Zen Durham Review
Zen Durham is a superb Thai restaurant in the heart of Durham City. It is tucked away around near to Durham Prison, but don’t let that put you off. It’s an asian restaurant, with a bit of fusion going on. The aptly named Court Inn is the pub just next door. They also serve pretty decent bar food, but if it’s the insurance of a proper restaurant meal you want/need, just pop to Zen. This eatery is in a pan-asian foodie greenhouse, all exotic lighting and ambience. It looks quite swanky rich and to some folks, probably is. One good test of how good an ethnic restaurant is – do the people who’s cuisine is represented actually dine there themselves? Zen Durham seems to pass that fitness test, as there’s a good cross section of nationalities eating there, including Far Easterners.
The Durham Food and Drink Bus arrived, as it normally does, quite late and un-booked. Our little trip to the Durham Brewery in Bowburn had lasted longer than expected, and like the amateur fools (copyright Mr. T) that we are, hadn’t had any tea. The waitress told us we’d have to order before 10pm. That gave us 10 minutes, so we got our skates on and picked our food and drinks and still had a couple of minutes to spare. We were both starving, so that wasn’t really too much of a problem.
Starter was DIY Pancakes (£12.50), which is the usual Duck and Hoi Sin Sauce and crisp salad. The pancakes are served in a little bamboo container to keep them warm, and there’s a large bowl of sauce to add. The duck was chopped and shaped into pieces, rather than pulled and shredded. We prefer shredded actually, but it was still ok and didn’t last long enough anyway to give us too much grief. The drinks had arrived too, a Bellini for Mrs Durham Food and Drink and a Long Island Iced Tea for me. Both were priced at £7.00
The main courses we selected were Massamam Lamb (£14.95) and Satay Chili Chicken (£14.95). Both were served in a nice little white bowl with fluffy boiled rice. The cutlery provided by Zen allows you to either eat with proper Chopsticks or cowardly select the english option. I have every intention of using chopsticks, but never seem to be able to wrap my fingers around the things properly without food flying off at tangents, so to avoid inconveniencing our fellow diners I took the cowardly route.
They didn’t attempt to hide the chili on the Satay Chicken. The little blighters were there, brazenly glistening on top of the dish, drawing me in like sirens do to lost sailors. I took a bite and …. Flash, Bang, Wallop ! I’d have been better off sucking on a chunk of semi-molten magma! Delicious though, and like all good Thai fusion food, the flavours come through and enhance, rather than masking the taste of the meal altogether. Still too hot for Mrs DFD though, poor lamb. Speaking of lamb, the Massamam Lamb was also top class, with a dryness and total lack of fattiness that most lamb dishes have. It was an inspired choice as well. The rice was exceptional, like a culinary fire blanket that could be used to dampen the chili flames when needed.
I must say, the drinks were a bit of a let down, with no real depth to them. With hindsight, maybe they were used too much like quenchers after the chili, so I should give them another chance next time we visit Zen Durham.
Price was £56 for two. The drinks jacked this price up by at least 14 quid though, so the food price was better value than the value score might suggest.
Durham Food and Drink Rating for Zen Durham
First Impression : 8 Service : 8 Food : 8 Value : 7
Phone: 0191 384 9588
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