“ Address: 69 Claypath / Durham / County Durham / DH1 1QT / England / Tel: 0191 386 8803 „
One of the most important things to find when moving to a new place (as far as I'm concerned) is a good Indian restaurant. In this regard, I was helped by a friend who recommended the Capital restaurant on Claypath in Durham.
It may not be in the most inspiring location - a lot of Claypath (as with much of Durham City Centre) is given over to student accommodation and the area itself looks as though it has seen better days. But overcome your initial impressions and step into the Capital and it's a different story.
The restaurant itself has a compact, but not too cramped feel to it. It is actually pretty small (essentially it is little more than a big old house where the living room and dining room have been knocked through to create one big dining area) and this can make it difficult to get a table at times. Certainly, at peak times like Friday/Saturday night, you'd be well advised to book to avoid disappointment. They also do takeaways, although I've never actually used this, so this is a review of the eat-in restaurant.
The Capital is happy to take parties of all sizes. They have tables for two or for parties of 20 plus and will happily re-arrange the layout to try and accommodate people (although again, large parties would need to book in advance). This mixture can mean that you don't always know what to expect. We have been in when it has been incredibly quiet and very peaceful; equally we've been in when there have been a couple of large parties and a far more raucous atmosphere (because the restaurant is essentially one big room, the noise does travel). Again, if you're after a quiet meal, avoid those busy times.
Whilst the restaurant itself is quite small, there is a reasonable amount of distance between the tables, so you don't feel too much like you are eating your dinner on top of someone else! This can vary slightly according to where you are in the restaurant, but other tables never intrude too much. I do find that the interior can be slightly dark, as there are only a couple of windows at the far end of the restaurant and the lights are usually turned down pretty low , but this isn't a problem and actually creates a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere.
The staff at the Capital are extremely friendly. With some you can get a little bit of banter going (which is always nice), others don't want to do that (fair enough - they are not there to provide entertainment!), but are always very polite and friendly. Usually within a couple of minutes of sitting down, someone will come and take your drinks order and provide you with menus. Empty plates and dishes are always cleared away quickly, there is never any sense that they are trying to hurry you out, and waiters are attentive without being over-bearing.
They are also very knowledgeable about the food on offer. The Capital offers a massive array of starters, main dishes, side orders and sundries. Many of these have a one line explanation on the menu, listing key ingredients and how hot they are, but the waiters are always happy to give more information, or offer advice on which one they think you might like. Even when the restaurant is extremely busy, they give the impression that there is nothing they would rather be doing than advice you on what to eat!
The food itself is generally exceptional. The one time we were disappointed was when we decided to kick off with some starters (onion bhajis etc.). It wasn't that there was anything wrong with them, we just felt they were a little bland. Maybe the chef was just having an off-day, but we've no been tempted to try them again, and now tend to stick to main dishes and side orders.
And there's a good reason for doing that, because the food is absolutely delicious. Mrs SWst and I have been there many times and can put our hand on our heart and say that we have never had a bad meal. Food arrives at your table pretty quickly and is always piping hot; the waiters explain which dish is which, so that you can make sure you end up with the correct food and then it's time to tuck in! We have tried a variety of dishes ranging from very hot curries to some of the milder options and each one has been extremely tasty. It's true that the curries can vary in strength (sometimes the Madras is more like a Vindaloo and vice versa) but they are just so damn tasty that you won't care! If you have a meat dish, you can actually see huge chunks of meat in it, unlike some places I've been where you have to play "hunt the chicken".
Portions of both rice and curry are just the right size, too and whilst you won't leave the table feeling hungry, neither will you leave it feeling bloated and over-stuffed. Since it is served in metal dishes (and often placed on a small hotplate), food tends to remain pretty hot throughout your meal, even if you are quite a slow eater.
The most inefficient part of the evening comes when it's time to pay which always surprises me, as I'd have thought they would have wanted to get rid of you so that they could give the table to someone else. As the waiters are busy racing from table to table, it's often difficult to catch their eye to ask for the bill. And once they've brought you the bill, there can often be another delay before they return to take payment. It's not uncommon for there to be a gap of up to 30 minutes between finishing your meal and leaving the restaurant. In some ways, this is quite nice, as the delay allows time for your food to go down. If you're in a hurry, however, it can be a little frustrating if you are in a rush to get away.
Since moving to Durham, people have recommended other Indian restaurants, but to be honest, the service and food at The Capital is so good that I have no reason to go anywhere else and it is definitely my Indian of choice.
Tel: 0191 386 8803
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