Sambuca Durham Review

Sambuca Durham

sambuca durhamSambuca opened its first restaurant in Jesmond, Newcastle nearly 30 years ago. Sambuca now have a chain of Italian Restaurants throughout the North East, with branches at Ashington, Heaton Park, North Shields, Forest Hall, South Shields, Sunderland, Whitley Bay, Tyne Tunnel, Blyth, Hartlepool and this one in Durham. It’s right next to the Travelodge just off Gilesgate Roundabout, so just 10 mins walk from where we live.

We pride ourselves on providing good service, and good quality food and drink at affordable prices, despite the economical recession we’ve managed to maintain our rock bottom, very modest prices…

Every hour at Sambuca Durham is happy hour! We advise you book in advance to avoid disappointment, however walk-ins are always welcome.

We arrived early on a Friday evening and the place was already bouncing. As usual, we hadn’t booked, but were shown to a table straight away and the waiter took our drinks order. Mrs DFD selected a bottle of pink fizz and off we went! We tend to share more these days when we’re out together, so it was a Garlic Bread with Cheese and Tomato to get us in the Italian Mood. The breads at Sambuca are nice and thin and not stodgy like the deep pan stuff you get elsewhere. It was sizzling hot too, and we singed our fingers a bit getting it on our plates. Considering it was very busy, it only took about 10 mins for the food to arrive. Impressive! Waiters are buzzing around in here, and you can see what’s happening in the kitchen. On most nights they play music when it’s someone’s birthday and the waiters join in with the dancing and frivolities.

For the Main course we chose Basilico pizza, and a side of Buffalo Mozzarella salad. The pizza was really tasty and fresh, once again a thin crust, so not too filling for the two of us (on a weight loss regime). The pink fizz was disappearing very rapidly too, so it wasn’t too long before another bottle of that was needed as well.

Various specials are dotted around the walls on blackboards and we selected our sweets from there : Sticky Toffee Pudding and Orange Sorbet. I should point out these are actually two separate items, not a single one, although it sounds quite a good combination. The toffee pud was nice and light. We were a bit disappointed with the sorbet though in that the frozen orange skin wasn’t full, but we were having too good a time to complain really.

When we left, there was a queue of about 20 people at the bar, waiting for a seat. It’s a popular place Sambuca. Overall, the place has a nice rustic feel, and even though it can get noisy, it’s a warm, friendly noise. The service is excellent and quick, you aren’t left sitting for hours waiting for your food. I know our bill came to 60 quid, but at least £35 of that was Prosecco, the food part was only about £25 between the two of us.


Durham Food and Drink Rating
First Impression : 8, Service : 9, Food : 8, Value : 8

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Total cost (for two) : £60.00 (including two bottles of rosé Prosecco).

Sambuca Durham,
Chivita
7 Station Lane
Durham
DH1 1LJ

Tel: 0191 384 1010
Email: info@sambucarestaurants.co.uk

Opening times:
Monday – Saturday: 12:00pm – 10:00pm
Sunday: 12:00pm – 9:00pm

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InShanghai Durham Chinese Buffet Restaurant Review

Visited InShanghai Durham Chinese Buffet after a long business trip to Birmingham on Monday. The place is now very well established down on the Durham riverside, under the rather garish ‘The Gates’ sign next to Framwellgate Bridge. It moved here some years ago after starting life upstairs as ‘The Elephant’ buffet. Try to get a table by the window and you get a great River Wear vista and the imposing Durham Castle and Framwellgate Bridge to frame the view.

inshanghai durham food bar picture

It’s always been fairly cheap and cheerful as a place to eat, and it attracts all types of people because of its ‘everything you can eat for….’ policy (particularly popular with Durham Uni students, who get a 10% discount all day on production of their student card). The price you pay for your food is on a sliding scale, with the cheapest meals on an afternoon, becoming more expensive the later it gets. This seems to work well, but you need to beware if you’re eating across a charge boundary, as the price will be based on the time you leave your table and pay, rather than the time you came in. You are (usually) made aware of this when you first come in though, so listen up to avoid an unexpected hike in price and a nasty shock later.

Lunch Buffet (11:30am-4:00pm) £6.50 (child £3.95)
Happy Hour Buffet (4:00pm-6:20pm) £7.50 (child £3.95)
Grand Buffet (6:20pm-close) £11.90 (child £6.90)

The restaurant is laid out around the three self-service food areas at one end and the bar in the other. The trays are kept refreshed every 10 minutes or so with piping hot chinese food. Typical fare, from Crispy Seaweed to Stir Fry Pork, Noodles, Rice, Curries and Sweet and Sour. Everything is labelled though, so no needing to guess what you’re eating. As already said, you simply get a plate and trough to your heart’s content! You can stay as long as you want, eat as much as you want and go home not needing another meal until tomorrow, or maybe next week. Not entirely sure what that does to your cholesterol levels, but hey i’m not here to judge on that score. There isn’t an Inshanghai Menu as such, you just grab a plate and go look at the food to see what’s on offer. Please be aware though that the food selection changes slightly later to reflect the higher ‘Grand Buffet’ price. It’s especially good for feeding the kids as well, as they get substantially lower prices. Inshanghai’s food also seems to be less MSG-laden than some other chinese buffets i’ve been to, but I still can’t manage more than two platefuls before the FULL signs come up. 😉

inshanghai durham menu picture

InShanghai,
The Gates Shopping Centre,
Unit 30b,
Lambton Walk,
Durham
DH1 4SL
Tel : 0191 375 7333

Durham Food and Drink Rating
First Impression : 7, Service : n/a, Food : 9, Value : 9

Total cost (for two) : £20 including drinks

 

I’ve not scored for Service, as the only thing that gets served up is your drink, and that doesn’t really take a great deal of skill, so i’ll leave that out in this case. In Shanghai scores well for food and it’s extremely good value if you time it right.

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The Spice Lounge Durham Indian Restaurant Review

The Spice Lounge Durham is a little Indian Restaurant that we’ve been going to for years, but it’s hidden away behind the Market Place, so you have to know where it is or you’ll probably be looking for it for weeks without finding it. It’s tucked away in a little alley, down between the Durham Indoor Market and St. Nicholas’ Church. It’s long and narrow and you just wouldn’t expect to find it there. The entrance is through a small door, and once inside the little foyer, with it’s ‘fish-tank-esque’ window, you are in front of the bar area. Once again, we hadn’t booked (need to get that sorted out), but after only about 5 minutes wait they found us a table. Hot diggety, no trouble.

spice lounge entrance

The waiters are all smartly turned out in trousers and waistcoats and are very attentive, getting our drinks sorted out as priority before taking the food order. We stuck with Cobra Beer (mega bottles) and a house White wine. We also got complimentary glasses of water just in case the food was too hot. The menus are nice and clean, bound stylishly and are well laid out, making choosing our meal very easy. Starting with poppadoms and pickles, they were plentiful and tasty, and as usual, we made a mess of the nice crisp table cloth. Sorry guys! Pickles were fresh and zingy. I always gauge the pickles by the Lime, and this was sharp and spicy without tasting of soap like some Indian Restaurants seem to serve (why is that?).

spice lounge staff

The girls played it nice and mild, ordering the Lamb and Chicken Pasanda, done in fresh cream with yoghurt, cous-cous, almonds and cashew nuts. Us blokes went for the ubiquitous Chicken Tandoori Masala and I decided Chicken Tikka Jalfrezi was the thing for me. Rather than the food coming in little bowls over a candle powered warmer, the meals are in dishes, like soup-bowls, which is a bit unusual, but cuts down on the table clutter. The Jalfrezi came served as a sizzler, so the waiter spooned it in while balancing the sizzler and plate precariously on his arm. It looked impossible to do without covering himself and us with sauce, but he managed without spilling a drop. Vegetable Pilao Rice was nice and fluffy and the Peshwari Naan passed the Mrs DFD test (it’s the only Naan she’ll order).

The bill at Spice Lounge Durham came to about 75 quid between us, including drinks, so quite reasonable and they didn’t try to hurry us out of our seats afterwards, which was nice as we just wanted to sit and talk for a bit. Highlight of the night was the customer who leaned back a little too far on his chair and went a**e over t*t, thanks to a helpful nudge from his Mrs. I thought only kids did this, but it was pretty funny, and he wasn’t hurt, just a bit embarassed. We tried not to mock and point, but it was difficult 😉

spice lounge serving food

Spice Lounge, Durham Menu

Price : £75 for four

Durham Food and Drink Rating
First Impression : 8, Service : 9, Food : 8, Value : 8

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The Spice Lounge,
St. Nicholas Cottage,
Market Place,
Durham,
DH1 3NJ
Tel : 0191 3830927

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Gilesgate Tandoori Durham Indian Takeaway Review

Gilesgate Tandoori Durham

This is actually the 2nd time we’ve been to Gilesgate Tandoori Durham. It’s close to our house, within shambling distance in fact, so it would be rude not to really, wouldn’t it? We were really intending to have fish and chips just down the road at Bells, but it’s shut on a Sunday night so we had to divert here instead.

gilesgate tandoori Durham indian takeaway front of shop

The first thing you notice is the difference from outside to inside. From the road it just looks like an ordinary takeaway, slightly tatty, in an unremarkable terrace on Sunderland Road, but get inside and it’s a different story altogether. It’s also impressive that you can actually see into the kitchen as the food is being prepared, and the chef actually wears a proper chef’s hat. 🙂 The lads who staff the place are very cheery and like to have a bit craic and there’s a couple of tidy leather couches to sit on while you wait, with magazines. There’s also a TV if you want to watch: it was The Simpsons Movie. We had a good laugh at Spider pig. 🙂

The wait for our food was about 20 minutes, once I decided what we’d order (again I found myself ordering for other people) and everything was neatly packaged in a nice sturdy brown bag for the walk home.

Opening up, the food was all neatly partitioned into containers, none of which had leaked (like you get with some Indian takeaways), so serving up was a nice clean experience, without ending up with sauce all over the kitchen. Presentation was also a cut above the rest, with containers garnished with herbs before being sealed, so you get a nice pattern when you open up. Food quality is superb, probably the best i’ve had from an Indian takeaway. Rice was nice and fluffy, naans were done to perfection and the meat in the main courses just melted in the mouth. We always try to get a variety of meals from hot through to mild, then everyone gets a little bit of each. As usual though, we’d still ordered far too much. Even with two rices/two naans between four of us, it didn’t all get eaten, hard though we tried.

We’d recommend Gilesgate Tandoori Durham to anyone who likes their Indian food. They serve class produce, at a pretty reasonable price. Even if we lived further away, we’d happily travel or pay the delivery costs on this. It’s superb scran!

 

Price : £27 for four

Durham Food and Drink Rating
First Impression : 8, Service : 8, Food : 9, Value : 8

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Gilesgate Tandoori,
39 Marshall Terrace
Durham
Co Durham
DH1 2HX
T : 0191 383 9699

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Queen’s Head Durham Review

“The Queen’s Head is a nice friendly pub that’s recently been refurbished downstairs in the bar area. In the bar we offer FREE WiFi to all of our guests as well as FREE parking on site. We are in a perfect location of Durham, just 1 mile away from the City centre. The bar provides an excellent menu, with both a choice from our traditional menu to our chef’s specials boards. Everything on our menu is home-made. Our bedrooms are basic but kept very clean and tidy. All rooms are with shared bathroom facilities, but each resident gets fresh hand towels & bath mats.”

queens head front

The other ‘local’ is the Queen’s Head in Gilesgate, just down the road from The Shoes. It’s a typical fronted boozer, but like the Shoes it’s had a bit of money spent on it recently and the lounge looks just right for eating. We’ve been in here twice recently, once for a lazy Sunday dinner and most recently again for a minor celebration.

I always reckon that if the pub is full on a Sunday then they’re doing something right. The Queens actually serve their Sunday lunch right up until 8pm! We rolled up at about 2pm and got a table without booking, but felt a bit guilty when a local old timer arrived and looked disappointed to see us sitting in what was apparently his seat, where he’d probably had his Sunday dinner every weekend since 1976. Anyhow, he got sat down somewhere else by the waitress and we felt less like robbers. The waitress took our order almost immediately.

queens head lounge

Sunday lunch was pretty good, with pneumatic Yorkshires, bigger than barrage balloons, but crispy and dry. There’s a selection of the usual roasts, and what is amazing is that it all arrived about 3 minutes after it was ordered. Very impressive! I know that means they must pre-prepare it, but as long as it tastes ok and hasn’t gone crusty round the edges that’s fine by me. The roast was tender and juicy and the gravy was nice and thick, just how we like it. We had pud as well after all of this, Mrs DFD had Apple Crumble and Custard and I had the Rice Pud, which came absolutely dry without milk, so I pinched some custard to moisten it up. Unusual but strangely enjoyable.

Our second visit, on a Tuesday night saw us ordering from the Chef’s Special menu. There were four mouths to feed this time and we ordered

Belly pork, served on a bed of fluffy mash potato, black pudding wrapped in bacon complimented with a diane sauce topped off with crispy onions

Duck breast marinated in a hoi sin sauce on a bed of noodles mixed through with chilli, spring onions & ginger

12oz Rump steak served with tomato, portobello mushroom, onion rings, homemade chips

Chicken balentine with chorizo, jalapeños & mozzarella wrapped in parmaham in a mariner sauce accompanied with sweet potato chips.

When we arrived they asked if we were eating and drinks orders were taken at the table. Service of the meal took about 20 minutes from order to plate this time, and I have to say the presentation of the food was superb for pub grub. All the meals looked terrific. Even I liked a taste of the belly pork, and I don’t generally do belly pork very well. It was great. Testament to this were the four clean plates at the end of it, we’d removed the patterns as well, it was so nice. We decided not to have a sweet this time, although we had drinks added to the bill at the start and it all came to just over £60 in all. Great value for pub grub.


Durham Food and Drink Rating
First Impression : 7, Service : 8, Food : 8, Value : 8

queens head rating eight

The Queen’s Head
2 Sherburn Road
Durham
DH1 2JR
T: 0191 3865649

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The Queen’s Head also offer accommodation, with a Single Room including breakfast for £30 and a Double/Twin with breakfast for £50

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Palm Sugar Durham Thai Takeaway Review

Palm Sugar Durham was a name given to me by my works travelling companion Tom. It’s a Thai/Asian place that has only recently opened in Claypath, above another much longer established Indian Restaurant, The Capital. We like Thai, and Indian, so it’s like double-decker food heaven.

palm sugar durham dining room

We fancied a Thai or Indian meal, but couldn’t really be bothered to go out, so started looking on Just Eat for inspiration, and found that Palm Sugar were listed, so thought we’d check out their takeaway service. We ordered Crispy Duck Pancake as an appetiser, followed by a Green Chicken Curry with regular boiled rice and Beef Ginger with an egg fried rice accompaniment. Palm Sugar don’t currently offer a delivery service (that may need to change in future), so we had to pick it up. This proved not to be easy, as parking in Claypath is at a bit of a premium, and there were lots of traffic wardens swarming around, trying to capture poor unsuspecting hungry people, so I had to get dropped off and Mrs. Durham Food and Drink drove around the block until I had laid my hands on the bounty. This wasn’t as much a delay as it sounds, as the order was ready when I got there and it only took a couple of minutes to get in and out again, thankfully without falling up or down the stairs.

“Welcome to Palm Sugar@The Auction House. We will bring you the very best of Thai-Pan-Asian Cuisine right to your doorstep. With a reputation of authenticity and excellence, great food, inspiring ambiance and a friendly service. Thai-Pan-Asian cuisine is popular for it’s subtle blending of flavour, utilising herbs and roots such as lemongrass, basil, coriander, galangal, cinnamon, garlic and chillies. Our menu has an extensive choice of 85 dishes for a complete Thai-Pan-Asian culinary experience.”

The meal would have been a bit on the pricey side, but Palm Sugar offered 20% off online, so it came in at £26. There was enough food to feed four of us, so £6.50 each wasn’t too bad, and boy was it tasty! The duck pancakes were pretty traditional, with enough to make 7-8 rolls, with Hoi-Sin Sauce and cucumber strips. The only small gripe was that the duck was a little on the tough side in places, but it still went down.

And then to the main course. Yes, it’s hot! We certainly were reminded about the zinginess of Thai food after this, but it wasn’t like the lingering afterburn of an Indian Vindaloo, but rather the subtle kick of ginger and spices, then a gradual cool down without turning us into burns victims, only fit for a spell in the University Hospital A&E ward. The chicken was presented in nice bite sized chunks, and the ginger beef just melted in the mouth. Watch out for the hidden chillies though! The rice was light and cooling in contrast, helping to dilute the heat of the main meal. A nice, balanced range of tastes overall. Am getting hungry again just writing this.

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Overall, a really nice takeaway, and we look forward to visiting Palm Sugar again for a proper sitty-down meal in the near future. We’ll review that one a bit later for you, when we can.

Now, where’s that waist band extender?

Price : £26 for four


Durham Food and Drink Rating
First Impression : 8, Service : 8, Food : 8, Value : 7

palm sugar durham rating eight

Palm Sugar
First Floor
The Auction House
69 Claypath
Durham
DH1 1QT
0191 3863858

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