I’m forever bitching about Durham’s food scene. Whilst you can find gems of all shapes and sizes outside of the city, the centre has always felt dominated by chain restaurants and cafes.
Don’t get me wrong, we have some of the most amazing cafes if you’re after a good brew, a chunk of cake or even a cracking brunch. But the diversity of the restaurants has historically been pretty shit.
Alas, I think there’s movement on the foodie front…
Recently, we’ve had Haripur Wala move from Framwellgate and take up residence on Saddler Street, the Food Pit has opened up on the Riverside Development, with promises of lots more new venues to be soon joining it. We’ve got my old favourites, Akarsu, still offering up the finest Turkish food, the lovely Nadon Thai, my go-to for lunchtime Thai tapas and Whitechurch for an awesome beer selection alongside good, local food.
I mean, we’ve even got a Dim Sum Parlour for crying out loud!
And the latest addition to Durham’s offering, Barrio Comida – a Taqueria serving Mexican tacos and cocktails on Church Street.
After years of being a pop-up restaurant, including a year long residency on Newcastle’s Quayside, Barrio Comida has finally found its forever home. In our beautiful, historic city.
We love the Taqueria style restaurant in Sunderland, Mexico 70, so when we got word of Barrio Comida’s opening at the beginning of February 2020, we pencilled a visit straight into the diary.
Firstly, it’s a really gorgeous spot. A beautiful view right by the river and lots of outdoor space for when the summer rolls around.
The inside is really quite spacious, bright and airy. A very relaxed style of dining.
I didn’t get manage to get any photos of the interior because it was pretty busy. But it’s really light, colourful and casual. There’s an open kitchen where you can see the chefs busying away as well as this incredible, quite mesmerising, contraption that’s knocking out the tacos.
The menu at Barrio Comida is inspired by the neighbourhood taco stalls found in Mexico and California, the border state where chef, Shaun Hurrell, grew up.
The team are passionate about authenticity. They source and import many of the ingredients that they consider to be the backbone of Mexican cuisine, including the corn for their tacos.
To order your food and drinks, theres simply a paper menu and some pens. Pop the quantity next to each menu option and simply hand it in to the server as they’re passing.
Theres around 8 different tacos to choose from, in addition to various sides including refried beans, homemade tortilla chips and guacamole. The selection is smaller and more refined in comparison to Mexico 70. A good variation still and all of the flavours sounded tempting.
The main difference being Mexico 70 takes flavours from around the world and adds them to Mexican tacos. Barrio Comida is focussed on traditional Mexican flavours.
Eventually we places our order of two pints of Corona (their draft beer) and the following food:
Pescado: Baja style fried fish taco with a cabbage salad and habanero pickled onions.
Mole: Charcoal grilled chicken taco with Pueblan mole (traditional mexican sauce) and sesame seeds.
Carne Asada: Chargrilled steak taco, guacamole and onions.
Carnitas: Slow cooked pork, crispy pork rinds and escabeche (pickled vegetables).
Totopos: Fried corn chips.
Frijoles Negros: Braised black beans.
Papas Adobadas: Potatoes in a chipotle based sauce topped with guacamole.
Pretty much as soon as we sat down, before our pints had arrived. We were served water and the Mexican version of a pickle tray, except it was salsa. All four varied in heat and flavour. It’s a really good idea to order the corn chips to test out each one before you add them onto your tacos.
The food is very much served as and when it’s ready, which I really like. It’s even better when you’ve forgotten what you’ve ordered. Each dish is a little surprise.
And what a surprise they were. Whilst we did end up with favourites, we thoroughly enjoyed every dish that arrived.
The flavours were fantastic. Each very different but perfectly matching the meat – of which they certainly weren’t stingey with.
I even loved the beans. And normally the make my tummy turn, but the texture was so different. Really tasty scooped up with those fried corn chips…
In fact, everything was so different from the standard Mexican cuisine we think we know. And whilst I have no authentic experience to compare to, I’m pretty sure we can trust Chef Hurrell to give us the real deal.
My faves were definitely the Carnitas and Pescado. The addition of the crispy pork rinds on the slow cooked pork number and the crunchy, spicy pickled salad on top of the baja cod just took them to another level for me.
But there’s a handful that we didn’t get round to, including a braised lamb taco and a spit-roast pork that really need to be sampled before any real decision can be made.
The service was awesome too – really helpful staff. They put a tweet out after saying they were still finding their feet, but you couldn’t tell. It seemed pretty seamless to us.
In addition to the casual Mexican dining you can experience at Barrio Comida, they’re working on their basement too.
To be named ‘La Mesa’, downstairs will provide a more upscale concept. Consisting of one large communal table, seating 16, the food will be a ‘modern interpretation of Mexico’s vast culinary landscape’.
Sounds right up my street!
I think it’s fair to say that Barrio Comida is a very welcome addition to Durham, I already can’t wait to head back and finish off the menu…
Have you been yet? Which were your favourites?
Lots of love, LB x