Lumley Castle

Ropery Lane


County Durham




Tuesday-Thursday: 12pm-1.30pm

Saturday Closed, Afternoon Tea served 2pm-4pm

Sunday: 12pm-2pm


Monday and Friday, 12pm-5pm

Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, 3pm-5pm

Saturday 2pm-4pm


Monday-Friday: 6.30pm-9.45pm

Saturday: 6.30pm-10pm

Sunday: 6.30pm-9.30pm

Food: 9/10

Service: 9/10

Surroundings: 10/10

Value: 8/10

WE are spoilt for castles in the North-East, but Lumley is one where you can really relax and soak up a bit of the history of the area.

Said to be one of the most haunted places in County Durham, it was named after Sir Ralph Lumley, who turned his family home into a fortress after returning from fighting in Scotland in 1389.

Its high stone walls could not save him though, as he was later implicated in a plot against Henry IV, imprisoned and executed.

In 1603, at the time of his accession, James I of England stopped here on his way from Edinburgh to London, spending the night at Durham Castle.

By the 19th century, the castle had become the home of the Bishop of Durham, and was sold in the 1960’s to pay for university halls of residence in Durham City.

But in 1976, management of the castle was taken over by No Ordinary Hotels who turned it into a 73-bedroomed hotel.

It remains a popular destination with tourists and wedding parties alike, and is worth a visit if you want something a little bit special.

Our visit, on a busy Saturday evening, was to the former library, now the Black Knight restaurant, which has a limited, but incredible sounding a la carte menu.

Lis did not fancy a starter, but I went for the goats’ cheese brulee, with smoked beetroot and chargrilled sour dough. (£7.50)

It arrived served in a jar, almost like set yogurt and like no dish, starter or otherwise, I have ever seen before.

Upon opening the jar, a waft of smoke came out, which was pretty dramatic for an opener.

My first impression on tasting the brulee was that it was too strong and pungent but a few mouthfuls in and it grew on me.

When mixed with the cubes of beetroot I got the full effect of the smoke, like the way you clothes smell after you stand next to a bonfire. Strangely though, it was not unpleasant.

For the main, I chose the roast chicken supreme, served with parmesan gnocchi, chorizo, oyster mushrooms, rocket. (£16.95)

A tender piece of chicken breast swimming in a spicy bowl of meaty but watery juice arrived, with all of the aforementioned ingredients beneath it.

Chewy chunks of chorizo added heat, and although the mushrooms, gnocchi and rocket were soaked, they were enjoyable nonetheless.

It was not the tidiest of dishes and at the end there is nothing to do with the juice.

The crusty bread bun served before the starters arrived was long gone.

Lis went for the blackened Cajun marinated salmon fillet, £15.95, and said it tasted like it had been gently poached before being finished off under a grill.

It was served with hand cut chips, confit of field mushroom, roasted plum tomato and a rocket and parmesan salad.

The verdict was ‘very good, but not amazing’.

For dessert, both £6.50, we ordered lemon tart with raspberry and sorrel sorbet and an orange and cranberry baked cheesecake with marmalade ice cream.

Both were beautifully presented and tasted incredible, not too filling, not too sickly.

Lis felt the cheesecake did not look ‘baked’ as claimed on the menu, and may have been merely set in the fridge.

I couldn’t tell, but I did think the marmalade ice cream, which I had been looking forward to trying, was very vanilla-ry.

So much so I think it was just vanilla.

Service throughout was friendly and superfast, but we did feel part of a large scale operation and there was not much of a personal touch.

Over attentive waiting staff can be overbearing, but no-one asked if ‘everything was ok’ at all and there were no offers to explain things from the menu.

Given how this is not your average restaurant, and many dishes are not what you normally find, that might have been nice.

But these are merely musings and observations and should not be taken as a slight.

We had a lovely meal, and enjoyed the sumptuous surroundings in what must be one of the most interesting venues in the area.

As well as the restaurant, Lumley Castle also does themed nights, such as its medieval banquet, which is terrific, and is soon hosting a Fawlty Towers evening, which is very tempting.

If you have not been, I could not recommend it highly enough.