I’m not cut out for fine dining, I feel far more at home with cheesy chips and gravy than gravlax and dauphinoise potatoes, and I generally prefer my food to have what would classically be defined as “substance”, rather than being Michelin-starred whisps of foam.

That being said, you don’t turn down an invite to try a five-course tasting menu, priced at £60, at Faru, one of Durham’s up-and-coming fancy spots. On a Wednesday in October, I try to make my work clothes look acceptable, and a friend and I nervously troop out, half expecting a dressing down from a chef, angry that the Echo couldn’t stump up more refined reviewers.  

Durham’s Silver Street is busy, with resident, tourist and student footfall to bars and restaurants, even in the middle of the week, but behind frosted glass, Faru feels like you’re worlds away from the empty Yorkshire Trading Co unit that’s only across the other side of the street.  

Stepping off the cobbles and through the doors, suddenly, we’re in Monaco, New York, or Paris, and a kind, blazer-clad waitress is taking our coats.

Inside Faru, it’s not stuffy – its beautifully decorated, clean and airy, and does ooze a certain high-class quality – but I’m not experiencing the kind of itchy, uncomfortable “I don’t belong here” feelings that I was anticipating.

It helps that the restaurant is quiet – a group of friends celebrating a night away from their husbands with wine and delicious cooking, and an older couple keeping the flame alive with a date night are our dining companions for most of the night - though owner Laura Siddle reassures that the establishment is full on the weekends when people are after a treat.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Faru meal

After a cocktail to soothe reviewer nerves, a milk bread roll is brought out first – filled with a swirl of wild garlic, foraged from the nearby riverbanks of the Wear, and accompanied by a squiggle of butter that looks elegant and effortless, but is guaranteed to be utterly unreplicable at home.

The produce is seasonal, local, fresh, and frankly delightful. I’m getting to try kinds of food I never heard of before – Hen of the Woods mushrooms, dashi broth, sencha tea ice cream.

All of the dishes come with a kind of culinary explainer – the sort of thing that, especially one cocktail in – goes right over my head. Though I might miss the nuance of the cooking techniques and seasonings, what doesn’t pass me by is the passion for the customer experience.

The first course is so delicious that whilst buttering my bread, I elbow my phone of the table, and it clatters to the floor. I’m expecting someone to take me out the back and shoot me, but no one bats an eye.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Faru meal

Laura, who owns Faru with her husband Jake, has a clear zeal for unpretentious-but-brilliant food. Faru has no dress code, and she tells us that people have come through the doors dressed to the nines, and others have come in shorts and t-shirts.

The playlist is equally unpretentious, too, with the familiar sounds of Fleetwood Mac, The Waterboys and Oasis reassuring me.

Everything is welcome, everyone is treated the same (even nervy young journalists). At the end of the day, the food is the focal point.

The second course arrives, Hen of the Woods mushroom in a delicious broth, and my dinner date, ever the gentleman, knocks his spoon, catapulting soup across the table and onto his trousers.

Immediately, my phone dropping infraction seems minor, and we dissolve into giggles whilst trying not to distract Faru’s other, far more refined, dinner guests. Fine dining foam 1, trousers 0.

The third course - sea bass and mussels with smoked vermouth sauce and little blobs of artfully blended celeriac, apple, and samphire – goes smoothly. Everything is fresh, and the mussels are sweet and delicate, worlds away from chewy, bright orange, and fleshy mollusc I’ve had before.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Faru meal

It’s some of the best seafood I have ever eaten, bar maybe seafood pastas eaten on holiday in Italy. Journalists don’t earn much, but I’m starting to understand what could compel someone to fork out £98 for the full tasting menu.

The foam that I’ve been dreading since I first saw an invite to Faru in my inbox arrives with the penultimate fourth course. Thankfully, it’s just a little ramekin, and the foam conceals beef shin, which accompanies a substantial cut of steak, with artichoke, tiny crisps, and a couple of fine dining gels.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Faru meal

The beef, sauced to perfection, fills a hole so well that when I’m faced with a cherry tea parfait, topped with sencha and pistachio ice cream, I think finishing it off might be my downfall. I try valiantly, and it wins the rare praise of a dessert that is “not too sweet”. It’s a beautiful end to a beautiful meal.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Faru meal

Back through the frosted glass and onto Durham’s high street, I wobble home, full and satiated, thinking about how much my parents will love to try Faru next time they come to visit in Durham – foam and all.


29 Silver Street, Durham, DH1 3RD


0191 380 5451


Open Wednesday to Saturday, 6.30pm to 8.30pm, plus 12pm-1.30pm on Saturdays

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8 Surroundings 7 Service 10 Value 7.5