Ozone, Seaham Hall, Seaham

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Fear of high prices has always put me off dining at Seaham Hall.

However, flush from pay day and feeling the need to treat ourselves, friend Cara and I decided to take the plunge.

As entrances to restaurants go, they don’t get much more grand than Seaham Hall and a sunny summer’s evening only served to enhance the splendour of one of our area’s finest buildings.

I’ve always associated eating here as being a treat reserved for the five-star hotel’s guests, but Ozone, accessed via the Serenity Spa, is open to everyone.

I’d read in the Echo that Michelin-starred chef Martin Blunos was now at the helm as part of the hotel’s £1.5million relaunch – after a trouble-hit couple of years – so I was eager to see what his menu would entail.

For a Friday night, the restaurant was fairly quiet, which meant we could bag a window seat which overlooks the pretty-as-a-picture gardens outside.

In keeping with the rich red and bamboo-themed decor, the menu is inspired by the Far East, with a peppering of European cuisine.

The starters sound suitably impressive, but you pay for the pleasure of this gastronomic grandeur.

A rillenong manok, Fillipino-style stuffed rolled chicken with mango sauce, will set you back £8.50 with most starters coming in around this price point.

We decided to eat into the price by sharing a starter of battered king prawns (£11). They were whoppers and came with a good-sized pot of a zingy and refreshing lime mayonnaise.

We also shared a butter bean hummus, which is more affordable at £5. The hummus was perfectly chunky and rich and came with a melt-in-the-mouth pea and mint dip, which was gloriously fresh-tasting. There was plenty to go around too.

Main courses are priced from £12.50 - £20.50 and include a small but well-chosen range of dishes, including pan-fried salmon teriyaki, crispy pork belly and deep fried sea bass.

I chose from the daily specials and went for a rib eye steak. At £14.50, its cost wasn’t far removed from steaks at less-grand restaurants in the city and it tasted superb.

It was everything a medium rare steak should be: tender, juicy and with just the right hint of pink. The meat was complemented well by a pesto-infused sauce, though the meat was so delicious, it didn’t even need a sauce.

It came with chunky wedges and salad and was just the right-sized portion, leaving me feeling full, but not overly so.

Cara, meanwhile, tucked into a Thai green curry with chicken (£13.50). Though she had no complaints taste-wise, it was packed full of flavour, she expected a bigger portion for the price.

My rumbling tum was more than satisfied, but Cara was eying up the dessert menu and its banana milkshake (£7). This was no ordinary milkshake though. It came with chichi, French-style fried doughnut sticks to dunk in the creamy milkshake.

It wasn’t the cheapest meal we’ve ever had, but Ozone is perfect for a tasty treat. The only let down were the cocktails which were poor for the price.

They were priced around £8 and were very basic and lacking in flavour compared to ones I’ve had in other bars.

I’d rather have saved my pounds to spend on the top-quality food.

Katy Wheeler

Twitter: @SunEchoKaty