Lunch review: Sunday service at Whitechurch

Dean Bailey finds his perfect Sunday at Whitechurch, Durham

What makes a perfect Sunday? Is it lying in, a nice walk by the river, then whiling away the afternoon with a long, three-course lunch and a good bottle of wine as you watch the world pass by? It certainly is for me.

We can cover the walk bit in grand style in Durham – it’s impossible to turn a corner or climb a staircase without finding something interesting – be it the architecture, the river, or a brilliant place to eat, drink, and people watch.

We’re big on cooking Sunday lunch in the Appetite kitchen, so if we treat ourselves to a trip out, it has to be good – and Whitechurch, just across the river from the Cathedral, ticks a lot of boxes within seconds of walking through the door.

Equal parts café, coffee stop and restaurant, it seems the place to be in Durham, and the atmosphere is buzzing from the moment we arrive. There are dogs tucked under seats opposite the café bar as friends catch up over coffee. Groups of students gather around high tables with traybakes, cakes and tea and the dining tables are packed – there’s no chance you’re getting a walk-in today.

Local, fresh and seasonal produce is at the forefront of the Whitechurch menu every day, and certainly on a Sunday.

Our starters include the most generous bowl of curried cauliflower soup we’ve ever seen – delicately spiced and thick, the sweet raisins on top are a fun addition while the fried bread is a real treat. Meanwhile, cod and spring onion fritters are bathed in wildly indulgent levels of hollandaise sauce. This plate also enjoys a clever addition – pickled walnuts scattered throughout the shallot salad to punch right through the rich sauce.

The main event is worthy of its billing – a generous slice of pleasingly pink beef rump adorned with a giant, crisp Yorkshire pudding. The chicken meanwhile is as supreme as the menu promises, while praise must be given to the crushed celeriac and wonderful cheesy leeks for managing to keep up with such mega stars.

For dessert, what’s better on a cold March afternoon than sticky toffee pudding topped with lashings of toffee sauce and a dollop of ice cream? Alternatively, white chocolate feuilletine and a tart blueberry compote topped with tahini-infused whipped cheesecake offers a glorious combination of textures and flavours.

A super Sunday trip out – and there’s no dishes!

The three-course Sunday lunch is roughly £32, plus drinks and service charge.

Whitechurch, 29 Church Street Head Durham, DH1 3DN, tel 0191 386 8897,

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