The saying ‘never meet your heroes’ is one thing, but it’s something else when a member of one of your favourite bands serves your dinner.
Having visited Durham the night before to see the first gig to be put on at the Durham Miners’ Association headquarters Redhills, we’d stayed in the city for an easy weekend getaway and then headed back into the centre for lunch.
I’d been keeping tabs on Penny’s Pantry, a vegan pop-up cafe held at Alington House in North Bailey, and realised we’d be nearby to catch this month’s event.
We found it squeezed into one of the rooms just inside the community building with a good 20 or so people huddled round half a dozen tables.
Behind the counter was Daniel, who plays in Onsind, one of the bands we’d seen the evening before, while Nathan, his band mate in that project as well as Martha, had called in for lunch.
If they think we’re stalking them, it wouldn’t be a surprise, but it was all by chance.
Mains, for a fiver each, were ‘pork’ schnitzel, a gluten-free winter stew or a classic burger, while for afters there was peanut butter jam or rhubarb and custard cake (both £2), cardamom-spiced semla buns and gluten-free rocky road, each £1, with all drinks £1 too.
DIY punks also happen to be the politest people, with canny Daniel taking our orders and later explaining how the team changes the menu to reflect the seasons, with the promise that there’s always a burger.
My stew, also packed with lentils, was an unusual colour, but I worked out that was down to the beetroot, which had also blushed the hefty dumpling served in it.
It was filling and full of flavour, and I especially liked the school dinner-style scoops of mash and the greens alongside.
My fellow diner, a vegan, tucked into his soy and beetroot burger, salad and wedges, happy knowing what he was eating was free of anything he has an issue with.
The menu had been posted on the vegan cafe’s Facebook page, so to be up front, I was really there for the cake, with a promise of peanut butter and jam slice for pudding.
It might not have delivered the hit of peanut butter I’d hoped for, but it was a sweet way to round off the meal, especially with a mug of proper coffee.
I wished we’d taken away some of the other pudding pieces to try out later on.
From the crowd who had packed out this February’s event, it’s clear it has a good and friendly following.
It’s held on the first Saturday of the month, with March’s menu already posted on its page.
It rounds up how the cafe began in 2007 as One Flew Over The Coffee Cup – an “alternative community with a safe place to hang out and enjoy each other’s company, catch up over vegan cake and coffee, and participate in some cool activities.”
Sounds good to me.