The Cellar Door: modernity at the heart of antiquity

By Nick Searle-Donoso First Year English Literature.

Pigeon breast – starter at The Cellar Door

It would seem rather odd to have a restaurant which serves modern European food at the heart of traditional Durham and one that is not particularly grandiose or pretentious but rather modern and trendy. Nonetheless, The Cellar Door is a fascinating attempt to bring fine dining to the antiquity of Durham.

After descending underground, one is faced with a sparsely decorated, thirteenth century converted cellar. After a wait which, I have to say, bordered on the uncomfortable, we were served a surprisingly moreish Amuse-bouche of a crispy pork croquette, miso gel and puffed potatoes which had the peculiar texture of Rice Krispies.

Duck breast – main course at The Cellar Door

For starter, I had a perfectly cooked pigeon breast, with a pigeon pithivier (a small pie) which was warm and comforting, and two indiscernible gel-like sauces: a purple one and an orange one. This was followed by succulent duck breast, which was served with a roasted whole apple that was so imposing it felt like a rude gesture, a confit duck leg, honey-glazed salsify and juniper goose shavings.

Chocolate ‘aero’ – dessert at The Cellar Door

For dessert, I had the chocolate ‘aero’: chocolate which is aerated in a gas canister and then deoxygenated using a vacuum pack. This was served with mango sorbet which delivered suitably fruity freshness but was disappointingly puddled on the plate. Too often removed from the freezer, at the end of a long service, the sorbet had finally given up the fight. Overall, The Cellar Door is not at all student friendly in terms of prices, with starters averaging ten pounds and main courses averaging twenty pounds, but it is certainly an intriguing option for when the parents come to visit.

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