Divine Desserts at Durham Cathedral
Ahead of Durham Cathedral’s next instalment of Divine Desserts in October, we look back to our (delicious) experience in May
After an agonising two-month wait, the day finally arrives. I bounce out of the office at 5pm with my loose-waisted trousers and make my way to the main event. Living in Durham, I see the cathedral every day on my way home from work, but it certainly isn’t every day that, instead of heading back to my flat, I get to step inside the cathedral instead. My partner and I enter the cathedral and make our way through to the Undercroft Restaurant – which is decked out very nicely for the occasion.
There are six long tables, all of them full by the time 6.30pm rolls around, and there’s a pleasant buzz in the air as we all eagerly await our five puddings. But first there is a main course to eat. Both my partner and I have opted for the chicken with pan haggerty, carrot and anise jus (admittedly without understanding what half the components are – yes I know, it’s shocking that I don’t know what the traditional Northumbrian side is, but now I do and I am a huge fan). The chicken was well-cooked and tender, complemented by the flavoursome anise jus, but if I’m being honest, I was racing through the savoury course to get to the main event.
From our seat near the back of the restaurant, we’ve been watching the chefs pile up a charming wagon with delectable mini desserts. It’s explained that each table will go up separately to retrieve a plateful of desserts of their choice (personally, I wouldn’t trust any maniac who only opted for one or two when you could have all five). Devastatingly, our table is last. It’s an agonising wait, but the host is zipping around the six tables thanking us for our patience as they are still ironing out some creases regarding the logistics of the event (i.e. how to get the puddings into the mouths of the guests as quickly as possible).
Thankfully, by the time it is our turn (and you can bet my partner and I are at the front of the queue), there are still plenty of puddings to go – you’re even allowed seconds and thirds, so don’t worry about missing out on any sweet treats. The very nice man dishing out the desserts asks us which ones we’d like to try and the answer is: everything.
With my plate of five mini desserts, I’m officially in heaven. At first I have reserves about how small they are, but once I’ve made my way through two and a half I realise my eyes may be bigger than my belly. First up I try the Eve’s Pudding, which is tangy yet sweet, light yet homely, and paired perfectly with a silky-smooth custard – no lumpy, school-dinner horror show here.
I then move on to my most-anticipated dessert (none of this saving the best until last nonsense): a rum and chocolate torte. From the first mouthful, I’m in love. If this torte was in mortal peril, I would lay my life on the line for it. While my partner finds it a bit too rich for his taste, I happily finish off his as well as my own.
Next up is a treacle tart, which I usually love when it’s tooth-achingly sweet, and while this one is nice enough, it isn’t my favourite – though my partner seems more convinced than I am. Before I tackle the final, heavier dessert (you really do start feeling full at this point), I sample the grapefruit posset, which is delightfully smooth and tart, paired well with a sable biscuit. Finally, there’s gooseberry and sweet plum crumble, which again is tangy yet sweet, set off by the at once crunchy and chewy crumble topping.
My dream of returning to the cart for seconds is vanquished. I am stuffed, and my loose-waisted trousers are putting in some serious work. My partner and I wax lyrical about our favourite puddings of the night as we stagger home, on a total sugar high, and declare that we will definitely be attending the next one.
Keep an eye on the Cathedral’s Events page as tickets for the 11th October instalment will go on sale soon,, and you can expect delights such as cinnamon-laced winter fruit fool, Manchester tart, sticky toffee pudding, pear and frangipane tartlet and brandy snap tacos with grilled peaches.