ACCORDING to my google searches, the aim of Zen is to achieve sudden enlightenment through meditation.

I found this quite interesting on my latest Eating Out Review as I put Zen, in Durham, to the test to see if I could achieve that sense of enlightenment through food – a tall order I would say.

Nevertheless I am always open to new culinary experiences and walking through the door of this establishment I was certainly hit by one of those.

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The restaurant itself had low mood lighting and that elegant style often found in restaurants offering Thai-Asian cuisine but it was the cherry blossom ceiling that really made an impact.

The soft pinks stood out from the darker tones used in the restaurant to give an almost sublime atmosphere that could fool you into thinking you were in a Zen garden.

Being a Saturday night and having just come from a friend’s rounder’s match at the nearby cricket club; I can safely say this did a lot to calm my nerves of not feeling dressed up enough to attend dinner.

I also became a little flustered as I forgot to book and as it was their busiest night of the week, this was a massive oversight on my part.

However, the friendly waiter still greeted us as though we had a booking and escorted us to the illuminated bar where we were happy wait until a table became available.

Meanwhile, Ali was grateful for a refreshing peach ice tea (£3), following a day of running around and I was treated to a strawberry Bellini (£8) as Ali offered to drive home.

True to their word, about 30 minutes later a waiter came to show us to our table.

I was thankful it was outside as it had been a very warm day although I must admit the metal table was very basic and quite cold from its material making that romantic thing of holding hands across it a tad difficult.

Instead, I took comfort in the bright orange blanket we had been given to keep warm and later on a helpful outside heater came on above us to warn off the chilly evening.

Having had a while to consider our options, we were quite confident when the waiter came to take our order.

For starters we decided to share the Taste of Zen and Thailand on a Tray sharers (both £8.50) as we just could not pick between the individual ones.

Stylishly served in black bowls and accompanying dip, we tried everything from the sea fish cake to quacking duck rollies and pigs on sticks.

These inventive names for traditional dishes certainly gave them a modern twist and each was beautifully presented and well marinated.

I particularly enjoyed the Bangkok toastie – advertised as a classic, spiced and ground seasoned prawn generously spread onto melba toast crunchy toasted sesame seeds, special soy dip. Basically a posh prawn toast but very flavoursome all the same and not greasy at all which can sometimes be a downfall.

I was also surprised at how filling it was and must admit let Ali demolish the rest of it as I was worried about my main course let alone the dessert space.

For main I chose the meat feast noodle (£16). A delightful bowl of aromatic duck, soy chicken and sweet red pork chopped into garlicy egg noodles, leafy Chinese cabbage beansprout, BBQ char sui sauce.

As a main this was actually my nemesis as again it came in a swish black bowl and was just the right temperature to get stuck in.

I don’t know whether using black in food follows the same rules as it does in the restaurant business but I actually had to check at one point whether my bowl was bottomless as it didn’t seem to matter how much I ate, the pile of noodles never decreased.

This of course, is only ever a good thing for Ali as he went for the “Old School” Pad Thai noodles (£16) which were advertised as: Thailand's national dish, heap of rice noodles tossed in cracked hens egg, prawn, chicken, sweet tangy tamarind sauce & chopped roasted nut crumble, fresh lime squeeze for that extra zing.

After trying both I really could not pick a favourite and the mixture of flavours was both aromatic but not too overbearing.

After all of this I really did not think dessert would be an option but as it’s not normally a cuisine I’d say is famous for its desserts; we decided to give it a go.

Ali chose the selection of sorbets (£5) although in the end they only had mango left – something which didn’t seem to phase him and I went for the white chocolate torte (£5).

This was an unusual choice for me as I normally avoid white chocolate like the plague but I was pleasantly surprised when it came.

I would describe it as more of a marbled effect torte with a mixture of dark, milk and white chocolate and a generous drizzle of rich chocolate sauce.

The best element though by far was the hazelnut ice cream which took me back to my days of living in Spain on the Costa Del Sol. It was so creamy and basically felt like I was at a tub of Nutella spoon in hand.

All-in-all I would say this thriving restaurant is definitely worth a visit if you’re after a taste of Asia in the heart of Durham.

FOOD FACTS

Zen

TYPE: Thai Asian Restaurant

Where: Court Lane, Durham, DH1 3JS.

Contact: 0191-3849588 or zendurha.co.uk

Open: Food served seven days a week from 11am.

Food offer: Thai Asian food.

Cheap and cheerful: Tom Yum soup (£6.50)

Top dollar: Reef and Beef (£17.50)

Scores on the doors (food hygiene rating): 5 (Very Good)

Food quality: 4/5

Surroundings: 4/5

Value: 3/5

Service: 3/5