Review: The Court Inn, Court Lane, Durham

Court Inn, Court Lane, Durham City.
Court Inn, Court Lane, Durham City.
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As the last embers of summer burned bright and the leaves hung precariously from the trees, I decided a long walk was the most appropriate way of utilising the last of the warm weather.

Carting my housemate along, we set forth from Chester-le-Street on the Cuddy’s Corse route to Durham.

It’s a seven-and-half mile scenic walk – or 10½ miles if you’re an idiot who won’t be trusted with the map again.

So it was we found ourselves, a little later than advertised and looking somewhat dishevelled, in Durham, hungry, thirsty and in need of a seat.

Restaurants in the historic city are typically packed on a Saturday night, and it’s no easier to get a table when you’re studded with burrs and generally less-than-fragrant.

Thankfully, there was one stable willing to give us food and shelter.

The Court Inn is known as one of the best spots for pub grub in Durham, with a traditional bar and a more gentrified dining area, making it as good a choice for a laid-back lunch, as it is for a more dressed-up dinner.

The varied menu offers everything from pies to oysters – and sea bass in goats cheese sauce, which my companion selected from the specials menu.

This may sound like an odd combination, but I’m assured the cheesiness was subtle enough to make it work.

A renegade vegetarian, she usually keeps to the meat-free path, but this time allowed herself to stray enough to order fish.

“I fancied something vegetabley, with actual vegetables,” she said.

I looked at her quizzically.

“It’s got green beans with it. I like green beans.”

I went for a slightly more pedestrian chickpea and spinach curry, which came with rice, homemade chips, a perfect poppadom and portion of an impressive mango and strawberry chutney.

A question about the curry’s dairy content and subsequent check with the chef revealed the dishes were cooked to order, and could therefore easily be customised to meet my vegan needs.

The drinks menu features an impressive array of beers, wines, cocktails and spirits – including no fewer than 43 types of gin.

Enquiring about the possibility of a real ale, we were offered six options and recommended one that sounded perfect. I can’t remember what it was called, but I can remember that it hit the spot.

Before the meal we had been served a complimentary plateful of artisan bread, followed by a second plateful brought by our friendly and attentive waiter.

Perhaps from our appearance he took us for hungry peasants who hadn’t eaten in days.

The bread, together with the generous-sized main course and filling ale, by no means precluded a peek at the dessert menu.

While I was bereft of a vegan option, my housemate suffered an embarrassment of riches from the lengthy list of choices. An order for one black coffee and one strawberry pavlova ended the dilemma.

“I couldn’t find a smaller mug,” joked the waiter, as he placed a gargantuan piece of china before me.

Similarly, my housemate was presented with a giant pile of meringue, cream, strawberries and sauce.

We sat feeling a little like pixies with our respective orders.

After my housemate’s best efforts to finish the plateful failed, we headed to the bus station tired, full and content.

You can’t really grumble at £30 for two generous main courses, two pints, two platefuls of bread, a coffee, a gargantuan dessert, great service and a comfy seat.

You can grumble at your idiot-hack-of-a-housemate taking a costly wrong turning, but that’s a different story.