LOOKING first at the plush façade from the car park and then down at my fading Levi’s, my partner asked: “Are you sure you’ll be okay wearing jeans in here?”

I had thought so.

Ramside hall Hotel is upmarket, sure, but nowhere on the website for Fusion does it say gentlemen must be suitably attired.

The Northern Echo: Vietnamese Fresh Vegetable Spring RollsVietnamese Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls

I had assumed ‘smart-ish casual’ and so worn my favourite denims with a dress shirt and black leather shoes. Lis was better turned out in trousers and a tasteful top.

Once we were in it appears we need not have worried about my sartorial choices, it far more relaxed than we had previously imagined.

In fact most people we saw were dressed in white bath robes and flip-flops. We were overdressed if anything. It seems I could have turned up my dressing gown and jim jams and been right at home.

Joking aside, I would not test the theory and most ‘robe-ees’ were on the other side of the glass in the swimming pool area, which was visible from our table.

The Northern Echo: Roasted honey ribs served with Asian salad and hoi sin ginger sauceRoasted honey ribs served with Asian salad and hoi sin ginger sauce

A fair few though did amble through the restaurant on the way to their rooms having taken advantage of the impressive looking spa facilities.

“It would be lovely to do that and spend the night here,” Lis said, turning my frugal blood cold.

She is right though, it would, and a sign in the well-appointed gents later on informed me a couple could stay in a room and use the spa for a night for £149.

We were here on a rare child free ‘date night’ to sample the wide range of Asian-inspired food at Fusion.

Having confirmed our booking we were shown through to the dining area, which is decked out in relaxing browns and other soft colours.

The Northern Echo: Thai yellow curryThai yellow curry

A picture of a Bangkok tuk-tuk is on the right along with a range of portraits of Asian faces, while a golden Buddha statue sits on the left.

The ambience is added to by decorative branches covered in blossom across the ceiling and the soothing light jazz music playing.

Fusions offers breakfasts, brunches and lunches as well as afternoon teas and dinner with a wide selection of Asian bar tapas.

Chefs use traditional recipes from South East Asia and locally sourced produce in their dishes and there is certainly plenty of choice.

The Northern Echo: Shanghai noodlesShanghai noodles

Lis’s advice for fellow veggie’s is to ask for the vegan menu, which has a better selection of options for meat-free diners.

She chose the Vietnamese Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls, lettuce wraps containing cucumber, carrot and avocado, which came served with peanut and sweet chilli sauce. (£8)

It was a ‘lovely starter: fresh, crisp and light’.

I chose from the main evening menu and was almost swayed by the chicken satay but instead plumped for the roasted honey ribs served with Asian salad and hoi sin ginger sauce. (£8.50)

Two impressive looking slabs of sticky sweet meat arrived along with finger bowl for the inevitable mess I would make.

The meat was tender, well-cooked and fell fairly effortlessly from the bone but as is ever the case with ribs there is precious little of them and each nibble and gnaw leaves you wanting.

Probably not much the chef can do about that I guess, although a bit more of that tangy salad would not have gone astray. It was delicious, but there was not enough of it.

Lis literally squeaked with delight as she tucked in to the traditional Thai yellow curry she had ordered from the aforementioned vegan menu for her main. (£12.50)

Swimming in a powerfully-flavoured coconut sauce were great chunks of tofu, peppers, aubergine, courgette and mushrooms.

It was served with a fragrant jasmine rice and was ‘perfect’.

I chose the Shanghai noodles (£15.50) and was presented with thick chunky Udon noodles in wooden bowl with chunks of tender beef, Asian mushrooms, peppers, spinach, spring onions and chilli.

As a big fan of a bowl of noodles this was pretty mind-blowing, laced as it was with just enough chilli to stop it being ‘too hot’.

It was on the cusp though, and the zingy sauce seemed to dance on each and every taste bud.

We finished our meals, washing them down with a pint of Tiger lager for me and a small glass of rose for Lis, as well as jug of water that was much-needed.

After brief pause we looked at the dessert menu and Lis claimed she was too full.

I was keen, however, to try something in the name of journalistic endeavour so was delighted to see the option of Bento Box option with a bit of everything at £8 for one or £12 for two.

The Northern Echo: A Bento box of desserts A Bento box of desserts

We went for the ‘one’, and it was more than enough.

It was incredible: mango and coconut crème brulee with lavender shortbread; vanilla panna cotta; ginger and green tea cheesecake; dark chocolate and chilli brownie with sour cherry amaretto sorbet.

We shared and enjoyed the tasty little mini portions of each, rounding it off with an espresso.

It was a fabulous meal in sumptuous surroundings with first class service from friendly staff.

We would return in a heartbeat, and next time, if Lis plays her cards right, we might try the breakfast menu too.


Fusion Restaurant, Ramside Hall, Carrville, Durham

Website: ramsidehallhotel.co.uk/dining/fusion/

Telephone: 0191-386-5282

Email: mail@ramsidehallhotel.co.uk

Serving Times: Brunch 8.30am-10.30am, Lunch 11am-4pm, Asian Afternoon Tea - 2pm-4pm, Dinner - 5pm-9pm