MIDDLESBROUGH has not hitherto been renowned for the quality of its culinary experience.

At least not since the glorious first incarnation of the Purple Onion many moons ago.

You could say the only food thing it is has even been associated with is the infamous Parmo – the pretty ghastly bastardisation of an Italian classic dish – with the veal being replaced by pork escalope or chicken fillet and parmesan by cheddar.

While many Teesssiders are very proud of the Parmo, it truly is the Devil’s work – the nearest thing to a coronary on a plate. A deep-fried breadcrumbed, béchamel sauce and cheese slathered health risk. Fine if you just done a 10-hour shift in the steelworks but for the rest of us not to be recommended.

Perhaps things are about the change. The local council has decided that it is going to create a little foodie heaven in a previously forgotten and anonymous street in central Middlesbrough tucked away off Linthorpe Road.

The area is being modelled on London’s Borough Market – a collection of market stalls, restaurants and cafes housed in and around the old wholesale veg market near London Bridge. If the council manages that it will be some achievement but the ambition is impressive.

So far there’s a burrito bar, a craft beer micropub, cocktail bar, artisan bakery, “upmarket carvery” (which seems to me to be a contradiction in terms) and a coffee house run by the people who set up Rountons Coffee in West Rounton, near Northallerton, a couple of years back.

And perhaps most interesting from your columnist’s point of view there is now a restaurant called The Curing House specialising in charcuterie – something of a culinary niche but in a town like Middlesbrough this is cutting edge stuff and very welcome.

The Curing House’s fame is spreading far and wide. It was recommended to us by a farmer’s wife in North Yorkshire.

First impressions were good. There’s a clean, stripped-down modern look – plain painted brick walls, black and white tiled floor, and lots of geometric patterns in mustard yellow and black. Sounds like a migraine about to erupt but it works. We arrived in daylight and left after dark and thanks to some subtly effective lighting the transition between day and night was almost seemless.

Menu-wise, meat is the thing here, specifically cooked and processed meat, pork primarily. There’s quite a lot of smoked stuff too.

There are four plates on offer, a South-West France “Basque Country” one, a Spanish, an Italian and a British one, a veritable smorgasbord of salamis, cured, smoked, pressed pork and cold cuts you’ve probably never come across before.

You can go large with a plateful to feed two people, you have a half plate as a starter, you can add complementary cheeses. And there’s also a more conventional dinner menu of starter, mains and desserts with specials too for those not wholly committed to an unadulterated meat feast.

The charcuterie had to be given a try and I went for a half plate of the British selection for my starter. There were three of them arrayed in a pretty pattern – a sweet Coppa pork collar from Dorset, a mildly spicy chorizo from Suffolk and a beautifully delicate lamb and lemon Merguez-style salami from Momonmouthshire. All excellent.

Sylvia savoured an almost impossibly smooth and almost creamy smoked chicken liver parfait served with pickles, a house chutney and crispy sough dough wafers (£6).

Then there was a complimentary teacup-full of vichyssoise – light and refreshing – before our mains, a smoked 10oz sirloin (£24) from the specials board for me and black bream (£14), another special, for Sylvia.

I didn’t get much smokiness from the steak but no matter, this was prime beef (from Country Valley at Neasham) cooked spot-on medium and accompanied by cracking beef dripping chips and a rocket, fig (rather dry, almost dessicated in texture) and parmesan salad.

Sylvia’s fish dish was two chunky fillets of bream with nicely crisp skin perched on a substantial and nutty/spicy chorizo and red pepper risotto along with some rather disappointing charred fennel (past its best perhaps?).

We sadly couldn’t manage desserts and as the restaurant seemed to be emptying we decided to pay and head home. The bill was £67 with a couple of small glasses of Chenin Blanc and a soft drink.

Service was youthful, friendly and largely efficient apart from when I asked for some olive oil to drizzle over my cold cuts and was brought vinegar instead. Also the have-you-booked-I’ll-have-to-check-we-have-a-spare-table charade when we first arrived and the place was half empty was unnecessary.

That aside, The Curing House has much to recommend it – and not just for its novelty in a town not famed hitherto for epicurean exoticism.


The Curing House, 22-23 Bedford Street, Middlesbrough TS1 2LL

Tel: 01642 802232

Web: thecuring.house

Open: Tues-Fri 11am-3pm and 5-11pm, Sat 9am-3pm and 5-11pm

Disabled access. Gluten-free options

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 9, Service 7, Surroundings 9, Value 8