Last time I recommended the Black Lion Hotel in Finkle street but I’ve updated this after a few disappointing meals there more recently. This year’s recommendation is the George and Dragon in Hudswell. Just a couple of miles out of town and well worth the trip, the community pub that’s found favour with the television programme makers and locals alike has got into its stride with the food. You’re unlikely to encounter much Fijian food in these parts so it’s worth trying out the specials for that experience. The chicken stir-fry with noodles or the fish with banana are both easy introductions to an unfamiliar cuisine. Call: 01748 518373. Map on n0tice.com.
Last time I mentioned the Cross View Ream Rooms (which remains good for home-cooked food) but this time I’d like to recommend Deli 10. On Darlington road near the island for the Co-op, this small venue has a well thought out menu of freshly prepared sandwiches, panini and cakes. The homemade soup is always well seasoned and piping hot and the salads with an interesting selection of leaves, walnuts and olives drizzled (not drowned) with dressing. The always friendly service is another bonus in a town where surly teenage waiting staff are the norm. Call: 01748 822114.
3. Fine dining
We’re still struggling in this category with the Frenchgate Restaurant and Hotel the only place coming close but…. of the two more casual dining places to open up in the past few years, Rustique in Chantry Wynd is worth a try. Aside from the cliche theming of the decor (cancan, chat noir etc.), the food on offer is well priced and well-cooked. The menu is very much on the traditional side of French – rich and buttery. The meat dishes are large and attention is paid to the customer’s cooking preferences. The pleasant service also adds to make for a relaxed evening out. Call: 01748 821565. Map on n0tice.com.
4. Smart lunch
Last time I mentioned the Seasons Restaurant at The Station which is OK as far as cafe style service and menus go but the other addition to the town which is worth a try is La Piazza 2. The stylish decor and prompt service have quickly made this into one of the busiest eateries. Basically pizza and pasta which are well done. My only criticism is the lack of any dinner salads (just rather a dull side salad) and the extremely costly soft drinks. Call: 01748 825008.
The Delhi-cious kitchen made the list last time and is still working away to deliver curries across the town but I thought I’d make an addition for the town centre itself in this update – Shanghai City in the Market Place. With it’s hand-written menu additions scribbled on bags pinned up on the wall, perusing the choices can be a bit haphazard but worth struggling through. Although the main menu is fairly standard Cantonese stuff, these specials include items such as massive dishes of udon noodles cooked in your choice of sauce or salt and pepper squid from the Malaysian cook. Call: 01748 825955.
6. Missed opportunity
I’ve added this category in because of the disappointment first at the closure of the excellent Frenchgate cafe and also about the way the landmark King’s Head Hotel has proved to be in recent times. What a fabulous building, what lovely new decor and add to that the interesting menu and the selection of wines – this should be the jewel in crown for the town. Why then is it so often empty? Having seen people wait more than an hour to be handed a menu and then marching out in exasperation as teenage waitresses gossip ignoring their efforts to order or have the tables cleared – it’s not difficult to understand why. I seriously hope summer 2012 will see its return to form as well as the Frenchgate cafe finding a new owner.