Is this new pub the North East’s quirkiest gin bar?
Old Toms has opened in the new Riverwalk development, at the former Gates shopping centre, in Durham City where it’s proving a popular draw for drinkers.
Despite this area of the city seeing new buildings springing up as part of the ongoing £30million leisure and retail development, Old Toms can trace its history back to the 13th century.
Medieval beams have been carefully preserved during renovations at the Grade I-listed building which has been taken over by father and son business partners Lord Trevor Davis and Ben Davis.
They’ve breathed new life into the former flower shop which has stood derelict for a number of years to create a bar featuring more than 250 gins, rums, specialist wines and whiskies, as well as creating a beer garden overlooking the river at Framwellgate Bridge and Durham Castle.
It follows the success of their other Durham City sites, The Court Inn and Tin of Sardines at Elvet Bridge, which is thought to be the world’s smallest gin bar, holding just 16 people.
Trevor said: “We actually saw this building first before Tin of Sardines, but we couldn’t get it at the time so we opened Tin of Sardines instead which has proved really popular. Gin is huge at the moment, but it has to be done right, with the right botanicals and mixers.
“The negotiations and regulations as to what we could do at this site took a long time, but we’ve been careful to preserve its historical features. We couldn’t put one nail in the wooden beams so we’ve created false beams alongside theme to run all the pipes through.
“Over the years we believe the site has been a coaching inn so we added sandstone flooring in keeping with how it may have looked, while the Fleur de Lis on the carpet honours our Welsh heritage. All the trinkets and items are things we’ve been collecting for years and we’ve even saved the old Milburngate clock which we’ve put behind the bar.”
Among the new additions at Riverwalk, which will open next year, is a cinema and student accommodation, as well as national restaurant chains Turtle Bay and Cosy Club.
Trevor said: “Durham City has been quiet for a number of years but there’s lots of regeneration happening. While it’s great to see all the new additions we’re proud to be keeping a bit of history alive too.”
As well as drinks, Old Toms, which is open from 11am seven days a week, serves charcuterie and specialist cheese boards which are paired with wines.
Trevor said: “We officially opened on Saturday and we’ve had people coming along just to take photos. We don’t mind though as they usually end up stopping for a drink.”