An exciting and new ‘taster’ restaurant recently opened its doors to the public, offering guests unique menu options – we had a look inside.
Coarse on Reform Place on North Road in Durham City is offering guests a more affordable take on a ‘taster’ menu.
People can enjoy a six-course tasting menu for £40 with a range of options including chalk stream trout, venison, cucumber, apple, and lemon verbena.
Initially, the venue was set to open after a Kickstarter was launched in an aim to raise £100,000, however, the goal was sadly not met.
This did not stop co-owner and head chef Ruari MacKay, however, who was soon able to find a cheaper premises and realize his “dream” of owning a restaurant.
Mr Mackay said: “I just wanted to do it ourselves, and we met up and found this premises in Durham that we liked, we set the crowdfunding up and it was a big target we were asking for and we didn’t quite get there , so we had to rethink it.
“Someone recommended this premises so it was a lot more affordable for us, so we came in and it was a long process going through the lease and stuff like that.
Take a video tour of the restaurant below:
“Eventually we got in, but that was just the beginning of it because we had to do a lot of decorating.”
The whole team came together, including his other co-owners, Gemma Robinson and Craig Lappin-Smith, to decorate the premises and give it a new lick of paint, along with new art-work and light fixtures.
After missing their initial opening date in the first week of September the restaurant opened successfully on September 17 to glowing reception and currently has five-stars on Google.
Asked whether the current decoration was finished, Gemmea Robinson said: “We just did as much as we could to get it open.
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“Eventually we want to change the tables, change outside as well, we’ve talked about having another door to stop any drafts from getting in.
“Obviously just right now we don’t need to worry too much because it’s quite cold outside.
“As a whole everything else is alright so it’s just the tables that need changing.
Mr MacKay added: “We were originally going to open in the first week of September and we had to push back because we just weren’t ready, it was a bit of a rush and it was all hands-on.
“All the staff were in to clean, the coffee machine wasn’t working and the dishwasher didn’t arrive and it was all a bit manic.
“We’re quite relaxed now and yeah we’re going to look to the New Year, see what we need to do.
“We’ve painted it ourselves and we admit, we’re not painters and decorators, certainly not me anyway.
“I do think we did a decent job, there will be things that we change but that’s our project and when you work for other people sometimes it doesn’t feel like your own.”
Although the restaurant can be found a little ways off the beaten track, Mr MacKay continued to say that he is “really happy with the spot.”
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He added: “The Head of Steam is just outside there and it’s a popular bar so there’s always people about.
“Of course, it’s in the courtyard so it is just off the main street on North Road the bus station is being redeveloped and it’s a busy street so it’s easy enough to get to.
“It’s nice and quiet and the neighbors are great, there’s a barber just next door, we get our hair cut there, and Head of Steam is just there and they’re really cool so it’s just a nice place to be.”
Previously Ruari had worked as a head-chef for 10 years, including his time as head chef at The Traveler’s Rest.
He continues to be a well-known name in the North East food scene, even receiving training with Michelin-star restauranteur Terry Laybourne in Jesmond Dene House.
Mr MacKay said: “I went to school got my A-levels and didn’t really know what to do, so I started Uni and the course wasn’t right for me but I just needed a career basically.
“I started cooking for myself to try and get healthy and I didn’t really know what I was doing so I got into the habit of cooking every day.
“My mum just told me to go to college, and so I went to Newcastle College and really enjoyed it. I met Terry Laybourne there at college who was doing a special guest night.
“Then I got job from him and it just sort of went from there – I always went to good places because I wanted to do the job well and not just for money.
“So that led me around the North East, I’ve been to a few good different places and so I’ve gained a lot of experience.”
The restaurant aims to offer good quality food for a fair price, offering a more affordable option when compared to other tasting menus in the North East.
Speaking about the affordability Mr MacKay added: “It’s tough because in reality we can charge double what we are charging and that would be a lot better for us.
“But we’re very wary that our bills have gone up, everyone else’s bills have gone up but people still want to go out and have a nice meal.
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“We maybe don’t do it as much as we used to but when we do go out you want to enjoy it so we wanted to make somewhere that’s a bit more affordable.
“Everyone’s idea of affordable is different, we’ll probably get a lot of stick saying this isn’t very affordable and it probably isn’t for some people, but it’s a personal choice.”
He continued to stress that much of the wine and food produced had been locally sourced, with the wine list created specifically to match the menu.
He said: “But with things like the wine we’re using a great wine supplier and serving some things that half the country isn’t serving.
“We have this guy who has worked with us and picked wine by matching it to our menu and he’s a top-level guy and you don’t get that just anywhere.
“Same with the food, we have local ingredients that are good, but not cheap to buy, so we have to price accordingly.”
Although the venue offers good-quality food, Ms Robinson was keen to point out that it wasn’t classed as fine dining and wanted to welcome people to a casual, good-quality meal.
The restaurant is open on Wednesday evenings from five until closure, Thursday from 12 to three, and then five until closure again.
On weekends, hours are the same, opening for lunchtime, closing again, and reopening for the evening.
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