Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Restaurant Review - The Waiting Room, Eaglescliffe

To leaven the political stuff slightly, I’ve been thinking for a while of writing occasional short restaurant reviews. Occasional because we don’t get out that much (kids etc). Short because I doubt whether regular readers of this blog, erudite and discerning though you are to a man and woman, are yet prepared to wade through 2000 words on what I thought of the duck pate.

So here goes with some reflections on The Waiting Room, where I went for Saturday lunch with Sandy and the boys.

The Waiting Room holds a particular affection for us because it is one of the only true vegetarian restaurants in the area (Sandy and the boys don’t eat meat). Since the demise of Mike Barker's excellent Bakehouse Hill cafe in Darlington and Priors in Barnard Castle in the mid-90’s, this has left it in a class all of its own. It's been a fixture in the Tees Valley since 1985.

Their website sets the scene; The Waiting Room serves really tasty, deeply satisfying food made out of full, wholesome ingredients... We change our menu with the seasons creating and developing our dishes with respect for what is naturally good for the time of year. We use much local and organic produce, including excellent organic wines, beers, teas and freshly ground coffee. A proportion of the vegetables we use are organic, and delivered on the day they are picked, from Larchfield Community Farm. We also use free range eggs, and organic bread and milk.

One of its USP’s is the “mixed portion” idea, whereby you are allowed to have two half portions of a main dish. With dishes as tempting as 'Big Field Mushroom Plait, with Roast Beetroot, and a White Wine and Tarragon Liquor' or 'Spinach, Feta and Mushroom Curry, with Potato Kibbeh', this is a real bonus. The restaurant itself, set in a side street, is unfussy, and has live music on a Saturday evening. The proximity to Eaglescliffe Station means you can enjoy a bottle of their organic wine or beer and get back to Darlington without worrying about who's going to drive.

Like the rest of the locality, alas, The Waiting Room has reacted to the gentrification of the area, and prices have risen accordingly (WAGdom is gradually advancing up from Yarm High Street). We have been going there for years, and for most of that time, its meals were priced almost criminally low. Still, the lunch menu had plenty of items ranging from £4 to £7. There's nothing on the evening menu above £10.50.

James had brown puy lentil chilli with tortilla, shredded lettuce, salsa, sour cream and cheddar, which believe me tasted better than it sounds. Sandy had a more conventional cashew, apple and carrot loaf with the WR’s trademark potatoes coated in sesame seeds, which she thought was surprisingly light and fluffy. AJ, as always had pasta in a tomato sauce, which he wolfed down.

I had the The Waiting Room Super Burger £5.50 billed as 'all natural, wholesome ingredients including fresh herbs, spices and beans - full of flavour and goodness – with salad – in an organic bun, topped off with chutney'. Now I’m not a veggie, so generally I would always rather have a hunk of cow than soya mix. It’s a measure of the Waiting Room’s skills that I never find myself pining for meat there.

Service was friendly, if a little slow. This may be because they seem to cook everything fresh on the premises, and there were no tell-tale “dings” from a microwave whilst we were there.

Giving in to temptation all too easily, we rounded off with a dessert. James sticky toffee pudding was exactly as it should be – dark and very sweet, with a rich sauce. Sandy and I had a chocolate roulade – an almost obscenely good combination of sponge, mascarpone cheese and solid dark chocolate chunky swirls.

With drinks, 2 coffees at the end, and a small ice cream for AJ, the bill came to £48 – very good value for money. It's a must for any foodie whether or not you think meat is murder.

The Waiting Room, 9 Station Road, Eaglescliffe. Tel. 01642 780465. Open Monday from 6.30pm. Tuesday - Friday 11.30am-2.30pm, Evening meals from 6.30pm. Saturday and Sunday 9am-2.30pm, Evening meals from 6.30pm. Website http://www.the-waiting-room.co.uk/


Anonymous said...

So I seem to remember a while back you were 'broadly in favour' of National ID Cards Mr. Wallis.

Now that some clown has totally compromised the Child Benefit database and our banking records are in the hands of God Knows Who I just wondered how you still felt about handing sensitive personal information to officials who can't be trusted to look after it?

miketually said...

Whenever I've eaten anything vegetarian, no matter how nice, I always feel like it could have been improved with the addition of bacon.

£48 for four is very reasonable. We were unfortunate enough to have lunch in Pizza Hut in York on Saturday, which cost £45 for four adults and a two-year-old. It was accompanied by many pings from the kitchen, along with very slow service and a queue to get into a less than half full "restaurant".

(I thought "ID Cards" as soon as I heard the news story too...)

Darlington Councillor said...

*Sigh* Yup, I thought ID cards too, so I know where you're coming from. But equally, I could have thought "National Insurance Numbers" as they're part of the database which was copied and has gone missing. Maybe we should wait to see how the dust settles to see whether the ID card idea has really been holed below the waterline.

Mike - Pizzahut is indeed a complete rip-off (except the weekday buffet offer which I can attest only adds to obesity of the nation).

As for bacon - well, in our household, as a "treat", we get to have vegetarian 'bacon' butties on a Sunday. For James and AJ, who've never had real bacon, this is fine. For me, however...

miketually said...

Which part of a vegetarian is cured to make vegetarian bacon?

Aeres said...

Another vegetarian signing in here. I know what you mean about the lack of vegetarian restaurants Nick, one of the few reasons why I miss my old student life in Manchester.

We went to the Waiting Room a couple of months ago for our anniversary and I can attest that it's really first class. Good food but not too stuffy - ideal combination really. Makes a change from the standard vegetarian lasagne and tagliatelle that is usually the veggie option in normal restaurants.

Vegetarian bacon is okay, but its damned near impossible to separate out the rashers without them flaking into bacon shards!

Anonymous said...

Interesting that our Labour Councillor goes for a restaurant review when the new breaks of how incompetent the Labour Goverment seem to be.

Just wait until all medical records are also on one computer system and then the hackers (or maybe even the postman)will know more about us than we do.

What is happening in this country to look after the well being of Joe Public?

Please give us Mr Wallis as it certainly gives me food for thought as to what our politicians regard as priorities.

Mike Fellows

Anonymous said...

Yup I agree with Mike.

Labour couln't run a whelke stall. Joe public have to pay for the screw ups.

What's this about cover ups in Darlo then involving big names. You involved.