Deceptive from its exterior, without knowing all The Rabbit Hole has to offer, you may just continue on your way. Disguised as the store front of an old-fashioned taxidermy and antiques store, it took a few minutes to locate the mysterious looking doorbell labeled ‘visitors.’ Soon after pressing the bell, we were welcomed into their low-lit and opulent bar area, led upstairs and seated at a plush velvet booth. A very friendly member of waiting staff handed us menus – which helpfully lit upon opening – and left us to browse the à la carte menu. Selecting a soft and approachable glass of Tempranillo and their on keg beer, Tiger, we sat back and admired the eclectic decor whilst enjoying the jazz that murmured in the background.
The menu offers a rich array of Asian and Thai cuisine, lending itself aptly to the term ‘Asian-fusion.’ As we contemplated over the slow roast rack of ribs, Lindisfarne oysters and simple but addictive chicken and sweetcorn soup we were brought our drinks and a carafe of water. With around half of the starters being seafood based, I decided this was a sign and chose to start with the soft shell crab (£12.50) while my dining partner selected the Chinese classic of duck pancakes (£12.50). Both arrived as generous portions, the crab was whole and positioned impressively in a giant edible rice cracker, on a bed of chilli and curry leaf, with mango coulis for dipping. For my partner five duck pancakes arrived, with sliced duck, which I was assured had much more flavour than shredded.
I followed my starter with five spiced deep-braised duck (£18.50) and was advised to order a side dish to accompany it, I selected the special-fired rice ‘yang chow style’ (£6.50). This was also generously portioned, the large pieces of duck were juicy and combined in a rich and spicy sauce with ginger glazed shallots, chilli and garlic. The special fried rice was packed with prawns, chicken and pork and necessary to soak up the remaining sauce from the duck dish. My dining partner chose the Thai red king prawn curry (£17.50) with egg-fried rice (£4.50) to accompany it. As a Thai curry fiend I developed a slight case of ‘food envy,’ as the prawns arrived truly king-sized and perfectly cooked in a rich and thick, fragrant curry sauce.
Deliberation over a third course was momentary after spotting the sticky toffee pudding (£6.50) which was drizzled with hot butterscotch, and served with vanilla ice cream. My dining partner opted for a lighter dessert, a Baileys hot cocktail (£6.50), which was superbly creamy and extra hot.
The Rabbit Hole may be a new addition to Durham’s ever expanding culinary portfolio, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Its well thought out theme makes for an exciting dining experience – from the door-belled entry, to a giant giraffe head, every turn of head presents more quirks. And with the pending addition of live jazz too, there really is no reason not to return.
What we expected: A low-lit speakeasy offering Chinese dishes
What we got: An excitingly-theatrical experience, with the added bonus of flavourful dishes
What we wish we’d tried: The Singapore chilli crab and seafood, with mouth-numbing red curry sauce
The Rabbit Hole
17 Hallgarth Street
Durham DH1 3AT