I may have grown up in the North East, but there are some areas that remain uncharted territory to me. I have a fairly decent knowledge of eateries South of the Tyne as this has always been my ‘stomping ground’. An area lacking for me is further North. I decided to take my Mum & sister to Alnwick for the day but realised I wasn’t sure of where we could eat. Cue panic on my part and a request sent out via the North East Food Lovers Facebook page for recommendations.
A resounding thumbs up went to Barter Books, which I hadn’t realised had a cafe on-site. Seemingly this is a new addition since my last visit to the store, and I thought it would make for an interesting lunch location for my now non-North East residing family. Aside from the castle, it is probably the town’s most famous building. Its signpost even announces its world famous credentials.
Situated towards the rear of Barter Books is the entrance to the cafe, which is set out almost like a train. Walking through each room is like walking between the railway carriages, and its booth style seating contributes to that feeling. We were lucky to nab a table at the entrance, which looks like an American diner. Reservations are advised as although we visited on a weekday afternoon it was packed. There’s no doubting its popularity.
Their offering is fairly comprehensive with breakfasts (served until 11:30am), burgers and a display cabinet full of homemade cakes. Local butcher Turnbull’s features heavily with bacon, bangers and burgers all starring on the menu. Veggie and vegan options are also available, and decent baby change facilities meant I was quite comfortable there with the Dinky Diner.
With dishes named after famous patrons of the establishment such as The Spike Milligan (fried eggs, chips, toast, marmalade and coffee, £7.60) and the Leonard Cohen recommended Cheeseburger (£7.40), it seems that no-one is adverse to the charms of the Station Buffet.
We ordered a Lentil and Chickpea Soup (vegan friendly, £3.80 served with homemade bread), Macaroni Cheese (vegetarian normally, but with bacon bits added for my meat-eating sister at a 90p charge) and the rather delicious looking Baconburger (£7.60). With drinks the total came to just over £20, which was great value for money for 3 lunches.
The soup was packed with flavour and the homemade bread was excellent smothered with butter. As it is on the Specials Board I presume there may be other soups available on different days, so it may be worth checking what the vegan option is before travelling especially to eat here.
The Mac & Cheese was a little oily, perhaps because of the additional bacon. With the menu mentioning bacon ‘bits’ we imagined chopped up pieces rather than the rashers piled on top of the cheesy pasta. At £4.60 without the meat, it’s excellent value for money based on the size of the dish.
While there’s no denying the excellent quality of the burger, it was a little on the dry side. It definitely needed cheese or a sauce to add some moistness to the patty and bun. My mum also commented on the fact it was served with crisps, which she remarked was ‘mean’ for the price of the burger. Chips can be purchased as a side, but would take the total to over £10. Based on the prices at Fat Hippo, this would make it expensive for what is on offer. Even a side salad would have improved the value for money of the dish.
This aside, we enjoyed our trip to the Station Buffet and would happily return. We’ll definitely sample the cakes before we hit the book store to give you a comprehensive view of what they have on offer. We’ll also remember to book ahead next time to ensure we enjoy one of the smaller rooms.
Thanks for reading,