Traditional English tea rooms are somewhat of a speciality in Lincoln. All around the city you will find them in various forms and guises, from the vintage to the modern and everything in between. These establishments are an intrinsic part of the city’s convivial food and drink scene, and a must to try when you visit. So, to help you find your ideal place for a hot drink and bite to eat, we’ve compiled our favourite tea rooms in Lincoln.
1. Stokes High Bridge Café
We begin with one of the city’s most iconic establishments: High Bridge Café, the home of Stokes Tea & Coffee. One of the city’s oldest and most loved businesses, Stokes has been roasting coffee and blending tea for over a century. It now has several outlets and supplies many hospitality business around the county, but this its oldest and finest, at the fulcrum of Lincoln’s High Street in the lower city centre.
It’s not only the business itself that makes this café special. The building it occupies is one of the most recognisable in Lincoln, and has been part of the city’s story since it was built in the 14th century. The bridge it stand on is even older, constructed in 1160 – in fact, High Bridge is the UK’s oldest bridge with buildings on it.
Aesthetically, the café’s facade and interior has all the hallmarks of a medieval English house. Think black-and-white structure with wooden beams, creaky floorboards, winding staircases, and cosy nooks and crannies. (Even though it’s snug inside, the table layout and little ‘booths’ upstairs makes it comfortable to stay distanced.) An upstairs window seat lets you enjoy your tea and bites while absorbing the bustling ambiance of the High Street outside. This is a spot where you’ll often see street performers on the thoroughfare; my latest lunch was accompanied by the cheerful sounds of an Irish tap-dancer.
But more to the point: the tea and coffee here really is some of the best you will find in Lincoln. The food ain’t bad either! You can get an afternoon tea for two for £24.95, which is a great price compared to the local average and considering the prime location. There’s plenty more to try, too; on my most recent visit I indulged in a toasted sandwich of Lincolnshire sausage, cheddar and apple chutney, rounded off with a scone (jam and clotted cream of course), and washed down with a pot of the famous gold medal blend tea.
As you will read below, there are many wonderful tea rooms in Lincoln to visit. But if you only have time to try one, and you want an authentic slice of what the city offers, you can’t go far wrong with a stop off at Stokes High Bridge Café.
2. Bells Tea Shop
Right near the tippy-top of Steep Hill, Bells Tea Shop is one of the most popular tea rooms in the city, set in a cosy old Grade II listed cottage. With only a handful of tables and busy location at the hub of uphill Lincoln, you may need to queue for a table at peak times if you haven’t booked ahead. Castle Square is a stone’s throw away, and the cathedral just around the corner, so it’s ideal for a stop-in between sightseeing.
Bells is very much a traditional English tea room, with floral table-covers and teacups, and smiling service. Most of the food is sourced locally, from the Lincolnshire sausages in the breakfasts to Jenny’s Jams served with the scones. The menu is stacked with sandwiches, paninis, light bites, cakes, pastries, teas and coffees.
A big old open fireplace really adds to the period-building charm at the back of the main room, but we prefer to sit by the window and absorb the whirr of Steep Hill activity over lunch. One of the neatly presented sandwiches and a house speciality loose leaf tea is always a winning combination.
3. Bunty’s Tea Room
A little further down Steep Hill, Bunty’s Tea Room brings a dash of vintage to Lincoln’s café scene. Walk in and you may think you have been transported back in time several decades, with war-era music spouting from what sounds like a gramophone, red telephone boxes on shelves and old bicycles hanging from the walls.
Like Bells Tea Shop, Bunty’s is set in a quaint Grade II listed building, but with two floors it offers a bit more space. If you can get one of the window tables on the first floor, you’ll have a pleasant perch with an elevated view out onto Steep Hill.
At £4.50, the toasted Lincolnshire plum bread with mature cheddar and caramelised onion chutney is incredible value – it’s on the breakfast menu, but doubles up perfectly as a light lunch. I can never resist trying the house specials, and so always go for ‘Bunty’s blend’ keemun and ceylon loose leaf tea to go with it (but there are many more infusions to choose from).
The tea comes in elegant but oddball vintage china that looks like it has been curated from car boot sales over the years. This just adds to the allure of the jumbled decor at Bunty’s.
4. Peony Tea Parlour
Opened in 2019, Peony Tea Parlour is one of Lincoln’s newest tea rooms, but it has the feel of a place that’s been part of the furniture for a long time – in a good way. This may be because its owner, Jade Hawkins, has been running tea rooms in the area for years, and clearly knows what she’s doing. (Prior to opening Peony Tea Parlour, she has been at the helm of the Garden Tea Room down the road in North Hykeham – also well worth stopping by if you are around.)
Peony Tea Parlour is a little way out of the city centre, over on Burton Road, across from the Museum of Lincolnshire Life. The offbeat location means it’s often quieter than the tea rooms around Steep Hill, so a nice little getaway from the hubbub for an afternoon pit-stop. It’s quite a bit cheaper, too – my bill came to £9.40 for a stilton and mango chutney wrap, a pot of tea, and a scone with jam and clotted cream.
The vintage style emanates through the dusty green spotted tablecloths and flowery pink menus.
Staff are lovely – it’s a cosy and friendly atmosphere
5. Grayz Tea Room
Grayz Tea Room is somewhat of a hidden gem. Tucked away on a side street just off Bailgate, it’s close to all of Lincoln’s uphill attractions, but as it’s off the main thoroughfare it’s often quiet. I found it with only one of its tables occupied when every other tea room in the vicinity was rammed. It may not have such a conspicuous building or the striking decor that some of the tea rooms in this collection boast, but that has no bearing on the quality of its food and drink.
Inside it’s simplistic and homely, with wooden floors, white walls, and staff coming and going breezily between the kitchen and the cosy café room. The little courtyard out front has another four tables, which I haven’t had the pleasure of trying yet, but I’m sure would be lovely in the sunshine.
The menu is that of a classic English tea room: hot drinks, locally sourced food, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, all-day breakfasts and a selection of home-made cakes. My favourite thing here is the scones – one of the best I’ve had. And at £19.95, the afternoon tea for two at Grayz is the best-priced we’ve found in Lincoln.
If you’re not too bothered about novelty value and you just want a lovely cuppa and bite to eat in town, you really can’t go wrong here.
6. Craftea Cafe
This is a place you are unlikely to find unless you’re looking for it. A little walk outside the city centre, Craftea is situated amid a nondescript row of shops on the side of the busy A15. But once you’re inside you’ll quickly forget about the traffic.
As the name suggests, Craftea has a creative essence to it. Next door is a fabric shop, and there are frequent workshops for crafting, sewing and knitting. Books and magazines adorn the walls, and even the the cakes are more colourful than most. (And delicious too.) It’s the kind of place you could stay for hours with a good book or some embroidery.
The choice of teas in Craftea is a little quirkier than elsewhere. I ordered chocolate and ginger – a popular choice, as the friendly staff informed me – and I could see why. On the table next to me, I heard a woman say “this is the best chai latte I’ve ever had!” We got chatting, and she told me that a hobby of hers is to try chai lattes wherever she goes. So that’s a recommendation on good authority!
The food menu features specials that are changed up regularly. I had a New York deli panini and a hand-made chocolate orange cheesecake. Both were divine; they probably won’t be on the menu next time I pop in, but will be replaced by something equally satisfying.
7. Stokes Lawn Café
We bookend our compilation of tea rooms in Lincoln with another Stokes establishment, this time the Lawn Café. Situated uphill close to the walls of Lincoln Castle, this place has a completely different vibe to High Bridge Café, and it’s also where Stokes’ headquarters are these days. You can even see the coffee-roasting process on-site from a special viewing area.
While the Lawn Café has a distinctly modern vibe, the building does have an interesting back-story; it was once the cookhouse of the Lincoln Lunatic Asylum, dating back to the early 19th Century. But today it is unrecognisable from its beginnings, having been transformed into a contemporary café with a spirit of sustainability. Much of the furniture and decor is fashioned from reused and upcycled pieces, while if you look above you will see a life-size model of a killer whale suspended from the ceiling, made from old coffee machine and car parts.
It’s not just the atmosphere at the Lawn Café that differs from High Bridge; the food menu is also quite different, with more of a sit-down-restaurant feel inside. You can choose from various wholesome lunches, and there are sandwiches and wraps too, served on a wooden board complete with skin-on fries and coleslaw.
The outdoor seating area is lovely in summer – just right for an afternoon cuppa and cake in the sunshine when you need a break from sightseeing. There’s a cabinet of cakes to choose from, freshly made, and featuring something different every day. Try a rockslide brownie if there are any left… they’re incredible.
Tea rooms in Lincoln: map
Take a look at the map below to see the locations of the various tea rooms in Lincoln we’ve highlighted in this article:
For more inspiration, check out more of our articles on food and drink in Lincoln.
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