The Graduation Guide: Where to eat?

For all the final year students out there: it’s time to get booking the restaurant for your graduation meal! It may sound crazy to be booking a restaurant 5 months in advance but they really do fill up this early for the graduation period. If you leave it until the last minute you will, at best, be taking your parents somewhere distinctly average and, at worst, be settling for a Tesco meal deal on the big day.

Although it’s likely that any one of you graduating at the end of this year will already have tried out many of the (somewhat limited) selection of restaurants in Durham, what you may not know is that some of the best ones are found slightly off the beaten track. I’ve picked my Top Four ‘special-occasion’ restaurants in (and around) Durham to give you some ideas on where to end your undergraduate degree in style!

…And for those of you not graduating at the end of this year, take your parents to one of these restaurants next time they’re up- you won’t be disappointed.

The restaurants I have chosen are: Bistro 21, DH1, The Black Knight (Lumley Castle) and Finbarr’s.

Bistro 21

Pretty and delicious!

Situated all the way up by Durham Hospital in the obscure location of Aykley Heads, Bistro 21 is certainly not one of those restaurants that you stumble upon by accident. You’ll probably have to hire a taxi to get there (takes about 5 mins by car from Durham city centre), but it’s definitely worth it. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll be very glad that you’ve discovered this hidden gem! Book well in advance to avoid disappointment.

Atmosphere: 9/10- lovely dining room and cosy bar for pre-dinner drinks

Cuisine: classic British/French

Food: 9/10- generally excellent

Price point: £17.50 for all mains & £7.50 for all starters (à la carte)

Current Offers:‘Express Lunch’, Early Evening’ and ‘Sunday Lunch’ (see website below for details)

For website click HERE

Restaurant DH1

The added bonus of some amuse-bouches (bottom right)

Located on The Avenue (about 2/3 of the way up), DH1 opened its doors for the first time less than a year ago. Since then it has powered up the restaurant ranks to achieve the no.1 rating of all Durham restaurants on Tripadvisor. The food is of a very high standard and definitely worth the uphill trek!

Atmosphere: 7/10- the decor is strangely corporate but is made up for by the excellent food

Cuisine: Experimental & modern twists on classic British/French

Food: 9.5/10 – the chocolate mousse melting pudding (top right) is a must-try

Price point: £32 for 2 courses, £40 for 3 courses (à la carte)

Current Offers:Market Menu’ (see website below for details)

For website click HERE

The Black Knight at Lumley Castle

Lumley Castle at dusk…

So, unfortunately, I last went to the Black Knight restaurant at Lumley Castle about 7 months ago for my own family graduation dinner, but didn’t think to take pictures of my food at the time. I have, however, included some pictures that I took of the castle itself, including the gorgeous courtyard (bottom left) that you walk through to get to the restaurant and looks especially magical at night. I must say, if I had to choose where to go for my graduation meal again, I would go back here. The stunning and historic setting really gives a sense of occasion to the meal and the restaurant (although totally over the top in terms of decor!) serves absolutely delicious and beautifully presented food. The only downside is that you’ll have to take a ten minute taxi out of Durham but it really is worth the while and why not treat yourself?

Atmosphere: a perfect 10/10

Cuisine: classic British/French

Food: 9/10- the Lumley Castle Signature beef fillet is out of this world.

Price point: £15-£26.50 for a main (à la carte)

Current Offers: Three course meal deal for two (see website below for details)

For website click HERE

Finbarr’s Restaurant (at The King’s Lodge)

The pork belly (bottom right) was the star of the meal…

About ten minutes walk from the town centre (probably the most accessible of the lot) and tucked away in the depths of the Viaduct, Finbarr’s is a lovely place to take your parents for a tasty graduation meal- lunch or dinner. The food is of a high standard and the setting is peaceful and relaxed.

Atmosphere: 7/10- classy but a bit subdued

Cuisine: classic British/French with hints of the Oriental

Food: 8/10- very tasty but some dishes better than others (the pork belly was the best)

Price point: prices for a main (à la carte) start at £12.50

Offers: ‘Lunch Special’ and ‘Student Supper Club’ (see website below for details)

For website click HERE

So, although this is by no means an exhaustive list of the restaurants in which one could enjoy a lovely graduation meal, these four (Bistro 21, DH1, The Black Knight at Lumley Castle and Finbarr’s) are my personal favourites. As I mentioned above, I had my graduation meal the night before my actual congregation at the Black Knight restaurant of Lumley Castle and it really was a treat.

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