Stuart Forster reviews the experience of dining at the Rib Room restaurant at Ramside Hall, Durham.
The Rib Room, in Durham, is one of the restaurants at the Ramside Hall hotel. The brasserie-style dining establishment holds a reputation for being one of north-east England’s premier steakhouses.
Disclosure: Stuart was invited to dine as a guest of the Rib Room, which did not review or approve this post.
The restaurant made a stylish first impression. We — myself and my brother — were greeted and shown to seats on a semi-circular leather banquette by a dark wood table. Behind us, beyond a low brass rail, was a pale yellow wall packed with artwork in golden frames. Most of the pictures depicted wine, undoubtedly the drink of choice for the majority of steak eaters in the Rib Room. There was, I noticed, even a miniature black Beaujolais apron in one frame.
Taittinger Champagne and mocktails
In the corner, within touching distance, stood a display of eight Taittinger Champagne bottles, ranged according to size, reminding me of stackable Russian dolls. Was the largest called a Methuselah or a Salmanazar? That discussion was in full flow when Jean, our waiter for the evening, returned with menus and the Rib Room’s sizable wine list.
Dressed in a waistcoat and black apron, Jean’s accent was, like the décor of the dining room, unmistakably French. Over the course of our meal, while discussing cuts of meat and accompanying wines, his knowledge was evident, enhancing our dining experience. Will such passion for hospitality and professionalism be available to British restaurateurs after 29 March 2019, the proposed date of Brexit?
Would we care to start with an aperitif? The Cocktail of the Week was a cranberry citron cosmo but after a long day the prospect of anything too boozy simply didn’t appeal to either of us. Normally a martini or a mojito would be ideal. Instead we opted for refreshing mocktails.
Seafood risotto and cheese soufflé
We wrestled with our choice of starters for far longer than should ever be the case. Would it be the Lindisfarne oysters, the butternut squash soup or the charcuterie sharing platter? Houses, no doubt, have been bought with far less ponderous consideration and discussion. Eventually we decided on a cheddar-laced soufflé, served in an individual pan, and the seafood risotto.
Both were very good. The risotto (also available as a main) was creamy and rich in flavour, topped by a seared salad, clams and a couple of expertly cooked, succulent king prawns.
Beef from County Durham
Across the far side of the high room, with Victorian-style stucco ceiling decoration, I noticed a chalkboard sign stating, “All our meat is sourced from local farms.”
“We’re serving Hereford beef from a farm at Bishop Middleham in County Durham,” elaborated Jean.
“Hereford cattle are smaller than most, with more fat than many breeds…fat is flavour,” he added with a knowing nod before suggesting we head through the restaurant for a peek in the glass-sided meat locker. The meat is hung and aged there for at least 28 days before being chopped and served.
Which type of steak?
Though the Rib Room’s menu features seasonal specials and fish dishes we both arrived keen to try a couple of the restaurant’s signature steaks.
The 20-ounce rib eye is a special of the house. The Chateaubriand and 32-ounce tomahawk are both for sharing.
Jean recommended the 16-ounce T-bone steak, medium rare, as a way of trying two cuts of meat. I followed his advice, medium-rare, with sweet potato fried and pepper sauce.
My brother, meanwhile, chose an eight-ounce fillet, also medium-rare, served with a side order of fat chips plus garlic and parsley butter. He compared his steak — almost two fingers thick — to those served with good Malbec wine in the parillas (steak restaurants) of Buenos Aires.
I’ve eaten steak on five continents and believe my T-bone was up there with the very best of them in terms of flavour and texture. (I’m wary of gushing, overly complimentary restaurant reviews, particularly on blogs, so don’t say that lightly. Compliments to the Rib Room’s chef for an outstanding job.)
Something sweet to finish
The home-style ice creams and sorbets appealed but to end our meal we chose the salted caramel tart, served with ice cream, and a traditional British option — sticky toffee pudding.
There was something deeply satisfying about seeing the warm and buttery, pecan-laced caramel sauce ooze and plop from the ceramic jug it arrived in, partially melting a ball of vanilla ice cream in the process. Not overly sweet, it proved a fine end to a good meal.
The Rib Room may be marginally more expensive than most steak restaurants across the north-east of England, but in terms of the quality of the food and service, it offers good value for money. I wouldn’t hesitate to dine at the Rib Room again.
The Rib Room is at Ramside Hall (Carrville, Durham, DH1 1TH; tel. 0191 3865282), 10 minutes’ drive from the centre of Durham City. The Ramside Hall is a four-star hotel with a state-of-the-art spa and gym, two 18-hole golf courses plus a driving range with 16 bays.
The Rib Room holds an AA Rosette and regularly serves dinner until 10.00pm seven days a week. In the run up to Christmas it will also be open seven days a week for lunch (throughout the rest of the year the lunchtime opening is normally from noon until 2.00pm on Friday and Saturday). Over Christmas a table d’hote menu will be served.
Take a look at the This is Durham website for information about things to do and see in Durham City and elsewhere in County Durham.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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