THE first rule of eating out is that you don’t talk about eating out (at least not to the restaurant while they’re serving your dinner).

The second rule is that you don’t wear skinny jeans. Ever. Especially not if you’re planning on going for a curry.

It’s a schoolgirl error and a fashion choice I almost instantly regretted upon arriving at the Spice Lounge, in Durham.

Hidden away in a corner of the Market Place, it’s easy to forget the Spice Lounge is even there.

I once went there on a first date getting on for ten years ago and had a lovely time and promptly forgot it again.

Roll on the best part of the decade and my partner and I were in need of somewhere to eat our dinner so we headed back to see what had changed.

It was, frankly, a filthy night. Despite being August any semblance of summer seemed to have disappeared so we were glad to hurry in out of the rain into the warmth.

Despite the terrible weather we were not alone in choosing to go out to eat and the place seemed fairly busy for a Monday night. It’s not too big inside and, though it has a slightly dated feel, is perfectly comfortable. It shares a wall with Durham Town Hall which gives it a bit of character.

Our woes about the grim weather conditions quickly evaporated on sitting down, learning they do Cobra on tap and the swift arrival of poppadoms and pickles (£1.50 each).

We were both exceptionally hungry so were both pleased we had some sustenance while we were perusing the extensive menu.

There was plenty to choose from with all the classic Indian dishes as well as some less common ones.

To start I had liver tikka (£4.75). More used to British versions of liver, usually served with onions and gravy, I enjoyed a spiced version as a bit of a change. I loved the flavour, though it was slightly on the well done side for me as I prefer the creamy texture of not-quite done liver.

Probably the highlight of the whole meal was Carlo’s chicken chat masala (£4.45) – mild marinated chicken served with thin bread that served as a wrap. It was juicy, fresh and flavoursome – perfect.

For our mains we both went for fairly similar sounding lamb dishes off the specials list.

Mine was “Spice Lounge exclusive lamb” (£15.95) – described on the menu as a special cut of spring lamb cooked in a traditional method, pleasantly aromatic and of medium strength, served with “all the trimmings”.

When it arrived I knew I had made a mistake with my choice of wardrobe. A vast plate of meat, rice, potatoes, salad and I had made a slight overestimation of my stomach’s capabilities by ordering a peshwari naan (£2.75) on the side.

Personally I love a meal with double carbs (potato sandwich anyone?) but the addition of a third (the meal was served with both rice and potatoes) turned out to be too much for even me.

Mind you, I love naan bread more than any other part of a curry and the potatoes in this case were so delicious I’m not sure which one I would drop if ordering again.

The potatoes were just a bit spicy and wonderfully aromatic and I would happily have eaten a whole bowl of them if my waistband hadn’t had other ideas.

The curry itself was good. Not particularly hot but with a really savoury, slightly sour note which was a refreshing change from the sweet curries I normally go for.

My only complaint would be the lamb wasn’t quite as soft and tender as I would have liked. If only it could have been falling apart in my mouth I would have been in heaven. However, though slightly tough it was still tasty enough.

Carlo’s choice was lamb shank (£15.95), marinated lamb in a sauce of onions, tomatoes, coriander and cardamom, served with vegetables and pilau rice.

He was also a bit ambitious with his order and had a side of tandoori roti (£2.50), a thin, crispy bread.

His verdict: Nice and tender, though a little lacking in sauce. It didn’t quite slide off the bone though which would have been nice.

Neither of us managed to finish our plates, though that was definitely more of a reflection of our greediness in ordering than the quality of the food.

Definitely no dessert for us on this occasion, though we did take our chocolates for the journey home (enjoyed with the top button of my jeans undone.)

The final bill came to £61.05, which included two pints of Cobra.


St Nicholas’ Cottage, Market Place, Durham DH1 3NJ

Tel: 0191 383 0927

Open: 6pm-11pm, Monday to Sunday.


Food: 4/5

Surroundings: 3/5

Service: 3/5

Value for money: 3/5