TabReview: The Garden House Inn

Third time lucky: as Belinda Davies continues her quest for Durham’s finest gastronomical asset, she finally strikes gold!


As soon as I stepped inside the Garden House Inn, I was sold. On every table was a different brand of gin bottle embracing a candlestick – this place was made for me. We were led up onto the raised area in front of the roaring fire where an assortment of cosy tables, a sofa and an armchair or two on the hearth, beckoned warmly, and we took a seat in between the Hendrick’s and the Bombay Sapphire table. Soon we were cradling an enormous glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc and any antecedent tensions began to ebb away.

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We decided to put the tasting menu through its paces, which began with scallop ceviche, horseradish and milk gel, apple, fennel and samphire bathed in a pool of mussel stock. It was extremely delicate and very fresh, an elegant teaser to leave us interested and our curiosity piqued.

The second element of the meal is hard to do justice to in words; the inadequacy of language seems injurious in defining the utter magnificence of this plate. A perfect hillock of hand-rolled tagliatelle, sensuously coated in a velvety butter sauce which was impossibly pure; so simple yet so effectual, and garnished with a liberal sprinkling of beautiful wild truffles harvested from a secret source in deepest darkest Wiltshire.

The Garden House Inn is the only restaurant in the North East to be supplied with such a delicacy, which are usually reserved for fancy London restaurants of the Michelin variety.

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I was beginning to run out of superlatives, and we weren’t even half way. An espresso shot of sublimely smooth chicken liver parfait appeared underneath layer of Madeira jelly, with a pair of lightly toasted brioche soldiers which soon vanished, and so unprompted we took to our teaspoons and devoured the remainder of the pâté neat.

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It was time for our much-anticipated carnivorous fix. A perfect square of palpably pink beef loin, raised and slaughtered in Durham, took centre stage amongst a cast of parsnip, black cabbage, brussel sprout leaves, sage, pickled onions, and a home-made raspberry vinegar for good measure.

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All we needed now was a palate cleanser… and lo and behold emerged a morsel of cardamom-poached apple, on a bed of mulled cider granita and topped with a toasted molten marshmallow and a sprinkling of fennel candy. An unlikely sounding combination, granted, but a triumphant one nonetheless, before we stretched our drowsy limbs out in front of the roaring fire, nursing the final few drops of that sacred nectar.

The Garden House Inn has it all – everything about it is right. The ambiance is perfect, it is rustic, tasteful, relaxed and cosy – and the food it delivers is utterly stunning. It is run by Chef Nick Grieves along with his father, and the menu changes on a daily basis according to what is in season.

Any fellow CAMRA enthusiasts such as myself will not fail to appreciate the selection of local ales on tap which change regularly, and situated barely a stone’s throw up the hill from Domino’s on North Road, it is the perfect place to escape to in front of the fire to get some of your reading done whilst nursing a pint.

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Equally it is the perfect place for a chilled but classy date: this is the restaurant answer to Flat White, so if you are looking to take the next step up from Durham’s finest coffee house, it has the added bonus of being out of the public eye.

Lunch is served 12-2.30 Monday to Saturday and Dinner is 5-9.30pm Monday to Saturday. There is a ‘Pub Grub’ tailored menu to suit other guests.

They have 6 bedrooms which they keep to the same standard as their food.

The Garden House Inn are having a 9 course tasting menu for New Year’s Eve. Cost £45 per person; £25 Wine pairing. Call 0191 386 3395 for details or visit www.gardenhouseinn.com