Its no secret that I love my food but I also love finding new places to eat just as much. Maybe a little bistro tucked down a side street or a chain that I have walked past hundreds of times without taking a glance when really I should.
The Cellar Door, situated on Saddler Street, is a little gem of a find and is hands down top of my list for places to eat in Durham, hold that thought… SO FAR… I would say even the NORTH EAST!
Lets start at the beginning!
I have walked Saddler Street many times and eaten in many of the restaurants, cafes etc but not once have I noticed the Cellar Door which is entered via a door way down to the restaurant overlooking the river. Pleasantly surprised by the fact it is tucked away and not easily accessible this looked like a little hidden haven. I was seated at a table for 4 looking out over university rowers, the still waters of Durham river was beautifully calm and, given that it was rather a sunny night of dining alone, gave me a huge sense of peace. (I’m not going to get into the dining/holidaying alone – there’s a whole blog post coming about that soon!)
Before reading the menu I ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio which was promptly served along with a caraffe of lemon water. The menu is a typed up list of drool worthy food and each one sounded better than the next.
I opted for the Wye Vale Asparagus with brown butter hollandaise and pheasant egg for starter followed by Lamb saddle with fondant potato, braised leek, baby carrots, minted pea puree and gravy.
While sitting gazing out of the window enjoying the peace and quiet a lovely gentleman brought to the table what was explained as the ‘pre-starter’, I don’t think I have ever been anywhere that served a ‘pre-starter’ before so was a little taken aback…and thrilled to be so spoiled!
The pre-starter was a small cup of pea and mint soup with freshly baked bread bun and 3 butters! YES 3! Tandoori, Capers and Almond then Garlic, lemon and wholegrain mustard. OH MY WORD! I am not one for flavoured butters but these were delicious and there was just the right amount to leave you wanting a little more! (…or to kidnap the chef and get him to make you your own supply…forever!)
Having only just finished the delicious pea and mint soup the starter was ready to be placed in front of me ( I swear they were on point all night!) The asparagus was cooked to perfection, juicy and full of flavour yet had a crunch that delivered that freshly picked, locally grown feel. I have never had pheasant egg before but this pale yellow, subtle flavour was a delight to eat and the hollandaise sauce was absolutely divine, I soaked up each drop! At this point I feel the need to point out that the menu is changed month by month as all of the ingredients are locally sourced which makes it all the more delicious!
At this point I looked over to see what other diners were eating and there was a satisfied silence that filled the restaurant that spoke more than any words could. I caught sight of two mains being delivered which were the monkfish and the plaice and they looked amazing! (I was scribbling notes in my book like paper was going out of fashion!)
When my main was brought out I literally gasped, the lamb saddle was beautiful (…can you say beautiful about a piece of meat?! Well I just did!) You know when you watch Masterchef etc and see sweeps of puree and drizzles of sauce and you look at it thinking ‘yeah ok just pour it on’ I stand corrected! You don’t just pour gravy like this over the meal and you don’t just dollop a spoon of puree – people talk about eating with your eyes first and believe me I finally understand exactly what they mean! Al dente baby carrots, caramelised leek and fondant potato (hubby has been informed my potatoes from here on in have to be fondant!) placed strategically on the plate to make you wonder which to dive in to first, all surrounding the lamb saddle which was by far the star of the meal!
The lamb was tender and a little pink which is how I love it and the whole meal filled me up beyond belief. It was lovely to just sit and take my time eating, not having to worry about flying chicken nuggets or spilled cups of coke, trips to the toilet or screaming fits because someone hogged all the tomato sauce! I didn’t even mind when a group of around 20 came in and got rather loud, nothing was taking my peace and quiet away from me so I sank further into the food which believe me was worth every second! Don’t get me started on the plates – it took all my willpower not to turn the plates over to see where they were from!
I pondered over whether to order dessert and decided upon the Chocolate and brown butter terrine with pistachio ice cream with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. WOW, I even commented to the manager that if anyone questioned why the lady in the corner had a silly smile on her face just tell them it was the dessert! The chocolate and brown butter terrine was so thick and creamy it was like heaven on the spoon, add in the pistachio ice cream and freshly chopped pistachio pieces and there was a dessert TO DIE FOR!
The staff spent time with me explaining the dishes and the ingredients etc while i scribbled away in my little notebook (much to the amusement of other diners) and for once I really didn’t care. The meal by far outweighed the thoughts of funny looks and what others were saying. I sat with a silly grin on my face all night and would do it again tomorrow!
The Cellar Door receives a huge 10 out of 10 for being the first venue to blow me away with delicious food, beautiful venue and staff that genuinely care about locally sourced ingredients.