Hidden away up one of the city’s oldest and most beautiful streets, the first Dim Sum Parlour in Durham has opened it’s doors to a very warm welcome…
For me, Durham City Centre really lacks when it comes to food. We have a handful of hidden gems, some gorgeous independent cafes and then a whole bunch of chain restaurants and cheap eats.
Whilst you don’t have to travel far out of the cathedral city to find cracking scran, the centre wouldn’t suffer from a more diverse food scene.
One of those little belters I mentioned however, is the Rabbit Hole on Halgarth Street. A speakeasy-style 1920s Shanghai Supper Club that is easily one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had.
We dined not long after it opened in December 2018. Everything was just incredible, most notably, the food.
Back then, you accessed the Rabbit Hole restaurant via the secret door and up a swirling staircase. The area below the restaurant was a beautiful vintage shop, that shoppers could only visit via a pre-booked appointment.
Whilst in keeping with the fancy and exclusive feel of the upstairs eatery, they team behind it clearly realised they were missing a trick.
A few months ago, the vintage shop was transformed into a much more casual dining space. Whilst it has a separate menu from the Rabbit Hole, the new Dim Sum Parlour still shares the same high quality, delicious food.
Just without the live jazz and dress code.
We visited after work one evening, around 5.30pm. You don’t need to book for the Parlour, they only accept walk ins.
At this time, there was only skeleton staff on shift, who were looking after both the Rabbit Hole and the Dim Sum Parlour and admittedly service was a little slow at first.
To give them their due, its probably a very quiet time of day for them hence the minimal staff. They’re probably buzzing all day with students, tourists and shoppers but have a lull around 5pm until the evening diners arrive.
There was a single table of 6 upstairs who seemed to order a large round of cocktails and the bar tender kept apologetically telling us he’d be two minutes. We were the only people in the Parlour but we didn’t mind the wait with it being a much more relaxed atmosphere. But I was clamming for a pint…
After we finally ordered the beers and food, everything arrived really quickly.
It’s tapas style in the sense that they’re mostly all small plates and as soon as something is ready it’ll be brought out.
There are some larger main dishes on the menu such as Ramen soups and Pad Thai but for if you want to try a selection, they recommend 3 to 4 small dishes per person.
I went for the Red Oil Wontons, Duck Bao Buns and the Chicken Gyozas. All sterling choices if I do say so myself.
The Red Oil Wontons arrive emerged in this light, chilli-infused soup which I could have drank by the pint – this was by far my favourite dish, I’d highly recommend if you love a bit spice.
The Bao Buns were stuffed with filling, and absolutely worth the mess. Like Chinese duck in a super thick and fluffy pancake.
The fried, crispy gyozas were full of flavour and came with a really unusual but delicious dipping sauce that was bitter and addictive.
My friend, Jess, ordered the veggie spring rolls which were perfect. Not at all soggy, which you find far too often.
But she absolutely nailed it with her decision to get the aubergine fries. Drizzled with honey, they were gorgeous and crisp on the outside but with lovely fluffy aubergine on the inside.
I couldn’t stop nicking them off her plate (luckily the portion was huge and I’d traded her a bao bun to make up for it). I also couldn’t stop talking about them after we left. These are a must when you visit.
The food is just incredible. And a much, much needed addition to Durham.
Each small plate is between £3-£6 per dish, so really not badly priced either. Drinks might sting you a bit, but it’s no more expensive than anywhere else in the city.
Despite a slow start, the service was fantastic. They couldn’t be more helpful when it came to the menu, they kept their cool when we took an age to finally make our minds up about what we wanted and even offered to take some photos of us at the table.
It reminded me just how amazing our date night at the Rabbit Hole was too, so I’m desperate to schedule another visit. They’re currently booked up for 3 weeks in advance, so I better get a shuffle on.
At least in the meantime, I know I have the easily-accessible, gorgeous little Dim Sum Parlour to get my fix in Durham!
Lots of love, LB x