March this year, the original on Parliament Street closed, leaving Royal Parade as Hoxton North’s sole outpost for now.
In comparison to Parliament Street, where the focus was firmly on the coffee, Royal Parade has spread its wings a little, offering extensive breakfast and brunch menus, plus wine and beer in the evenings. The two spaces are very different as well, Royal Parade offering a larger, bright, open space, lacking Parliament Street’s cosy little nooks and crannies. When it comes to the coffee, there’s a house-espresso blend (Resolute during my visit), with decaf on the second grinder (a San Fermin from Colombia), both from Cornwall’s Origin.
Baltzersen’s has been around since 2012, when it joined Harrogate pioneers, Bean & Bud, which is just five minutes’ walk away from Baltzersen’s town centre location on Oxford Street. A curious blend of Yorkshire and Scandinavia, Baltzersen’s is a café with an excellent all-day food offering and some great coffee. From the outside, it doesn’t look that big, but Baltzersen’s goes a long way back, before ending in a large room which opens off to the right. There’s also a generous amount of outdoor seating on the pedestrianised street.
When it opened, Baltzersen’s was known more for its food than for its coffee, but these days it stands comparison with the best of them. The food, which is Scandinavian-inspired, is still excellent, with breakfast served until noon, when lunch takes over. This is joined by a small all-day brunch selection and plenty of excellent-looking cakes. The coffee, meanwhile, is from North Star in Leeds, which supplies the seasonal house-blend, plus rotating guests on the second grinder, which change on a monthly basis. There is also a monthly filter option from another Leeds roaster, Maude Coffee.
May 2018: Good news! Baltzersen’s has gone disposable free! If you come in for a takeway coffee and don’t have your own cup, you can buy a Pokito Cup for just £10 or pay £15 and get the cup plus £10 in coffee credit!
No trip to Harrogate would be complete without at least contemplating a visit to the famous Bettys Café Tea Rooms. I duly carried out my contemplation as I walked past in the morning, put off by the long queue snaking along the pavement. However, as I wandered past with an hour to kill in the evening before my train back to York, the lack of a queue led to a reappraisal and soon I was seated downstairs in Bettys, greedily surveying the heaving cake trolley.
Founded in 1919, Bettys sounds as Yorkshire as they come, but it was, in fact, the creation of a Swiss baker/confectioner, Frederick Belmont. Despite this, it’s quintessentially the British Tea Room and opinions about it vary considerably. I find my own ambivalence to Bettys both puzzling and informative.
On the one hand, having to queue for anything puts me off, plus it is, undoubtedly, a grand institution of the sort I am naturally suspicious off. On the other hand, were this Paris’ Angelina or Dublin’s Bewley’s, then I would (and have been) there like a shot. Perhaps it is just the familiarity of the British Tea Room that breeds contempt. Regardless, reach your own conclusions.
Harrogate’s finest is Bean & Bud, although from the looks of it, Hoxton North could give it a run for its money, if only it wasn’t shut on Mondays (guess who came to visit Harrogate on a Monday?). A few minutes’ walk north of the train station on Commercial Street, Bean & Bud can best be described as bright and bold, the majority of the interior painted a bright red, in contrast to, rather than in sympathy with, the lovely wooden counter and flooring. What isn’t red is white, including the (fairly low) ceiling.
However, the draw of Bean & Bud is the outstanding tea and coffee. While I can’t speak to the tea, Fancy a Cuppa rates it, which is good enough for me. The coffee rotates on a regular basis, changing both beans and roasters with frightening speed. Don’t come back expecting the same cup of coffee you had last week!
The coffee is available as espresso (with varying quantities of milk) or filter (V60, Aeropress or Chemex). The week’s beans are up on the board, the idea being that you have a discussion with the barista about which bean you want and then how to take it.
September 2015: I’m delighted that Bean & Bud was short-listed for this year’s Lunch Business Awards Best Tea Experience.