IT’S a watershed moment that seems to get earlier every year: hearing Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody over a public address system for the first time since "The Last Nowell".

For me, 2014’s magic moment came on Saturday, November 15, around 1pm – I’ll admit I didn’t take a precise note of the time – when I pushed open the narrow doors to Leonard’s Coffee House and the wonderful aroma of fresh coffee gushed out accompanied by Noddy Holder screaming: “So here it is, Merry Christmas.”

Now, we were halfway through November (just 39 days to go until December 25) and I love Christmas, so for me it was a happy moment.

Others might not bear such goodwill for all men. But inside the festive music was being played at an acceptable volume – loud enough to offer privacy without being so deafening as to drown out table conservation – and the Leonard’s yuletide decorations were subtle, wintry silvers rather than loud reds and greens.

My wife and I had been on the lookout for a Saturday lunchtime destination in Durham suitable for our young daughter and pushchair.

Leonard’s, overall, was difficult but bearable. The front doors, as I’ve said, are narrow and guests reach the small ground floor dining area via a narrow corridor past the kitchen.

Downstairs being full, we tried the first floor – finding a table in the furthest corner, where there was just enough room to fold up the pram and settle the bassinet.

Thankfully, littl’un was well behaved through most of our visit, so on to the food.

Sarah went for the homemade butternut squash soup (£4.50), a favourite of hers, which was served in an odd, slanted bowl, which I can only presume is cool (thankfully, unlike its contents).

Anyway, she enjoyed it – a good winter dish, although perhaps a little spicy for her taste.

Perhaps influenced by the Christmassy feel, I went for the bacon, brie and cranberry toasted ciabatta (£4.24). It was very good – the bacon was crunchy, the brie smooth and guey.

The side salad was perhaps a little over dressed, making it slightly oily, but overall I was happy with my choice.

Strictly, those were our main courses. But we both knew the central focus of our meal would be dessert.

Coffee houses have to do good cake and from glancing across the counter as we made our way in I had high hopes.

Sarah went for the salted caramel chocolate brownie (£2), a fairly light cake-like brownie with, it seemed, hot salted caramel poured on top, melting a crater through the middle.

It was excellent – the highlight of our visit.

My attention was caught by a raspberry scone (£1.50). Something a little different, I thought.

Studded with near-whole fruits, it was very good. Sweet in places, as one would expect, and nicely crumbly elsewhere.

I warmed myself from the winter outside with an Americano (£1.90), while Sarah enjoyed a white choc mocha with cream and marshmallows (£2.70) – although we barely needed the hot drinks, as the dining area was very warm, even uncomfortably so.

The Leonard’s decor mixes trendy rustic wooden tables with plush leather sofas – all things to all men.

As hinted previously, it was busy; although this was a Saturday lunchtime in the Christmas shopping season, so one would expect this to be the case.

Guests included families, wide-eyed couples, students and pensioners – a wide cross-section of cafe society.

It was my first visit to Leonard’s, though Sarah has history there – the Fowlers Yard hideaway having been her breakfast venue of choice before church in years gone by.

Overall, I was impressed. The food was good, the surroundings cosy, the atmosphere welcoming and the service prompt and friendly.

The menu is extensive for a coffee house – sandwiches, ciabattas, jacket potatoes, soup, salads, breakfasts and a large selection of cakes, all baked fresh daily.

It made a welcome stop-off during our Saturday shopping trip. If you’re looking for somewhere to escape the Christmas chaos, I’d strongly recommend it.

Leonard’s Coffee House, 1 Back Silver Street, Durham. Tel: 0191-384-0647

Open Monday to Saturday 8.30am to 5pm, Sunday 9am to 5pm

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 7 Surroundings 7 Service 6 Value 7