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We’ll meat again – trying the veggie option
GOING to a steak house to have a vegetarian option seems a bit like buying a Ferrari to drive to the supermarket.
As a meat eater, it just seems like a wasted opportunity.
So thank goodness for my girlfriend Stacey, who, after much bartering and raging arguments, agreed to order from the vegetarian menu we had been ordered to try by our newspaper chiefs when we were dispatched to Gadds Town House.
And actually, when I got there, the veggie options, specially produced to mark national vegetarian’s Week, did not look too bad.
Had I not been swayed by the 12oz ribeye (£22.50 when served surfed with prawns and in a garlic sauce) I might even have been tempted by the butternut squash risotto with toasted pinenut, truffle oil and rocket.
The restaurant on Old Elvet, in Durham City, looks from the outside like a rather grand but not particularly overt town house, tall and thin with large windows.
Inside the elegance of the place is revealed, a glass door automatically opens as you approach and the first thing you see is an ornate chair which allows three people to sit back to back at once.
In fact chairs seem to be a bit of a passion for the Gadds Town House designers.
In the bar area, which is made to feel like a mock lounge from a 19th century French Palace, there is an array of seating ranging from comfortable arm chairs to a two-sided curved bench, with the padded cushions divided by a straight and tall back.
The whole decoration was slightly over the top, chandeliers are crammed in and all the furnishings could be described as plush, almost like a flamboyant lover of the arts attempt to be elegant.
As we arrived early, we enjoyed drinks on the veranda complete with blankets on the backs of the chairs in case it got a bit nippy.
The restaurant itself is small, a dozen or so tables, and once again it is the seating, rather than the thick curtains or leopard skin carpet, that grab the attention.
Along one wall runs a gigantic bench that curves and cascades its way past several tables.
But we are placed next to the window on a sweet table for two, where we finally decide what we are going to sample, Stacey’s last chance to scupper our supper by going for meat rather than veg.
Thankfully she sticks to our arrangement however, and after several minutes of skipping between the options (tossing them round in her mind like the chef would later do to her side salad) she opts for wild mushroom pancake (£6.50), a starter but one that can be upgraded to a main with addition of chips (skinny fries or fat). As a hater of mushrooms, I personally couldn’t think of anything worse than a delicious crepe filled with fungi, but she savoured every mouthful and was amazed by the array of mushrooms.
We started by ordering the antipasto board (£11.50) featuring crusty bread, several cured meats, a pot of olives, two duck-filled spring rolls and a pair of melted goats cheese ball coated in bread crumbs all served on a beautiful wooden board, and due to the array of options, no mouthful tasted the same.
We also shared king prawns tossed in garlic with large wedges of ciabatta bread (£9.50) before embarking on our main meals.
The steak was delicious, juicy and tender, but I am not supposed to tell you about that.
Stacey’s mushroom pancake was creamy and from the outside (with the mushrooms obscured inside) looked a treat.
The chips were served in tall, thin baskets made from woven metal, a rather industrial looking container that clashed somewhat with the fine dining atmosphere engendered by the furnishings.
The chips themselves were crisp and smooth and were the perfect complement to my steak and Stacey’s pancake.
For dessert, we shared a cheeseboard (£7.50) which starred a face-scrunchingly sweet apple chutney, Isle of Mull cheddar, Normandy Rustique Camembert, Gold Cross English Goats Cheese, Shropshire Blue Stilton and a soft, honey and mead Oxford Isis as well as a selection of crackers.
I also treated myself to the creme brulee, and had that delicious Amelie moment when I cracked the crunchy caramel top with the spoon, and the winter berries atop the golden glaze slipped and mingled with the soft, creamy insides.
Overall this was a very pleasant eating out experience, the setting sparked chatter between Stacey and I and the food was elegant and filling.
I did not like our proximity to the kitchen, however, which was shielded from us by a rather attractive but flimsy smoked glass wall, as we could hear the chefs chatting as they concocted our meals, which rather ruined the illusions.
But it is a small criticism of what was an excellent dining experience and one that shall be well-remembered.
And next time, I may even be swayed by the vegetarian option.