Well connected to several other metropolitan hubs both to the North and South, this compact Cathedral city is an ideal candidate for a spur of the moment city-break. Steeped in history and just plain steep, its narrow cobbled streets are lined with independent, artisanal cafés specialising in freshly brewed teas and locally roasted coffees.
“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”, wrote Lincolnshire born poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and pushing on relentlessly up Lincoln’s accurately named street ‘Steep Hill’, one strives to seek that most elusive of entities – the ‘perfect’ coffee shop. After reaching the summit, take in the same views once afforded to the Romans, who established a legionary fortress at the hill’s peak and later renamed the city “Lindum”.
Skip to the present day, and it is legions of tourists who now lay claim to this historic city. For those who wish to embark on something of a ‘coffee shop crawl’, Lincoln has enough cafés to send one’s blood pressure skyrocketing, so what follows is a hand-picked selection of the very best.
Hidden away on the ground floor of The Terrace complex is a multi-storeyed creative industries workspace. Café Portico rewards the more determined of coffee conquistadors. In addition to the fine-tasting, freshly ground coffee served by well-trained baristas an extensive menu of light meals is available, from Neapolitan style pizzas to snazzy salads topped with free-range roast pork. Those seeking a shot of art to go with their gingerbread latte will also be suitably satiated, as the café sits adjacent to two contemporary art galleries. Lunchtime hours are very popular with the locals, so arrive early to avoid disappointment.
The Terrace, Grantham Street
The sweet scent of freshly ground coffee wafts through the open doors of Coffee Aroma, a stylish artisanal outfit offering a range of single-origin coffees sourced from ethically conscious coffee roasters HasBean. Listed among the top ten coffee shops in the UK by The Guardian, staff are trained to prepare coffee to barrister-championship standards. With a Dutch feel to its faded wood exterior, the café lies just off the High Street and attracts art school crowds from the nearby University campuses who are drawn in by its sleek, retro surrounds and weekly acoustic nights. As far as hot tips go, the Espresso Martini and Flat White are crowd-pleasers.
24 Guildhall Street
The Drill Hall Café Bar
An open, cavernous space featuring grand, red-brick interior archways, the environment allows for a sustained hum of activity and ideal acoustics for Saturday’s live music nights. A popular meeting place for locals given its relaxed atmosphere, the café is also family friendly with a well-stocked kids’ zone to keep the darling young cherubs happy while the adults discuss the merits of hiring a live-in nanny. Managed by Lincoln Arts Trust, takings go towards maintaining the venue as a cultural hub, with the Drill Hall itself also playing host to a year-round programme of theatre productions, films and talks.
Lincoln Drill Hall, Freeschool Lane
Rising Café – From the Rubble
Located a short stroll from the city-centre within Alive Church and featuring an oddball assortment of vintage 1940s paraphernalia, Rising Cafe is a real curio and certainly not short on character. With retro signage adorning the walls and a large model airplane hanging from the ceiling, it can be easy to get distracted from what’s on the menu. The Madeira Cake is a particular success story, as is the Mexican Afternoon Tea. The staff are also welcoming and polite; all men and women recovering from homelessness and substance-addiction. 100% of profits goes towards funding their rehabilitation.
The Bookstop Café
As its name so cunningly suggests, vegan-friendly Bookstop Café affords its patrons the leisurely luxury of sitting back with a book in one hand and piping hot brew in the other. Strategically placed half-way up Steep Hill, this can easily be missed from the outside due to it being several steps below street level. Occupying the lower level of a Grade One listed building dating from the 12th Century, the café’ imports’ its tea from Imperial Teas located on the next floor up. Low, vaulted ceilings and stone archways bestow upon the café a cosy, intimate feel.
47 Steep Hill
Stepping into this traditional tearoom is like entering a time-warp back to 1940s Britain; the surrounding décor faithfully evokes the period and Afternoon Tea is served in elegant, bone china teapots and a mismatch of dainty, floral patterned cups and saucers. Mercifully, the café hasn’t taken the authentic feel too far by also presenting wartime ration-sized portions. Instead, customers can order generous wedges of home-made Coffee and Walnut Cake or the popular Plum Loaf in pleasant surrounds as they are waited on by a team of caring, conscientious staff. It is also winner of the 2018 Lincolnshire GOLD award, which recognises outstanding quality and service.
18 Steep Hill
Situated south of the river in the centre of Bishop Grosseteste University campus, Curiositea attracts only the most curious and committed of coffee lovers. Alice-in-Wonderland themed, the café offers weary travellers comfortable seating with its plush, high-backed armchairs as well as a hearty breakfast menu that leaves you in danger of coming away looking like either one of Tweedledum or Tweedledee. One drawback, however, are its opening times; due to being on University grounds, the café is unfortunately closed at Weekends.
Bishop Grosseteste University, Newport