IF I’m being entirely honest, when I heard one of Durham’s former fine dining restaurants was set to become yet another Indian restaurant I sighed a little.

Durham is not short of curry houses and while I’ve had some fantastic meals, it’s been a while since I was really surprised by something on the menu.

But our visit to Club Mumbai in The Avenue, Durham, stood out from the crowd, with a meal full of tantalising twists and enough of interesting choices on the menu to tempt me back again.

The former DH1 restaurant, previously G Spot (possibly the worst named restaurant in Durham) in The Avenue, has had a major makeover since its closure in March though it retains its rather grandiose gothic exterior.

Inside, it’s much more modern, with a fairly stylish look and smart, though not overly formal, décor.

We were greeted by some very attentive staff and as it was a beautiful evening, elected to have drinks and poppadum’s on the terrace before heading inside to eat.

The hill of The Avenue is a bit of a killer (it used to be on my running route so I'm familiar with the heart-attack inducing final section) but it does mean the view from the patio is a pretty good one.

Looking out towards the rolling hills and Penshaw Monument in the distance, there are few more picturesque places to peruse a menu in the city.

The dishes on offer were impressive, with a variety of traditional and more creative things to choose from.

The starter that caught my eye was fish Amritsari (£8.95) – delicious fried morsels of monk fish, served with mint chutney. The batter was on the soft side, rather than being very crispy, but the fragrant fritters packed a tasty little punch.

Meanwhile Carlo had tandoori cooked panneer – little cubes of mild cheese, flavoured with fiery chilli and cooling mint yoghurt.

Panneer isn’t for everyone but I personally find the milky blandness quite appealing, especially paired with a red hot chilli hit. If the spices in my fritters came up and shook you by the hand, the chilli on the outside of the cheese whacked you around the mouth (but in a good way, of course)

My main course of Kolkata salmon (£13.95) was even better. It was served as a fillet, in a wonderfully spiced sauce, packed with chilli and ginger and a splash of coconut. It was a revelation; the fish sweet and flaky, the sauce dancing on my tongue and finished with a marvellous lime and coriander steamed rice.

Carlo’s dish of zafrani malai badhami (£14.95) – seared chicken breast, marinated in a blend of pistachios and cashews, with a saffron sauce and served with saffron rice, wasn’t quite as memorable but was still tasted great. More of the fragrant end of the spice spectrum, it had a lovely cream, nutty sauce.

The dessert menu was probably one of the most exciting parts of the menu – not least because despite my sweet tooth, I’m rarely tempted by the puddings served at majority of Indian restaurants I come across.

My choice was shondesh (£8.95) – a speciality of the chef’s home region, I’m told – described on the menu as date molasses syrup fondant-style dessert served with a salted caramel ice cream.

A sweet tooth is probably a must. I thought it was amazing, and surprisingly elegant looking, plate of sticky, sweet stodge, with a gooey middle and crispy edge. I don’t think I’ve had anything like it, though possibly the closest would be a Yorkshire pudding served with syrup.

Carlo had a chocolate semi freddo (£9.95) which I found slightly more pedestrian, though still delicious.

If we had arrived a little earlier we could have taken advantage of their more limited, but very reasonably priced early evening menu, served between 5pm and 7pm, when three courses cost £19.95. As it was, our final bill for three courses, including sundries and a rather nice glass of chenin blanc, was £80.15


Club Mumbai, The Avenue, Durham

Contact: 0191 374 1435, www.clubmumbai.co.uk

Ratings (out of ten): Food 9, Atmosphere 9, Service 9, Value 9