My Mum’s birthday is on 2nd January – a day well-known for being pretty rubbish, as all your friends have started their New Year’s resolutions, everybody seems to be on a diet, doing dry January or they’re skint! Each year, we struggle to find the perfect place to battle those post-Christmas and New Year blues and help my Mum to have fantastic birthday. Well, this year we cracked it!
The Rabbit Hole is an impressive, speakeasy-style venue, inspired by the seductiveness of 1920s Shanghai Supper Clubs, but situated down a cobbled alleyway the heart of Durham! It only opened last year but it has fast gained a reputation as THE most opulent and interesting place to have dinner in the city. My family and I had been dying to visit The Rabbit Hole ever since it opened last year and I knew this was the ideal place to celebrate my Mum’s birthday.
As you approach the restaurant on Hallgarth Street, you are met with something that looks to be a simple, dusty antiques shop. The ‘shop window’ is full of knick knacks, strange collectibles and all sorts of weird and wonderful items. Don’t be fooled though, if you follow the alleyway at the side of the restaurant, you’ll find a door – press the doorbell and wait to be greeted by a member of the Rabbit Hole’s fantastic front-of-house team!
You are hit immediately by the alluring smell of incense, closely followed by the realisation that this is perhaps the most opulent and interesting restaurant you’ve ever been in. Romantic, dimly lit corridors, velvet curtains, animal print chairs and a giant giraffe are just some of the decorative features that stood out to me as we made our way to ‘The Drinking Den’. One thing I absolutely love about The Rabbit Hole is that they are brazen enough to have a set of House Rules, including a dress code and a refreshing policy on the use of mobile phones! These rules make for a much more relaxed and utterly special experience as you sit at the impressive, luxurious bar and enjoy a Singapore Sling, with soft notes of jazz lulling in the background. On certain nights, there is even live jazz music!
We were led upstairs to our table at the very back of the restaurant – a wonderfully cosy and secluded booth, draped with even more velvet. I found myself thinking, as I opened a light-up menu, that this place really is full of surprises! The menu offerings really are as decadent as the restaurant surroundings; it seemed like all our favourite foods were on there!
Between the four of us, we opted to share both the Salt and Pepper Seafood Plateau, consisting of King prawns, soft shell crab, squid and crispy seaweed (£12.50), pork belly su mai dim sum (£9.50) and the Duck Pancake platter (£12.50). What a feast it was! Everything on the table packed a flavourful punch and we loved the mixture of sticky, spicy and salty sauces that were served with each dish.
Choosing a main course really was a difficult task – you’ll see what I mean when you read the menu and see that there are dishes like Mongolian Lamb Shank Clay Pot (£18.50) and Weeping Tiger Sirloin Steak (£25) on there! In the end, I went for the Crispy Chilli Beef (£17.50) with egg fried rice – it was absolutely delicious and I was really impressed with the balance of the BBQ flavour, ginger and chilli in the dish.
The whole meal was absolutely divine and the atmosphere of the restaurant makes it rather difficult not to have a really good time! As you sit there, you feel like you’ve well and truly ‘fallen down a rabbit hole’ into another era and another continent – it was like a kind of culinary escapism and I loved it.
I’ve included the price of each dish in this blog post to help you see that a meal at The Rabbit Hole isn’t exactly the cheapest of meals out. However, I hope I’ve also helped you see that although the food is first-class, you’re not just paying for that – the whole experience, right from ringing the doorbell, to the wonderful jazz music, is something quite curious and unique. I don’t know of many other places in the North East that have impressed me quite so much and I was so glad that my Mum was able to celebrate her birthday at such a special place!