Queues out of the door have been the norm at Flat White Kitchen since it opened in October, though queues like that can mean any number of things. It might be absurd cheapness, like the time Eat4Less in Newcastle started banging out paninis for tuppence ha’penny and famished students queued halfway down Northumberland Street. It might be empty hype and pomp, as with... well, lots of places, unfortunately. With Flat White Kitchen, though it’s neither: it’s simply the best place in the city to have breakfast and lunch.
As I settle down at my table for one – which, I’d add, is entirely through choice and absolutely not because I don’t have any friends – it’s buzzing with lunchtime trade. The unfussy white-everything-and-stripped-wood look will feel familiar (it’s essentially the tuxedo of restaurant design: pretty much anything will look good in it, regardless of size or shape) but that’s part of the appeal. The menu prizes lightness and zesty Latin flavours, with mackerel salads alongside pancakes and gourmet sandwiches, and while Flat White Kitchen isn’t open for evening meals, the quality of their breakfasts, brunches and lunches is impossible to ignore.
There are a fair few students about – I sat next to a table of theologists with some pretty big opinions about St Jerome – though this is much more the kind of quietly impressive place where are mums get taken to be convinced that actually, jetting off to Cambodia for seven months with some new pals from the ultimate frisbee team is an eminently sensible career choice at this juncture. Honestly.
It’s very hard for parents to worry about their offspring’s prospects when they’re chomping through such great food. The baked eggs with tomato and red pepper compote and chorizo which I had mirrored the décor: the flavours are bright, clean and considered, not least the attendant wedges of toasted sourdough which have that pleasing acid tang. On the side, the corn fritters with a punchy, parsley-augmented chipotle mayo added more crunch and are highly recommended.
Obviously it would be extremely remiss to come to Flat White Kitchen and not have a flat white: Ouseburn Coffee Co’s beans are turned into a dark, nutty and smooth brew, with a hint of praline in the aftertaste.
The waiter, Liam, is as sound a man as I’ve ever found serving up caffeine in the North East, being both learned in desserts (I take him up on his recommendation of the gingerbread cake topped with stem ginger; with its moreish botanical spiciness, it’s as excellent a pudding as I’ve had) and on the wine front too. Flat White Kitchen’s wine bar, plus charcuterie and cheese boards, will be launching soon, and judging by the soave which I rounded things off with they’ll be a massive boost.
So, in sum: Flat White Kitchen goes some way to filling the hole which Bistro 21 left in Durham’s food scene, and feels like it’s quickly settled into the fabric of the city for the long haul. This review’s not going to do much for the queueing situation, though. Sorry.
Flat White Kitchen
40 Saddler Street, Durham DH1 3NU