This compact cathedral city is well connected to several other metropolitan north-south hubs, making it ideal for spur-of-the-moment city breaks. The historic, steep roads and narrow cobbled streets are lined with independent artisanal cafes specialising in freshly brewed teas and locally roasted coffee.
The Lincolnshire-born poet Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “To strive, to seek, to find, not to yield”, and along Lincoln’s accurately named street, Steep Hill, one strives to find the most elusive entity of all – the “perfect” coffee shop. Once at the top of the hill, one can admire the legionary fortress once built by the Romans, who later renamed the city “Lindum.”
Jumping to the present day, it is now a large number of tourists who lay claim to this historic city. For those looking to embark on a “coffee shop crawl”, Lindum’s cafes are enough to get your blood pressure up, so here’s a handpicked list of the best ones.
The Café Portico (Café Portico)
Tucked away on the ground floor of The Terrace complex is a multi-storey creative industry workspace, and Café Portico offers more rewards for the coffee conqueror. In addition to freshly ground coffee served by trained baristas, there’s an extensive tapas menu, from Neapolitan-style pizzas to funky salads with free-range pork roasts. With the cafe adjacent to two contemporary art galleries, those looking to enjoy art alongside their gingerbread lattes will be suitably catered for. Lunchtime is popular with the locals, so arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Grantham Street, The Terrace
The sweet scent of freshly ground coffee wafted through the open doors of Coffee Aroma, a stylish artisanal workshop offering a range of single origin coffees from ethically conscious coffee roaster HasBean. Coffee Aroma has been listed by The Guardian as one of the top ten coffee shops in the UK, and the staff are trained to make coffee to Barrister’s Championship standards. The faded wooden exterior has a Dutch influence, and the café’s location near the High Street attracts the art school crowd from nearby university campuses, who are drawn to its sleek, vintage setting and weekly acoustic nights. As for hot tips, Espresso Martini and Flat White are the favourites.
24 City Hall Street.
Drill Hall Coffee Bar
The open-plan space features a grand red brick interior archway and the environment makes for a constant buzz and the ideal acoustics for Saturday live music nights. With a relaxed atmosphere, the café is a favourite meeting place for locals and a family-friendly venue with an extensive children’s area to keep the cute little ones happy while the adults discuss the benefits of hiring a live-in nanny. Managed by the Lincoln Arts Trust, the proceeds go towards maintaining the venue as a cultural centre, and the Drill Hall itself hosts theatre productions, films and lectures all year round.
Lincoln Drill Hall, Liberty School Lane
Close to downtown, right inside Alive Church, Rising Cafe is a real vintage shop with all sorts of vintage 1940s paraphernalia, and certainly not without character. With vintage signage adorning the walls and a large model airplane hanging from the ceiling, it’s easy to get distracted from the menu. The Madeira cake is a particular success story, as is the Mexican afternoon tea. The staff here are also warm and polite, men and women recovering from homelessness and drug addiction. 100% of the profits go to fund their recovery.
Book Station Café
As its name suggests, the vegan-friendly Bookstop Café offers customers the laid-back luxury of a book in one hand and a hot drink in the other. Ideally situated halfway up a steep hill, it’s easily overlooked from the outside, as it’s below street level. The café is located on the ground floor of a Grade I listed 12th century building and imports tea from Imperial Teas, which is located on the lower level. Low vaulted ceilings and stone arches give the café a cosy, intimate feel.
Steep Hill 47.
Walking into this traditional tea room is like stepping into a time warp back to 1940s England; the surrounding décor faithfully evokes the era, and afternoon tea is served in elegant bone china teapots and mismatched, patterned cups and saucers. Thankfully, the café doesn’t play up the real feel too much and offers wartime ration-sized portions. In its place, customers can order chunks of homemade coffee and walnut cake or the popular plum bread in a pleasant environment as they wait with a team of caring and conscientious staff. It is also the winner of the 2018 Lincolnshire Gold Award, which recognises outstanding quality and service.
18 Steep Hill.
Located just south of the river in the heart of Bishop Grosseteste University’s campus, Curiositea appeals to only the most curious and committed Deep L enthusiasts. The Alice in Wonderland-themed café offers weary travelers comfortable seating, plush high-backed armchairs, and a hearty breakfast menu that makes it possible to leave looking like either Tweedledum or Tweedledee. The one downside, however, is its opening hours, as the cafe is unfortunately closed on weekends due to being on a college campus.
Bishop Grosseteste University, Newport