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Steady fare, but right place to relax
RELAXING SPOT: The Bishop’s Mill provides reasonably priced pub grub – and the perfect spot from which to watch the hurly-burly of Durham
I SUSPECT I’m not the only one who finds shopping in central Durham a bit of a hassle at present. The seemingly never-ending refurbishments see crowds shuffling down restricted walkways, workmen shouting to one another and an unwelcome feeling of hassle, rather than an enjoyable hustle and bustle.
So when your hurly-burly’s done and your shopping battle lost and won, you really want a relaxing atmosphere to unwind in when you grab a bite to eat.
The Bishops’ Mill is one of the collection of venues next to the Gala and the Wetherspoon’s pub is a mixed bag as a destination.
First impressions are good.
Comfy sofas or regular tables, tucked-away corners or high-seated perches near the bar where you can be seen, there’s plenty of options when it comes to finding a place to settle in this very spacious pub. It must be a bit unnerving when it is empty, but there seems little danger of that – my midweek lunchtime visit saw it busy, but never once did it feel crowded. In fact, it was a very relaxing spot, a nice place to kick back with your newspaper or with friends and catch up with the world or with gossip.
This is a pick your table, check the number on it and then go order your food venue, and ordering food was its first speed bump.
For a fairly busy lunchtime, there really should have been more than two people on the bar, dealing with both drink and food orders.
Hence, there was quite a lengthy queue before I could order my meal, and the overworked chap who took my order was a tad brusque.
Still, food ordered, I returned to my window seat and settled down to unwind and people watch. Here is the Bishops’ Mill’s strength.
With an inoffensive rock music idling away in the background and a pleasant hubbub of conversation floating around the room, the stress of the shopping run soon slips away. Perfect.
Food arrived soon after, delivered by a chirpy and helpful waitress. The menu is regular pub grub fare, all priced very reasonably. I normally go for something out of the ordinary, but nothing of that kind really jumped out here (though the five bean chilli seemed a favourite, with more than a few nearby folk tucking into one). British beef and Abbot Ale pie was what I plumped for (£7.10), served with a choice of mash or chips and a choice of garden peas, mushy peas or vegetables.
It was all presented very prettily. Less a plate, more a tray, with the food arranged neatly across it, with a great big block of pie at the end.
In terms of quantity, you can’t complain at the price.
In terms of quality, well, it did the job. There was a slightly peppery taste to the pie, and the pastry was a bit too heavy for my liking, but it was able enough, with a decent amount of meat inside.
All told, it was a fair amount for its price tag, and would be particularly welcome on a colder day.
I had fancied a dessert – chocolate fudge cake or sticky toffee pudding catching my eye – but a second lengthy wait part-way through my meal for a fresh drink put me off queuing for a third time, so dessert went uninvestigated.
If you’re looking for steady pub food, the Bishops’ Mill does that ably, but without too much ambition for more than that. What you will get is a nice place to relax, especially if you’re in no rush to get back to the city crush.