Restaurant review: The Ashoka, Seaham
I have to confess that I'm partial to the odd flutter.
I also have to admit that three decades of perseverance have left me no better a better than when I first walked into a bookies - bookies? Ask someone old if you are under 25 - and certainly far worse off financially.
Putting it bluntly, I’m a poorer gambler than any Conservative Prime Minister who has ever asked the nation to go to the polls in the entire last two-and-a-half years.
No cozy peerage in the House of Lords coming my way as a lavish consolation prize either.
But here’s one Nostradamus impression I might just be able to pull off.
This time next week the majority of you will be sick of turkey.
So if you fancy a change before more festive fare on New Year’s Day then why not get some sea air into your lungs and head to Seaham to one of the finest curry houses around?
The Ashoka is a restaurant with an enviable reputation for delivering both quality and quantity.
Living a little off its radar, we repeatedly delayed our visit before finally recruiting a designated driver to ferry us to what were personally uncharted waters.
Outward journey concluded and with a table wisely booked in advance, we headed first to the pleasant surroundings of the recently opened Coalhouse real ale bar at the top end of Church Street.
This too is a gem and was unsurprisingly crammed by the time we left at around 8.15pm on a cold Friday night.
Last week's food review: Christmas afternoon tea at Crook Hall, DurhamFingers crossed it stays that way given how competitive the craft beer market has become.
And so to the Ashoka. Seated quickly upstairs by the polite staff , we ordered a round of Cobra lagers and papadums while scanning the extensive menu.
As befits my mild-mannered personality, I plumped for my usual chicken korma (£7.95) at the lower end of the spicy scale..
While the occasional curry house will attempt to drown you in sauce to hide meagre meat offerings, the Ashoka delivered on both fronts.
Yet the pleasant struggle to finish my filling meal was nothing compared to the fate awaiting those who dared to tackle the chef’s specialities menu.
Just admire the succulent Murwali hansh duck breast and accompanying vegetables to your right (£15.95).
No wonder my fellow diner had to eventually declare a glorious surrender.
Perhaps the most telling sign of our collective appreciation was the unusual silence which descended upon the table after battle commenced.
Mind, this was nearly disturbed by sudden choking fits as we listened without choice to a nearby table of women discussing their planned trip to Thailand. Cue more Cobra.
Another story perhaps for another day.
And there will be another day for us at the Ashoka. You can bet on that.