There’s been much hype around the new spa at Ramside Hall, a gleaming £8million development at the landmark hotel.
But it isn’t all about massages and mud baths – your tastebuds can look forward to a treat, too.
A large area of the ground floor at the new site is taken up with Fusion, an Asian-themed restaurant.
Though it’s used by spa guests, often as part of meal and spa deals, it’s also an eatery in its own right and you don’t have to be in a dressing gown and slippers to eat here.
However, dine here during the day and you’ll more than likely be flanked by Terry towelling.
We visited on a Saturday night and the restaurant side of the development certainly has enough sparkle of its own to draw you here as a diner, with the added bonus of plenty of free parking.
Look through the fretwork windows and you can see spa guests unwinding, but it’s not too much of a distraction from the restaurant’s own identity.
The decor theme draws upon South East Asia for inspiration, with its trailing blossom tree feature, soothing shades of green and kitsch Thai artworks peppering the walls.
It’s a look that’s in keeping with the ethos of the spa and its treatments, which are often associated with this more relaxed corner of the globe.
The menu follows suit and is a concise foray to the Far East.
The executive head chef here is Martin Moore, who’s no stranger to pan-Asian food after heading up the former Lotus Lounge in Durham City, and his love of foods from the other side of the world shines through in this menu too.
Highlights include wok dishes, sushi and dim sum.
Price-wise, it’s not cheap as chips, but this is more of a destination venue where you’d spend the night, rather than somewhere you’d pop in for a quick bite to eat.
To start, I chose the scallop and pork which at £9.95 is the most expensive of the starters. Others, such as Japanese miso soup, start from £6.
Served on a vibrant deep red plate, it certainly looked expensive.
Taste-wise, it was a great contrast of textures – the lighter flesh of the plump scallops worked well with the more densely rich pork. Meanwhile, a curried cauliflower puree and cumin oil added a taste of the Orient.
Feeling momentarily flush after pay day, I chose whole local lobster for main (£29.50) but you can pick up less decadent options such as the classic Pad Thai for £11.50 and a range of traditional Thai Curries from £10.50.
It’s a long time since I last treated myself to lobster, and this version didn’t disappoint.
Though it’s a seafood with enough meaty flavour to eat on its own, this version was heaped with a kaleidoscope of flavours – wok-fried Asian greens, ginger and basil soy sauce.
It’s served with a perfect mound of steamed rice too. As a bonus for me – and my companion – the lobster was dressed, so you can avoid any potential embarrassment caused by failed attempts to crack it open.
I couldn’t fault the crustacean, but it was actually the pudding which stole the show.
We couldn’t decide on just one, so chose the Bento Box, which is more of a bargain at a tenner for two people, and gives you a taster of each.
Bento boxes are to Japanese cuisine what plates are to us Brits, and here it makes for a quirky, and practical, way to present the puds.
Inside, you get a velvety Asian tea creme brûlée which was mopped up in seconds with a crumbly lavender shortbread; a punchy Vietnamese coffee and chocolate tart, a tart passion fruit sorbet and mango salsa; a beautifully smooth coconut and lime panna cotta and a perfect palate cleanser of ice cream, which proved to be the cherry on the top.
The drinks are also whipped up with Oriental flair, with cocktails priced at £8.
Ask me to choose a favourite Far East flavour from Fusion and I couldn’t, the range on offer left me tongue-Thai’d.