Sunday lunch at Whitechurch in Durham - here's what we thought

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The pub is one of Durham’s most-popular independents.

Durham has welcomed a wave of big chains of late who are weaving their way along the banks of the Wear.

Whitechurch, Church Street HeadWhitechurch, Church Street Head
Whitechurch, Church Street Head

But it’s also got a strong independent flavour, businesses who are doing much to boost the historic city’s hospitality offering.

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Away from the main Durham ‘island’ in the heart of its student area lies Whitechurch.

Since opening in the shadow of Durham University's Bill Bryson library in 2018, this distinctive whitewash freehouse has built up a strong following for its coffee, brunch, Sunday roasts, wines and more, establishing itself as a hybrid venue that offers a bit of everything.

It gave new life to the former New Inn, in Church Street Head, and it soon grew a solid reputation and it’s worth a short walk out of the centre if it’s not already on your radar.

Inside Whitechurch in DurhamInside Whitechurch in Durham
Inside Whitechurch in Durham

Last year, it was taken over by one of the city’s largest independent hospitality groups, Zen Group, also behind Zen, The Rabbit Hole and Tango.

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It seemed appropriate for a restaurant called Whitechurch to visit for Sunday service.

We arrived at 1pm after pre-booking - you’ll definitely need to book in advance - and it was packed to its rafters.

I’d heard good things about its Sunday lunches, served 12pm to 5pm, and it seems so has everyone else with plenty of people worshipping at Whitechurch on our visit.

The Whitechurch faithful will be glad to know that it still has the same laidback, stylish vibe as before, all rustic tables, fairy lights, exposed brick walls, pink boho tasseled light shades, trailling house plants throughout, with touches of marble here and touches of velvet there.

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Tables are a little close together, but space in the restaurant area is at a premium to be fair, and it makes for a sociable atmosphere - we actually got chatting to the table next to us in between mouthfuls.

So, down to the food.

The Sunday Lunch menu does what it says on the tin: a solid, concise offering with a choice of three starters, four mains and three puddings, inclusive of vegan / veggie options.

To start, we both went for the nduja and parmesan beignet, the priciest of the options at £9.50.

A savoury take on the French pastry, it was a great alternative to more tried and tested roast dinner starters with a good balance of spice and sharpness in a crisp, bold batter that held its own, served with a red pepper ketchup.

On to the star of the show.

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Sunday lunch at WhitechurchSunday lunch at Whitechurch
Sunday lunch at Whitechurch

We each chose the beef rump, but you can also choose from belly pork, chicken supreme or nut roast.

Again, the beef is the priciest of the four at £18, but you get a good-size portion, which includes all the trimmings of Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, crushed celeriac, roast carrot, cheesy leeks, braised peas and gravy.

The beef arrived reassuringly pink, rich and flavourful and a good-sized portion but not so much meat you couldn’t get stuck into the rest of the roast.

The Yorkshire pudding was the kind you can never get quite right at home, all pillowy inside with a satisfyingly crisp exterior.

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Hiding underneath the huge pudding and slab of beef, the rest of the veg also held its own, distinctive flavours, especially the often humble peas which had a good depth of flavour.

No gravy boat for extra lashings of gravy, but it does come with a decent pool of the good stuff.

We washed it down with a bottle of Sanziana Pinot Noir, its rich cherry note and hints of spice working really well with this most comforting of dinners.

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