It’s third time lucky for Rachel Conner-Hill, as she finally gets to sample the fare at Durham’s reincarnated City Hotel

AT first there were chalk boards, quietly advertising that the City Hotel was now offering home cooked food.

Reopened last summer, following its sudden closure just before Christmas in 2016, we were keen to pay the New Elvet establishment a visit to see what the refurbished venue had to offer.

The first night we tried we were turned away. ‘No food on Mondays’, we were told.

Again we tried, this time on a Wednesday. ‘The chef’s not in tonight’, they said.

Slightly put off, we left it a couple of months.

Then, the signs for the Hot Wok at the City, were more confidently displayed, painted on not one, but two signs. I drive past the pub at least twice a day, nearly always stopping just outside at the traffic lights, tempting me to stop by.

So we gave it another go. And third time lucky, this time the chef was there and the menu was on. Hurrah!

The pub, which is a Grade II listed Georgian affair, had a substantial make-over to reopen last year.

It’s pretty smart looking. It’s kept a relatively cosy feel, with a fire place ad various crooks and corners, and old photos of the collieries and factories to give it a bit of character.

On the night we visited it was a Monday night and England were playing. We expected the pubs of Durham to be packed. Not so at the City. We soon found out why – without a TV, it’s not really competing for the sports crowd.

Fine by me, though it was a pity the place was so dead. It did however mean there were no queues for the bar so I was able to sit back with a pint of Moretti to peruse the Asian-inspired menu.

Not quite what you might expect from a traditional looking pub, but that’s not a problem.

Despite the lack of telly, we were kept up to date with the score by the crowd from the neighbouring Half Moon. The cheer as Harry Kane scored his first encouraged us that our pick for starters must be a good idea.

I had turned up about 20 minutes late for our date, so Carlo had already managed to chow down on a plate of prawn toast before I got there. Good, I was told as he wiped the sesame seeds from his lips.

There was a selection of around six starters/bar snacks, all priced at £4.50 and all fairly tempting. We decided to get a few to share. I could quite easily have gone for any of them but in the end we plumped for “ugly” pork dumplings, skewers of chicken satay and crispy pork with a “special sauce”.

They all looked very smart when they arrived. I particularly enjoyed the dumplings, with their slightly spiced meat and thin, brain-like exterior.

The peanutty satay sauce was pungent and flavoursome and the crispy pork had a good balance of meat and crunchy crackling.

Next up was mains of a chicken and cashew nut stir fry and a yellow chicken curry, both served with rice (both £8.50).

The main courses were, as you might expect given what they were, slightly less slick looking than the starters. They had more of an air of home cookery – but I’m not complaining. Both wholesome looking and substantial, I had a moment of regret about the three starters.

But still, I gave it a good go. It ticked the boxes for me; The vegetables weren’t overcooked, the cashews gave it a nice crunch, the chicken wasn’t tough and the whole thing worked.

The yellow curry was again pretty good. The sauce was thick and rich with coconut and fragrant with spices.

They both went down very well with another pint. It’s not fine-dining by any stretch of the imagination but we were impressed by the value for money.

And while the menu may not be extensive, there’s enough on it so there’s a bit of interest (as long as you’re not adverse to Chinese food).

All in all, it’s definitely worth investigating, particularly for the bar snacks. After all, beer with a side of crispy pork – what’s not to love?

The City Hotel

84 New Elvet, Durham, DH1 3AQ

Tel: 0191-3839183

Food Facts:

Food: 7/10

Surroundings: 7/10

Value: 8/10

Service: 7/10