REVIEW: The Cellar Door: Saddler Street, Durham City

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DURING a day trip to Durham’s cobbled streets I was on the hunt for somewhere which would dish up some tasty traditional English grub.

My brother was back in England for the first time in 18 months with his Korean girlfriend in tow and they wanted to sample something different from the food served in Seoul, which is where they live.

Thanks to a cheery greeter at the door, we were drawn to The Cellar Door.

With only an entrance on Saddler Street, the actual restaurant is down a narrow staircase. It’s an eaterie that had thus far passed me by.

Don’t let the restaurant’s pokey front door fool you though. Once you navigate your way down the steps, a deceptively-spacious seating area awaits you, decorated with a crisp colour scheme and peppered with homely trinkets.

We were given a window seat which gave cracking views over the River Wear and the restaurant’s terrace which would be an ideal spot for summer-time scoffing.

The menu had our mouths watering from the get go. It’s laden with delicious-sounding taste bud treats: seared calves liver, pan roasted Gressingham duck breast and posh fish and chips to name but a few.

Main meals are a little pricey, with most coming in around the £13/£14 mark, but the lunch and evening set menus offer good value for money.

My brother’s girlfriend and I chose the set lunch menu which runs from noon to 4pm every day and offers two course for £11.95.

Though service was perfectly polite and friendly it was exceptionally slow – despite the fact we were one of only a handful of dining groups – and we seemed to wait an age for our courses.

I can’t find fault, however, with the food. My starter of grilled goats cheese crostini with a walnut dressing was perfectly-sized, perfectly-flavoured and perfectly-delicious.

My main meal of cod wrapped in parma ham, served in a Moroccan spiced chickpea and tomato stew, was also a delight.

I’d never tried cod with a rich stew before and, though it seemed an unusual combination, it was spot-on.

My brother’s girlfriend, meanwhile, lapped up her hearty vegetable soup and a spicy chicken salad with a satay dressing.

My brother’s orange and juniper marinated venison (£14.95) which he ordered from the main menu was also a triumph.

It was served with a root vegetable puree, braised savoy cabbage with a rich port wine jus, and made him realise just how much he missed good British food.

For those with a sweet tooth, there’s also a good selection of traditional puds – just be prepared to wait for your delicious food.

Katy Wheeler

Twitter: @Sunechokaty