A WIDELY-acclaimed World Heritage site may soon have a culinary accolade to add to its roll of honour.

Durham Cathedral's Undercroft restaurant has reached the final in a catering company's national awards scheme. It is among the best five venues in the 980-strong chain of restaurants, cafeterias, college and works' canteens run by the French catering company Elior, under the Avenance name.

Elior took over the running of the Undercroft restaurant on behalf of the cathedral's Dean and Chapter in 1999 and immediately gave it a major refurbishment, doubling it in size. The company recently sent a mystery team of diners to sample the food at all its premises.

A friendly welcome, and the wholesome food on offer, in keeping with the surroundings, found favour with the anonymous judges, who named the Undercroft as Elior's best venue in the North.

As such, it is in the running for the national title at Elior's Awards for Excellence presentation night at a West End hotel in London, next month.

Undercroft catering manager Helen Alderson and five of her team are looking forward to the champagne dinner, on December 1.

"We're absolutely thrilled to be named as the best in the North and we can't wait to go to London.

"I have to go for two nights and the rest of the staff will be down for the night of the awards, so, even if we don't win, it's going to be an unforgettable night for all of us.

"We have no great secret, we just do real home-cooked food, and, of course, it helps that we are in such a lovely setting.

"There are obviously customers who are visiting the cathedral from all over the world, but we also have our regulars who we see just about every day."