Our recent short stay in Durham had many highlights – in fact, the worst part about it was that it was too short!
Those who read last week’s Gazette will have seen that Mrs L and I took a couple of days away from it all – not a million miles away, but far enough to make it seem so.
We chose to check out the Kingslodge Inn, part of the Inn Collection Group, which includes the likes of Lindisfarne Inn, Bamburgh Castle Inn, Hogs Head Inn and Commissioner’s Quay Inn (that’s a lot of inns in one sentence!).
It is a stone’s throw from both Durham station and the busy, beautiful city centre, although you’d have to be an Olympic-standard thrower of stones to actually reach them, but you know what I mean.
Our original plan was to have two breakfasts and one evening meal at the Kingslodge, and give a city restaurant a whirl on our second night. But it was so cosy and the grub comfort-food personified that we ventured not! Besides, the city prices looked indeed like city prices.
Back at our bolt hole, the menu was kind of familiar, but with the odd surprise and a small specials selection.
The Inn Collection ethos is based on quality at a reasonable cost, with an emphasis on freshly prepared local ingredients.
And so it transpired – the choice was more than adequate but not so extensive that you wonder how much is actually cooked to order.
Starters numbered eight, half of which were vegetarian, and included the usual suspects of soup, garlic bread, calamari and whitebait.
We pigged out in our first meal and began with baked Camembert, stuffed with rosemary and garlic, served with toasted ciabatta (£7.95) and, for me, cheese and bacon croquettes, served with garlic mayonnaise (£5.95).
Both were neatly presented, with use of greenery adding a rustic touch. The Camembert was rich and punchy, complemented with a welcome rack of ciabatta slices. The only problem for Mrs L was she was almost full before her three-course challenge had barely kicked off.
My mashed potato-based croquettes were more modest but no less tasty, a crunchy exterior giving way to a soft, cheesy heart – a grumbling tummy silenced!
Steak (a medium rare rib-eye, £22.95) was the next dish to land opposite. It was served with chips, deliciously cooked in beef dripping, mushrooms, grilled tomato, onion strings and, for an extra £3, a mini jug of peppercorn sauce. There was not much more to be said than ... mmm.
I went for the steak and ale pie (£12.95, or small £8.95), with those chips and garden peas, nothing flash, just good, wholesome pub-grub. The gravy was more instant than derived from meat juices, but there was plenty of it.
It was a nourishing piece of pie, with chunks of meats and what I would call proper pastry, none of the puff nonsense!
Our meals were washed down with a decent bottle of house red, Gio Rosso (£18.25), a light and fruity number.
Predictably, Mr L’s stamina had collapsed and I had to go it alone on the dessert front – a delicious cube of sticky toffee pudding in a sea of sauce with a globe of ice-cream on top (£5.95). It was a fine example of my favourite sweet.
Chapter one had gone well. The restaurant was not particularly busy, and the course timings were spot on.
The story continued the following night, but after a hearty breakfast, our appetites were not quite the same, so we just had main courses.
Mrs L went random! Among the pizza selection was chicken bhuna flavour (£9.95), with red onion, tomato salsa and mozzarella, drizzled with raita. It was one of the more unusual offerings but gave great pleasure.
I turned to the specials –there were just two of them. Seafood tagliatelle (£13.95) caught my eye. And I didn’t regret the decision. Prawns, with tail shells on, copious mussels in a garlic cream sauce and topped with smoked salmon. I loved it.
Our wine of choice this time was a soft and palatable Merlot (£22.50).
Relaxing, good food, nice wine, great service – that just about sums up our visit.
STARTING THE DAY IN SOME STYLE
There’s something extremely decadent about being served breakfast, more so than any other meal. For me, it’s the highlight of going away. Apart from the self-service cereals, toast, coffee/tea and juice, the Kingslodge offers a range of meals, including the full breakfast – bacon, sausage, eggs, black pudding, flat field mushroom, tomato and beans (£8.95) – or our favourite during our visit, eggs Benedict – muffin topped with poached eggs, cooked ham, wilted spinach and drizzled with hollandaise sauce (£7.95).
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Soup of the day......£4.95
Crunchy potato skins......£3.95
Salt and pepper calamari......£6.95
Fish and chips......£11.95
Scampi and chips......£11.95
Thai red mussels......£9.95
Kingslodge Inn burger......£11.95
King prawn pizza......£9.95
Desserts (all £5.95)
Crepes; chocolate brownie; cheesecake; apple/blackberry crumble tart.
Star ratings (out of 10)
Quality of food......8½
Value for money......8½
Access for disabled......9
Toilet for disabled......Yes
Verdict: Great place to chill and enjoy somd freshly-cooked food.