Good Taste: Coarse, Durham

Coarse is the neighbourhood restaurant we’ve all been waiting for. It takes the tasting menu concept and turns it on its head. It offers exquisite seasonal dishes in a laid-back environment.

It’s easy to get lost in the complex nature of a tasting menu. Particularly when you’re presented with tiny masterpieces packing in ingredients you may not have heard of.

We have Durham’s newest restaurant to thank for bringing the tasting menu back to life in an easy-going and affordable way. Ruari MacKay is the head chef at the helm. He’s also the co-owner and is delighted to bring his concept to the North East. Especially, after working his way around some of the region’s top restaurants including Terry Laybourne’s 21, Jesmond Dene House, The Traveller’s Rest and more.

CoarseAfter 20 years in the industry, Ruari was ready to open his own place here in the North East. He decided to make Durham home for his foodie venture. Shortly after, Coarse was born.

We’re dining on a sunny lunchtime as spring is springing. We’re incredibly excited to see what seasonal flavours are on offer. The restaurant changes its menu seasonally, making the most of the ingredients growing and flourishing at that time.

Coarse sits in a sweet spot just off North Road in Durham city centre. It’s an unassuming little plot with a duck egg blue frontage and hanging baskets. Inside, it’s small and inviting. The decor is modern, neat and minimalist. It’s the food that does the talking here.

Starters At Coarse

Greeted and seated, our friendly waitress talks us through the food and drink offering. We are left to choose between the lunch menu and the full tasting menu (£40pp).

We opt for the full works, but with a newborn in tow, we pass on the wine flight (which, for only an extra £30pp, is great value).

The spring menu we are about to indulge in takes us on a journey of land and sea. It’s bursting with wonderfully colourful flavours. Think slow cooked lamb, purple asparagus, wild garlic and more.
First impressions are always key, and in this instance, our first foodie encounter at Coarse is a box ticker to say the least.

The ‘snack course’ comes in the form of Guinness bread and homemade sourdough with spring onion and chive butter and a smoked cheddar custard.

The next appetiser is lamb neck in curry spices, mint gel and with a poppadom crumb. The meat is melt-in-the-mouth delicious. The spices give us the perfect kick to get the palate going.

The ‘spring forward’ course is a highlight for me. A real celebration of the season – wild garlic, heritage potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli and egg.

The pastrami salmon is next. Cured and smoked with a black pepper and coriander crust and served with mustard dressing, rye crackers and pickled cucumber.

The Main Course

The main courses are a halibut fish pie with pickled mussels and prawns, and the pork-shire – Yorkshire pork collar, black pudding, rhubarb ketchup and cider braised cabbage.

Time for the sweet stuff. Now I’m usually the starter over dessert type, but this place has totally won me over in the pudding department. The rhubarb cake and pistachio custard takes us back to childhood. The malteaster is a chocolate-lover’s dream. Delicious.

Whether you’re big on tasting menus or completely new to them, we can’t recommend a lunch or dinner at Coarse enough. We left feeling full, inspired and eager to discover more. We’ll certainly be back to experience those sensational summer flavours.