The Cellar Door in Durham is one of those restaurants that leaves you feeling thankful someone recommended it to you. It’s well known among locals but if you’re visiting Durham you’d be forgiven for missing it. It’s quite tucked away and has very little presence on the street except for a small unassuming sign. We’d been told it was a lovely place to go for lunch, so when we visited Durham we decided to check it out.
Welcome to The Cellar Door
On arrival you go down some stairs and it’s immediately obvious why it has the name it does as you do feel that you’re descending into a cellar. Yet, keep going down and the restaurant suddenly opens out into a light and airy space overlooking a beautiful view of the river running straight through the heart of Durham. Call ahead and book a table by the window to take advantage of this.
The decor itself is a little uninspiring. We thought it could have been very much improved by the simple addition of a few choice pictures to the walls. It’s a shame really because the decor does not match the quality and value of the food that was to come.
We reserved a table by the window and this was our beautiful view.
The first thing I did was select something from the cocktail menu. I went for a Pina Colada, an oldie but goodie, and it didn’t disappoint. It was deliciously creamy and fresh, and such a generous size that it lasted me the whole way through my leisurely lunch.
The Cellar Door offers really quite a creative lunch menu, at the extremely reasonable price of just £16 for three courses too! There was a great range of quite sophisticated starters on offer; from Shetland Mussels to Black Pudding Scotch Egg, and Rabbit Pie served with a baby carrot, pomme puree and jus. We were spoilt for choice.
I went for the Beetroot, Walnut & Goats Cheese starter and it was deliciously fresh served on a bed of thinly sliced apple. There was just enough goats cheese for a good burst of flavour without it being overpowering as I think goats cheese can be sometimes. The walnuts had been caramelised or toasted I think, and were super sweet and tender. They complimented the beetroot well, though the beetroot itself could have used a little more seasoning to really set the flavour alight.
Just a little Jasmine, who was dining with me, chose the Poached Egg & Sprouting Broccoli starter which came with a mild and creamy hollandaise sauce. This was a simple dish, perhaps a little too simple, since we thought it would have benefited from a sprinkling of paprika or some black pepper to garnish. However, it was surprisingly tasty and satisfying.
Continuing the rather ‘eggy’ theme of the lunch menu in general, the other member of our party chose the intriguing sounding Black Pudding Scotch Egg on a leek nest. It didn’t disappoint since it was surprisingly delicious. Personally I don’t normally go for black pudding but I tried a taste and loved it. I thought it was a fabulous combination of egg, black pudding, crispy leeks and a little drizzle of tomato sauce.
The Main Course
The choice of mains was good, and again, the menu had a level of creativity that was unexpected. I was tempted by the Grain Coated Sea Bream or the 32 Day Salt Aged Hereford Beef Burger but in the end I opted for the Broom House Farm Organic Lamb Kofta Burger in a Rosemary Ciabatta with Feta, Mint Mayonnaise and Sweet Potato Chips. Though, I must confess, I was disappointed when it arrived as it was presented in a rather uninspiring way on the plate. I thought this could have been easily improved with a salad garnish or perhaps some homemade coleslaw or relish on the side.
The burger itself was very tasty, with well seasoned lamb, if a little over cooked. It was complimented well, following the Greek theme by the Feta Cheese. However, the mint mayonnaise was either missing or so mild as to be undetectable and the ciabatta, though fragrant from the rosemary, was dry and crumbly. With just the sweet potato chips to accompany it, this left the dish overall being too dry and disappointingly lacking in the freshness and juiciness of a little salad garnish or a good portion of relish which could have made all the difference.
As it was, I was left with a major case of food envy because Just A Little Jasmine went for the Yorkshire Garden Pea Risotto with Poached Egg and Minted Pesto. We will forgive the chef his/her apparent fondness for putting eggs on the menu because the risotto was delicious!
The desert options were all equally enticing. We decided to split two of the options and went for the Mint Chocolate Bomb (mint being another flavour and ingredient that frequented the menu) with Chocolate Ice Cream. Its presentation was delightful as it came in a large shell shaped bowl. And the taste! Wow! The chocolate bomb was deliciously gooey inside and yet it wasn’t over sweet, there was a slight bitterness to the chocolate fondant which was off set by the sweetness of the ice cream perfectly.
The other desert we chose was a creative presentation of a good old English classic, Lemon Meringue Pie. Presented as a crumble of meringue with a ball of ice cream and an Earl Grey biscuit resting on top, it was certainly an unusual twist on a classic theme, and it worked!
The Earl Grey flavour of the biscuit was subtle but tasty and it proved to be a great compliment to the tangy lemon curd. Add to that the crunch and gooey centre of the sweet meringue and it really was quite a taste sensation.
Overall Review of The Cellar Door
Overall, for £16 per head we were incredibly impressed with the menu and though I wished I’d chosen a different main course, it was evident that the chef had designed a creative and imaginative seasonal menu. The location was nice, especially if you get a window facing table for the views but the main room could be livened up a little we thought. We did go for an explore at the end of our meal and found that, tucked away at the very bottom of the restaurant was a real cellar floor and for an evening meal this would certainly be atmospheric with candles hanging from the ceiling. This basement is available to hire out too so it would make a great party venue.
After three great courses, a lovely cocktail, and a coffee to finish, I was left certain that I would return to The Cellar Door. The incredible value and quality of the food on offer was really quite a find and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re visiting Durham.
Photography by Jasmine of Just A Little Jasmine
If you enjoyed this review you might like our recommendations for the Top 10 Restaurants in London with a Fabulous View.
A Media Psychologist & Life Coach by profession, Honey loves to help people create a life & career that they love. She has always been passionate about travel and the incredible life enrichment it brings.
Honey is a highly experienced Brand Ambassador and Spokesperson. In her thirteen year career she has worked with some of the world's best known brands such as Virgin, Google, Disney, American Express, Jet2 Holidays, Eurostar, British Airways and many more.
Honey is founder and editor-in-chief of The Wanderlust Post. She started the mag in order to provide bloggers with an opportunity to share their travel tales, recommendations, reviews and adventures with each other and the world at large.
A self confessed 'Stamp Tramp' Honey is always happiest with her passport in one hand, and a Baileys on ice in the other.