REVIEW: Finbarr’s, Waddington Street, Durham

Finbarr's Restaurant, Waddington Street, Durham City.

Finbarr's Restaurant, Waddington Street, Durham City.

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Complex flavours and beautiful presentation set Finbarr’s restaurant apart.

This hidden gem – and by that I mean tucked away at the end of a row of terraced houses, behind a hotel – was a complete surprise.

The dining area mixes white linen, bare bricks and comfortable seats to create a comforting air of luxury.

Seated in a raised area, my friend and I were offered the À la Carte menu and wine list.

Choosing a glass of sauvignon blanc (£5) and white zinfandel (£5.50) we delved in to examine the lengthy list of dishes, and I was surprised by the variety.

The chefs at Finbarr’s whip-up classic meals and contemporary cuisine, which range from David Laird’s haggis scotch egg (£8.50) to Moroccan spiced aubergine, French bean and goats cheese salad (£7).

I quickly made an adventurous choice in the potted rabbit (£7.50) appetiser.

Served with soft-boiled egg and soldiers, I was a bit uncertain about my decision, however, it was delicious. The rabbit was of a thick, pâté texture, and accompanied tastily by the egg, which made an unusual change to chutney.

My companion opted for the curried coconut soup with chicken won tons (£6.50).

Being a lover of Thai food, she was thrilled with the spicy, creamy broth, despite struggling to eat the noodles with her soup spoon and resorting to a knife and fork.

Starters down, I eagerly anticipated the main course, which didn’t take long to arrive.

I’ve only recently started ordering fish fillets in restaurants – being more of a shell fish-lover – but the sea bass with oyster sauce (£17.50) sounded too good to pass up.

The thick, steamed fillet fell apart, while the accompanying pak choi was crunchy, with a hint of ginger and chilli spice.My friend chose the tempting venison steak – a first for her – with honey glazed crispy parsnips (£17).

The succulent pink steak scattered with rich mushrooms, which sat alongside sweet parsnips, parsnip puree and a red wine jus was an exciting flavour, and texture, combination.

Feeling very full, and despite not being one to usually order dessert, after sampling the savoury courses, I couldn’t resist trying the sweet treats.

I picked a light fig tart with mascarpone cheese and honey (£6.50) and my companion a chocolate and peanut butter torte (£8.50).

The tart was a true taste of Greece, with an extra dollop of rich vanilla ice cream and a sprinkling of flaked almonds, I cleared my plate.

The torte however, was sickly sweet. A thick layer of peanut butter filling, peanut butter praline, gingerbread ice cream and peanut butter sauce was too much after a rich meal, and quite a lot was left untouched.

The service slowed down as the courses progressed in the packed dining room, and our meals had considerably digested by the time the bill was brought.

However, for quality of the smorgasbord of dishes on offer and the luxurious surroundings, I could forgive the delay. After not knowing what to expect from Finbarr’s I left feeling spoiled and satisfyingly full.