[Durham] Cellar Door

I admit to having a prejudice against restaurants in cellars. As with all prejudices, there’s no logic or reason behind this. But, almost invariably, my experience is that they are not as good as they like to think they are. I say “almost invariably”, because that’s not the case with the Cellar Door. In fact, it delivered on all our expectations for a “Modern British” bistro type place. In fact, it’s quite a smart place – proper table cloths and napkins for example. And it’s got a menu that plays to seasonality with food you want to eat.

That said, the pork bon-bon that came as an amuse bouche was underflavoured, except for the heavy hand that had added the salt. But everything got better after that – although this wasn’t the only flavour slip-up.

Whitby crab to start for one of us. It came with a couple of chunks of avocado and avo puree. And, for contrast with all the soft textures, a piece of very crispy cod skin. The plate was dressed with a little sauce that was, presumably, what the menu had as a “dill emulsion” but no dill could be detected. That was followed by some nicely cooked lamb loin, perfectly pink, and a little dumpling encasing some long cooked belly. The contribution to the “five a day”, came from kale, both wilted and crispy, and very seasonal asparagus. The menu had mentioned anchovy but its flavour was so muted that it wasn’t possible to know whether it was there or not. Perhaps they’d used it instead of salt.

Across the table, a vegan risotto struggled a bit without the usual seasoning from Parmesan. But flavours were there in the form of Jersey Royals, wild garlic and morels. No sign of the advertised capers though. The main course that followed was halibut – perhaps slightly overcooked and with a flabby skin that no-one would want to eat. It sat on a mussel veloute with crispy mussel, wilted greens and a grilled spring onion. All pleasant enough.

We shared a bowl of “fat chips” which, nice as they were, are never an improvement on proper chip sized chips.

We didn’t fancy a dessert so just had expressos. Service had been fine and this had been a decent, value for money, dinner.

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I often wonder why restaurants do this — what’s the advantage to them over just doing normal chips?

I suppose they are easier to prep if they are hand cutting them. I blame that craze from a year or so back of plating them as a “Jenga stack”.

I suppose they are also healthier - the smaller the chip, the more surface area is exposed to the oil. That said, if I am hoping to enjoy chips, the last thing I’m concerned about is a bit more fat in my diet.