WHEN the so-called Beast from the East first blew in we were perfectly happy to stock up the store cupboard and dig in for a few days.

The snow fell, the winds howled and it didn’t take long to start yearning for a night not spent on the sofa, hiding under a duvet with a block of cheese, watching Netflix, again.

For some reason, extreme weather seems to signal an abandonment of normal eating patterns. This normally vegetable-munching athlete was knocking back chocolate biscuits for breakfast, pork pies for lunch and a mid-afternoon glass of wine. Who knows, perhaps it harks back to pre-central heating instincts to pad ourselves against the cold.

So despite outwardly showing signs of returning to normality, we were still feeling the need for a bit of comfort food. A cold winter (or is it spring?) night, calls for a feast – and it was a feast we had.

We found ourselves one Monday night determined to go out despite the cold and found ourselves heading towards a newcomer on the Durham restaurant scene.

It followed a conversation a few days earlier when I discovered old favourite The Pump House had had an Indian makeover.

Of course I had to see what had become of what was, in my opinion, one of the leading contenders for Durham’s best Italian.

Under new ownership, it is now styled as Amaani at The Pump House. Located just out of the city, down a farm lane off the road between Durham and Shincliffe, it’s easy to forget it’s there at all – which would be a mistake.

On arriving in the dark and blustery car park we were greeted with a serenade of Indian music, which I can imagine being very atmospheric on a more temperate evening, when it would be pleasant to linger outside with a drink.

I've been in summer before and the leafy garden is an attractive place to sit. But there was still snow on the ground and an icy chill to the air, which meant we didn’t dawdle between the car and restaurant so it did seem a little bizarre.

The interior is fairly slick - neutral colours with interesting art work.

Deciding to forego the ritual of papadoms and pickles we got stuck straight into the starters.

The underwhelmingly named lamb chops (£6.85) were seductively tender, the chicken tikka (£3.95), mouth-wateringly soft and juicy.

Less seductive was me, as I picked the bones up with my fingers, knawing to get the final fragments of fragrantly spiced meat from those tricky crannies.

It would have been perfect if it hadn’t been served alongside one of those tokenistic side salads I can never see the point of. Admittedly I hate lettuce, but I can’t imagine any meal that would be improved by a couple of leaves and a bit of cucumber.

But happily these things are easy to ignore by simply not bothering with them, which I did.

Next up was a sinfully rich Nawabi curry (£9.95), with pilau rice (£3.45) and, again underwhelmingly named, chicken breast on the bone ( £14.95).

A recipe handed down from the Mughal dynasty, it was supposedly served up to royal families to feast on.

Though I love spicy food, sometimes I crave the sweet, creamy richness of a mild curry. A Nawabi, made with cubes of chicken, definitely ticks that box, with its fruity, delicately nutty, mango sauce.

I’ve made the mistake before of having a mild curry with my favourite peshwari naan, which even for me, is overwhelmingly sweet. Instead a garlic naan (2.85) was a better match.

The chicken dish was much more savoury. Medium strength, it had more of a kick – though not enough to blow your head off.

As well as rice it came with a spicy vegetable side dish of bhindi and aubergine, which I thought was a real star, and my dining companion said was "quite tasty, for a vegetable."

Alongside it we had a dish of tarka daal (£3.95), a deliciously gloopy bowl of garlicky lentils, pureed almost to a soupy texture.

Eaten with the naan, we could probably have taken on Dracula, Edward Cullen and the rest of Twilight clan if we met on them on the way home.

The dessert menu was one of those generic plastic ones with various ice cream concoctions so we decided to skip it.

It's always sad when a favourite restaurant is no more, but when something as good as this takes it's place, it's hard to complain too much.

Star Rating:

Food: 9/10

Value: 8/10

Surroundings: 8/10

Service: 8/10