Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting DURHAM TIMES to 80360 or email us
Why Claypath deli proved to be a Handy idea
THE concept of Claypath Delicatessen initially met with a less-than-warm welcome from its neighbours: more cold cheese than hot takeaway.
A handful of Claypath folk and one local councillor took owner Rory Handy’s attempt to win a food licence for the former bathroom showroom to a council committee in October 2010, fearing its opening would lead to late-night pizza shops spreading into upper Claypath, inflicting smells, noise and further parking problems on nearby residents.
However, within a few weeks the doubters, it seems, had been won over.
What Mr Handy was trying to create was not a 3am-closing kebab shop, but a quality delicatessen, serving specialist and locally sourced foods during daylight hours only; as, to be fair to him, he had told councillors and anyone else prepared to listen at the time.
Suddenly, everybody loved him and the good people of Claypath flocked through the doors.
Eighteen months on, I finally made good on a promise to Mr Handy, made way back then, to visit ‘soon’ and see for myself on a warm June Wednesday.
The world and its wife had returned to work with post-Jubilee hangovers but my wife and I had sneaked a cheeky extra day off, tagged on to make the long weekend even longer. All in honour of Her Majesty, you understand.
Anyway: perfect, we thought, for a late, long, lazy lunch.
The deli boasts a large front window looking out over Claypath – ideally suited for a spot of people-watching – and so we took a table allowing us to indulge said pastime.
The interior is small but not cramped. Four or five wooden tables, each slightly different from the last, fill a light, forward dining area. The counter is in the back: allowing guests to see much of the menu before making their choices. In between, one or two sofas make for a more comfortable, secluded alternative to the shop front.
The decor is plain and simple, the walls adorned only with 20-odd paintings by members of Bearpark Artists’ Co-Op – all available to buy. Lazy soul music meandered gently in the background.
Sarah and I were first greeted not by deli staff but by friends sitting chewing the cud – and tempting-looking sandwiches – close to the front door. Knowing their fine tastes, we immediately suspected we were on to a winner.
Service at the deli is part-restaurant, part-shop, so food was later brought to our table but, first, ordering was to be done at the counter.
The menu includes salads, sandwiches, open sandwiches, deli sandwiches, Panini and – that which grabbed our attention – ‘sharing’.
We shared a Greek mezze and a Spanish platter (both £4.75 for one). Both were excellent.
The mezze was a vegetarian platter including Greek dips, salads, marinated vegetables and toasted bread. The leafy cylindrical wraps were a surprise hit.
The Spanish platter was more meaty, including ham and a salami-style offering, along with Murcia al vino cheese and crusty bread.
Both were generously sized, carefully presented atop rectangular slates and very good value.
Earlier, I had wondered whether I might find room for a deli sandwich too. ‘The invincible’ – named, apparently, in honour of Durham University rugby team – and ‘The Mexican stand-off’ both sounded very appetising. But the sharing dishes proved more than ample – especially given there were desserts still to come.
After a brief respite, we returned to the counter. Sarah chose a slice of apple cake with cream (£2.50) while I was overcome by curiosity on offer of ‘Durham Mess’.
Usually a sharing dish for two, our host kindly agreed to create for me a scaled-down version: a little touch of kindness which added much to our appreciation of her venue.
The Mess was blackcurrant sorbet and pistachio ice cream sat atop a meringue base and sprinkled with popping candy. “I’m not sure whether to tell people about it in advance,” our host tells me later, “But I think it’s a nice surprise.” Hear, hear. A fireworks display all inside my mouth.
The apple cake, meanwhile, was a hearty chunk but light and subtly flavoured: another success.
Accompanied by a bottle of Bundaberg root beer, another of lemon and lime, a large Americano (£2) and a large Mocha (£2.20), our total bill came to just over £22 – excellent value for the more-than-satisfying main meal of the day we had enjoyed.
Claypath Delicatessen is a commendable little venture which deserves to succeed. Visit to support it, visit to enjoy it.
FACTS 57 Claypath, Durham Tel: 0191-3407209 www.claypathdeli.co.uk Open: Mon 10am to 3pm, Tues to Sat 10am to 5pm, Sun 10am to 2pm RATINGS (out of ten): Food quality 8 Service 7 Surroundings 8 Value 8