A BRAND new venue which claims to have hired some of the best chefs in the region will throw open its doors in Durham City today.

Promising to bring something "quirky and different" to Durham, the former Cooplands on Saddler Street has been completely transformed into The Butcher's Deli.

A total of ten new jobs have been created and around £150,000 worth of work has gone into refurbishing the former bakery into a majestic eaterie.

Ahead of its opening, The Northern Echo had an exclusive first look and met the people behind what is the city's latest independent to open.

The creation of Sunderland-man John Stirk, and run by head chef Keith Curtis, it will serve up freshly-made dishes for takeaway, with almost everything made on site.

The Northern Echo:

Head chef Keith Curtis outside the new venue Picture: JIM SCOTT

From full english breakfasts to 'sexy spuds,' the menu will offer 'loaded-sandwiches,' salads, jacket potatoes, savouries - and even traybake desserts.

Mr Stirk, who is owner of Broadway Pub Co and well known for Stirks Family Butchers in Sunderland, said: "I'd been after this shop for two years, ever since I saw it empty.

"It's in a great location and opposite what is understood to be the most popular Greggs in the North-East."

Hoping to offer something different to what is already out there, Mr Stirk said he believed there was the demand for offering quality food for takeaway.

The Northern Echo:

The Butcher's Deli pictured on Tuesday, a day before opening Picture: JIM SCOTT

So choosing to recruit an army of what he said were some of the region's best chefs, Mr Stirk brought in a former food lecturer – who had been a familiar face, among them.

He said: "This is something I have always wanted to do, but we just didn't have the team or chef to do the project.

"I did work experience with Keith 21 years ago and he came to be head chef at another site, but when I told him about this project, he joined it – and we've come full circle."

Mr Stirk, who said the name paid homage to his background as a butcher, said: "It's about the talent we have. I think the food we are going to sell will be worth it."

The Northern Echo:

For the pair, it is all about the details - they'd even had a neon cow commissioned Picture: JIM SCOTT

Suggesting the deli will bring something not seen before in the city, Mr Curtis said all aspects of the meals would feature the same level of attention.

He said: "We're trying to bring something a little bit different, quirky, fresh and delicious to Durham.

"We're going to do salads, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, hot specials, pies, quiches, sausage rolls, and everything will be made on the premises - locally sourced."

Mr Curtis, who lectured in food for two decades at Sunderland College, added: "We've sort of come full circle.

"John had the brainchild of a deli around two years ago and now he has me, and the skills to bring it to fruition."

The Northern Echo:

From top left - sausage rolls, 'One Folk Sunday Lunch,' corn beef pasty with homemade beef, and the steak & peppercorn slide that will be served

Explaining that lockdown restrictions did not hinder their plans, Mr Stirk said the he had been looking "post-pandemic," rather than focussing on the current situation.

Admitting he was concerned to begin with, he said: "For the first two months of first lockdown I was beside myself, but to be standing here now 15 months later with the team we have got is amazing. I'm very proud and we can only go forward."

Mr Stirk remained tight-lipped on what the future plans were but hinted that the opening of the Durham venue was just one of what could be three delicatessens coming to the region.

The venue will be open Monday through to Sunday.