ORB micropub, 28 Coniscliffe Rd, Darlington DL3, open Wed-Thurs 5pm-10pm; Fri 3pm-10.30pm; Sat 12pm-10.30pm; Sun 3pm-8pm, closed Mon-Tues.
This is a new kid on the block, as far as real ale in Darlington is concerned. A very good range of local brews – mainly sourced from Tyneside and Durham – which change regularly. There’s a friendly welcome too behind the bar. There’s a comfy seating area at the back and they’re planning to open upstairs too soon. Owned by the new micro Orchard Road Brewery – hence the name – the eventual plan is to sell their own beers here too. The bar also specialises in malt whiskies. It’s a few doors down from the well-established Number Twenty 2, which will keep it on its toes but should also cement this corner of the town as a craft beer oasis. DAFTS recommended.
For real ale fans, Number Twenty 2, 22 Coniscliffe Road takes some beating. “22’s” has an excellent selection of beers and wines, with a pub grub and a separate canteen area during the day. A past Darlington CAMRA’s pub of the year and town pub of the year.
Regular featured beers include Hambleton’s Bull Premium, White Boar and a stout, but up to six others change fairly regularly. The bar offers 20 bottled British and continental beers (including an alcohol-free range), and no spirits or silly alco-pops. No TVs, games machines, music, mobile phones are politely requested to be on “silent”). Despite or perhaps because of the restrictions, this is a relaxed place for beer and conversation. The pub is 20 minutes walk from the ground or five minutes by taxi. Open from 12pm-11pm Mon-Sat, 12pm-10.30pm Sundays. Click for map
Rocket Town Brewhouse, Houndgate @rockettownbrewing
This is a welcome newcomer on the craft beer scene promising four casks, three kegs and a good fridge for bottled beers. Town centre location puts it within a fairly straightforward stroll to the ground. Supplied by the RocketTown micro brewery range of beers and other guests. Open from 11am on a Saturday and 5pm on a weekday.
Along with No 22, this has been in recent years a regular Darlington CAMRA Pub of the Year. The Quaker House, 2 Mechanics Yard, off High Row, entrance next to Binns has a small real ale bar downstairs. For a good few years they’ve had a choice of 10 hand-pulls, including the Quaker Ghost Ale regular – the spirits don’t just come in bottles at this bar. This had a little wobble for a while but is now back to its best and it’s still a popular haunt (groan) for live bands and also for Supporters’ Club forum nights. 11am-midnight Mon-Sat, 12pm-12 midnight Sunday.Click for map
Other pubs can be found around the market square:
Best is The Hole in the Wall, which is smaller, friendly and does pub grub and in recent years has added a good real ale choice. There’s also a Sky Sports screen there. 11am-11.30pm Mon-Thurs, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat, 12pm-11.30pm Sun.
The Half Moon, 130 Northgate (opp Gladstone St), Darlington DL1 1QS. A very welcome addition to the Darlo real ale scene, this is a nano-brewery pub, serving its own beer and a strong and changing selection of up to seven guest ales, as well as bottle sales. It’s also a friendly, locals pub, just off the town centre – a short walk under the subway from the main shopping street. It also serves bar snacks and has Yorkshire darts!
Recommended for food, real ale and a screen to watch the football is long-running Tapas Bar, 98 Bondgate. It has been extended in recent years, so more room for this popular town centre spot. There is a mix of Spanish and Greek food.
There’s the usual JD Wetherspoon’s choice and prices at The Tanners Hall, 63-64 Skinnersgate (pictured above), which is a barn of a place, but which usually has three or four guest ales on, prices usually between £1.35 and £1.70 a pint. 9am-12.30am Sun-Thurs, 9am-1am Fri-Sat.
A vast, modern Wetherspoon’s/Lloyd’s No 1 pub is the William Stead, Crown Street, which opened in August 2006. A limited range of real ales – such as Pedigree, Directors etc. The displays of vodka and wine bottles behind the bar give you the picture. Open from 9am, breakfasts from 8.30am and a good choice of food other times. The lights go down and the music turns up after 6pm. It’s named after an editor of the nearby Northern Echo, who was lost on the Titanic. Go in there, and you get that sinking feeling…
There are the usual take-aways in town – Macdonalds, KFC, Burger King. Recommended for pies, pasties and rolls in the almost infamous Taylors butchers. Join the queue (41-45 Skinnergate) for reasonably priced savouries in this Darlo institution.
Eating out, there is the new Chinese Buffet in the Feethams development, which has other chains like Nando’s and Bella Italia. For Indian food, recommended is the long-established and consistently fine Reema, 18 Coniscliffe Road.
Blackwell Grange, Grange Rd, 0808 144 9494 or (01325) 509 955 is almost opposite the ground. A large three-star hotel – now owned by Bruhenny Hotels – with grounds, golf course and health club. Around £100 per double room per night but two-night deals might be available. Good restaurant, buffet-style breakfast.
Hotel Bannatyne, Southend Avenue, sign-posted off Grange Road (01325) 365859. This hotel’s history goes back to when it was the town house of the notable Quakers, the Pease family. It then became a Victorian convent school, which never quite shook off its past as an antique (and rather cold!) hotel in the 1980s. Since its takeover and expansion, it has become a well-run, up-to-date and far more comfortable place, which sits sympathetically with its Grade II listing. It has expanded to 60 rooms and added a function suite in recent years. It’s around £80 per room per night but still compares well in terms of comfort, price and service to others in the area. Very handy too for the town centre and less than 20 minutes walk to the ground. A good in-house restaurant/bar, Maxine’s, is popular with outside diners and has a range of well-presented dishes. It can get busy when weddings are booked.
In the heart of the town centre is the Kings Head Hotel, 9-12 Priestgate, 01325 380222/Booking 0845 4566399, (near the Cornmill shopping centre). The three-star Victorian hotel is now owned by the Mercure chain and has been extensively refurbished and is competitively priced with comfortable rooms. Includes a bar and restaurant. Underground residents’ carpark.
There is also a recently-opened Premier Inn in the town centre which is well appointed – a short walk to the main shopping area and part of the Feethams complex of restaurants. There is also one at Morton Park off the A66/A67 junction heading towards Darlington. In the same area, off Yarm Road/Barrington Way is a Travelodge – with a Toby Inn attached and plenty of parking. It’s also accessible by Nos 11 or 12 bus from outside the station heading out of town (£1.60, a five minute walk from the No 11 stop)