Restaurant review: The Vermilion, Houghton-le-Spring

The Vermilion.
The Vermilion.

Right, gang, it is time to get all personal with each other.

What’s your best-kept secret?

We are not asking, of course, for you to reveal anything of a family nature or to own up to an unhealthy devotion to Nineties rappers PJ and Duncan (honestly, what future did they ever have in the entertainment industry?).

Instead we are talking about classified information such as that short cut to work you won’t share for fear everyone else will start copying you and your journey ends up even longer than it originally was.

For me, it is my parking spot near the Great North Run finish line.

After somehow staggering around the course 24 times, I often get asked by newcomers about the logistical nightmare that is getting through to Newcastle for the start while ensuring you have a car conveniently waiting for you at South Shields.

While I may not finish ahead of too many running acquaintances, painful trial and error has ensured that I can usually guarantee getting home before them.

And that is the way, I’m afraid, it must stay.

So enough about me. What about Houghton-le-Spring’s best-kept secret?

While some people might plump for Eighties music maestro Trevor Horn (he of Video Killed The Radio Star fame), I’m going for The Vermilion restaurant.

I’ve yet to work out how one of the region’s top Indians – and I say this is after extensive research - remains so empty whenever we visit.

Maybe Houghton’s proximity to the supposedly shinier lights of Durham and Sunderland is a hindrance.

Maybe Saturday is the night when the place is deservedly heaving rather than Friday.

Either way, we were not complaining when we were shown straight to our seats amid the plush surroundings and immediately served with a refreshing round of Cobra lagers (£3.50 per pint).

Twelve poppadoms and one tasty chicken tikka starter later (£4) and it was time for the main action to begin.

Speaking for myself, my chicken korma (£6.95) delighted in terms of both quality and quantity.

Those who can appreciate more exotic tastes were also content with duck dish imildar misti hansh (£9.50) among the highlights.

With the bill for one starter, six pints, six main courses plus various naans, poppadoms and rices coming to just over £20 per head, there may well be cheaper options elsewhere.

But you usually pay for what you get and what we got will only encourage us to return once more.

Perhaps by then the Vermilion’s secret will be truly out.

With free parking nearby and the number 20/20A Durham-Sunderland bus stopping just feet away, it is certainly worth city folk stepping out of their comfort zone to enjoy what they are missing.

See, you've even managed to get a travel tip out of me after all.