Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Durham's restaurant disappoints

A while back, a group of us ate dinner at the restaurant inside the trendy hotel, The Durham.  With Beard-winning chef Andrea Reusing at the helm and this rare five-star review from the News & Observer's Greg Cox, the place certainly appeared promising.

Sadly, in this case appearances were most definitely deceiving.  Our meal at The Durham was deeply disappointing.

Six of us squeezed around a table that would have been comfortable for four.  Though a couple of bigger tables were in sight, they told us this was the standard size for a group of six.  Throughout the meal, we and our servers wrestled with space issues.

The women refilling the small water glasses did as good a job as the space allowed, but our primary server was one of the worst I've recently encountered.  Constantly inattentive--each time we ordered, I noticed him looking at other tables as he tried to take notes--he actually pulled the menu from one person who was in the middle of ordering and walked away from another who was still talking.  It's no surprise, then, that he missed two of our orders, nor that our mains sat so long under the heat lamp that several dishes dried out.

I'd forgive shoddy service, though, if the food was great.  It was not.  It was decidedly middle-of-the road.  The meat-and-cheese board was good but no more.  The chopped salad was also good--but no better.  The crab souffle was hardly a souffle and sufficiently boring that its high point was the bread in it.  The beef fat French fries might have been good had they not sat so long; we'll never know.  The steak was fine, but you can find better prepared pieces of meat all over the Triangle.  And so on.

The only two dishes that showed great promise were the chip & dip starter, which involved a sort of carrot hummus that we all quite liked, and the pot de creme dessert, which we all agreed hit the bittersweet chocolate target perfectly.

The baked Alaska, by contrast, used mediocre ice cream--Ben & Jerry's would have been way better--and a meringue that was so thick and viscous that after I scraped it off the top of the dish and pushed it to the side, stayed exactly the same for the next twenty minutes until we left.

I rarely write such negative reviews, but I felt compelled to do so for several reasons.  First, this chef has the talent and the pedigree to do dramatically better.  I like to believe that if she had been at our table, she would have been appalled.  Next, no restaurant aiming for the high end should provide this level of service or accept this quality from the kitchen.  Finally, I simply cannot let Greg Cox's review stand uncontested.

If someone from The Durham would like to invite me back on a night when they feel they have their game on--I would, of course, pay my own way--I'd give it another try, but otherwise, I won't return there for food, and I have to recommend that you, too, spend your dining money elsewhere.

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