Sambuca, Station Lane, Durham

Sambuca'Station Lane, Durham.

Sambuca'Station Lane, Durham.

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Finding a restaurant all the family love can be a challenge.

However, local chain Sambuca’s latest venture ticks plenty of boxes for the O’Neill clan.

A total of 11 family and friends had gathered to celebrate dad’s 65th.

He probably deserved a sun-soaked cruise and probably wanted a quiet night in front of the TV.

But instead he got to stand on a chair while a noisy restaurant packed with diners sang happy birthday to him.

Aside from light-hearted ritual humiliation, the popular Italians also dishes out a range of classic pizza and pasta dishes, along with steaks and fish dishes.

The decor is as traditional as the food, with trailing ivy and ornate archways transforming the former station. Like its sister restaurants around the region, Sambuca Durham keeps prices low, which probably explains why it’s always busy.

Saturday nights there are not the place for a relaxing romantic meal, with plates whizzing past your head and waiters busting out dance routines.

But you can eat for very little, with starters and mains from the menu for under £5 and £10 respectively.

However, I went for one of the specials – seafood medley for £13.95.

For those who chose starters, melon cocktail and potato skins went down a storm - sweet chunks of melon and piles of crispy skins which weren’t too greasy.

Main courses caused confusion as they arrived as some of the table went to powder their noses, so dishes ended up with the wrong diners.

But when younger sister tracked down her plate of carbonara, she said it was “very rich, with plenty of cheese and bacon”.

My seafood concoction was delicious - a teetering pile of grilled salmon and white fish, topped with rings of squid, mussels and prawns.

But my seven-year-old nephew took a dislike to his tagliatelle and cheese sauce because it was “spaghetti not tubes and not tomato”.

Luckily the kitchen was happy to whip up a plate of penne in a bolognese sauce, which he loved.

His little lordship was one of the few around the table who could manage dessert and was delighted with his huge slab of sticky toffee pudding with ice-cream.

Grand total? £160 with drinks. A birthday bargain.

Jane O’Neill