In a nutshell:
-small, charming and welcoming
-standing only: like Sunderland’s very own Italian coffee house
-a perfect pit-stop when in town
Finding Holmeside right in Sunderland centre got me a bit giddy. I had resigned myself to the fact that chain coffee shops were the only choice here. But this little jewel, squeezed in the middle of a Mexican and a cocktail bar is an absolute find and, still with its original vintage Newsagents shop header at the front, you have to have your eyes peeled to find it. Perhaps because of its modest exterior (the only thing that screams ‘coffee shop’ is on a little blackboard), the rewards inside seem all the greater.
You can’t help but be charmed by the place, and the experience
Holmeside was set up six years ago and traded inside a nightclub. This changed last year when their undoubted taste for coffee and atmosphere moved into the museum – this has now become their main cafe which is just outside the town centre. But to my eyes, this one is the real jewel on High Street West, which opened only a few months ago. The cafe is small: no seating, comfortable for about 4 customers at a time, but what it lacks in space, it makes up in character – the walls were stripped down, revealing old stone walls and a door not used for 30 years – and you can’t help but be charmed by the place, and the experience.
Holmeside Coffee is really the best functioning coffee community I’ve seen…it reminded me of a traditional Italian coffee house
I often talk on this blog about how the careful placement of seating can encourage conversation between customers and form a coffee community, but Holmeside Coffee is really the best functioning coffee community I’ve seen. People come in, stay for a chat as they sip their coffee, then off to work they go. It reminded me of a traditional Italian coffee house where people come in, and share news with each other and then leave once they’ve finished their espresso.
Talking with the staff, it was interesting to hear that they weren’t sure Sunderland was ready for a speciality coffee shop when they first opened their doors in January. But put up a shop like this, and need and want soon appears. One regular, who was sipping his coffee at the counter overheard this conversation and confirmed the gap Holmeside has filled: ‘it’s the only place to come here’. It seems to have collected a strong regular customer base and not only that, it’s created a coffee community which seems not to have been here before. The fact that this is happening only since January speaks volumes of the level of work, skill and careful planning that has gone into this cafe.
They use Origin beans here, which is a Cornish company I rate time and time again. I had a latte which was everything you’d want: thick, creamy and luxurious. It was on the mellow side, to opt for a flat white if you want something a bit punchier.
It was like entering a tardis into a European utopia where the British stiff upper lip didn’t exist.
All in all:
An absolute delight of a cafe. How refreshing to pop in, have a look round at the gorgeous decor, have a chat with the awesome staff, and then leave, coffee in hand. I wish coffee shops did this more. The lack of seating encouraged conversation between all, and it was like entering a tardis into a European utopia where the British stiff upper lip didn’t exist. If this is what they can do in 4 months, let’s give them a year. I’m expecting big things from this coffee shop.
Things to know:
-no food (but plans are in motion – watch this space)
-merchandise and soft drinks available
-perfect pit-stop on your own or with friends when in town
-right opposite Sunderland Empire theatre
-Opening times: Mon-Fri 8-4pm; Sat 9-4pm (Sun closed)
Recommended places nearby:
–Sunderland Empire Theatre (directly opposite)
–The Engine Room – great for food (including cake) and cockatils