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Charles Evans dines well in Durham and paints an iconic view

Durham Cathedral was in the frame when Charles Evans took his paints to the city - and found a gem in Restaurant DH1

Goosnargh Duck at DHI in Durham
Goosnargh Duck at DHI in Durham

So I cleaned the Land Rover – even took the straw out, as well as the binder twine from my trousers.

The dogs were tied up outside whilst I indulged myself in poshness at Restaurant DH1.

My first observation was: what a very tight car park for a big car! But the building and facade of this place are beautiful, with a cracking view looking down across the city.

Fairly misleading, actually, because once you’re inside it’s tiny, with a restaurant that seats 22 people. A very nice ambience and classically decorated with polished wooden floors and a very interesting chandelier. The staff seemed very polished, yet relaxed.

All in all, seemed like I was in for a good night.

The menu is not massive, but has something to suit all tastes, with the vegetarian menu as comprehensive as the rest.

I went for the spring menu at £32 for two courses or £40 for three. I choose the Goosnargh Duck, a poached and roasted breast with heritage carrots, orange and juniper for my starter.

Roasted red deer loin with hazelnuts, celeriac purée, celery, pear at DHI in Durham
Roasted red deer loin with hazelnuts, celeriac purée, celery, pear at DHI in Durham

For my main course I opted for the venison, which was roasted red deer loin with hazelnuts, celeriac purée, celery, pear and locally produced Mordon Blue cheese. It all sounded fabulous, I must say. I decided to wait to see if I needed a pudding!

The chosen libation was a Chilean Merlot, which certainly proved to be a good choice, very smooth and fruity.

I was presented with a slate of little appetisers first and these little beauties were delicious. Smoked Eel proved to be very... different.

I was a bit taken aback by the pattern on the plate when my starter arrived. At first it looked like sauce was lapping up the sides. It wasn’t!

Big statement coming up. In my humble artisan opinion the starter was perfect! The duck was just the right shade of pink. Tender and moist, it simply melted in my mouth although the skin was slightly crispy. The accompanying purée and vegetable complemented rather than detracted and the seasoning was sublime. What a starter!

Slate of little appetisers at DHI in Durham
Slate of little appetisers at DHI in Durham

Really everything about the place is fairly top notch – lovely wine glasses, cutlery and napkins, all the little touches that do make a difference.

These days it all seems to be about getting served quickly, eating quickly and having much the same food in a variety of eating houses. All well and good and everything has its place, but if we are not careful we are in danger of breaking down the core value of a meal being an occasion, fine dining.

The venison, again, was something to behold. Cooked fairly rare, it was succulent and tender and seasoned just so. The jus was strong and rich and the vegetables not too al dente. Those toasted hazelnuts added a really nice little crunch to the whole. I would never have though of that.

The portions don’t look humongous but, believe me, with the richness of this food there is plenty. However, just to be able to pass comment, I must have a pudding!

Aerated chocolate, salted caramel and popcorn at DHI in Durham
Aerated chocolate, salted caramel and popcorn at DHI in Durham

I chose the Aero – not the chocolate bar; this was aerated chocolate, salted caramel and popcorn. It sounded interesting.

That was the best-looking bar of chocolate I’d ever seen! I’m not even going to try to explain this plate full of yummy, sticky heavenliness. All I will say is that if you visit after this review, do have this pudding.

Guess what I had to round off a blissfully filling meal? You guessed it – treble espresso.

Sorry, Frank (the labrador), no doggy bag tonight.

Restaurant DH1 is at The Avenue, Durham City, DH1 4DX – email bookings@restaurantdh1.co.uk or tel. 0191 3846655

THE PAINTING

Durham Cathedral by Charles Evans
Durham Cathedral by Charles Evans

This is an iconic view of Durham Cathedral and one which I particularly love.

I started with a sketch, not messing about but sticking to the basics. I then applied a sky wash of cobalt blue, using my 1½ins flat wash brush to flood the area with paint before ‘sucking out’ a couple of clouds.

While it was all still wet I put a little alizarin crimson into the blue and stroked in a little shadow underneath the clouds.

Once everything was dry I pre-wet the whole of the cathedral using my No. 8 round brush. I then quickly dropped in Charles Evans Sand, followed by yellow ochre to the left, raw umber to the right, a few touches of light red here and there on both sides and finally cobalt blue here and there.

All this was done while everything was wet. Now, with a damp brush, I merged the colours, gently stroking them together to make a lovely stone colour.

Again I let it dry before using my shadow mix of cobalt blue, alizarin crimson and burnt sienna to fill in the detail in the buildings, paying special attention to the insides of the windows.

I then put more water into the shadow mix and stroked down the right hand side of the towers to give a darker side. That was the main building finished!

Now it was time for the trees. I used a ¾ins flat brush for these because I wasn’t painting individual leaves. First I dabbed on some yellow ochre here and there followed by Hookers green mixed with yellow ochre and then, finally, Hookers green mixed with burnt sienna. All this was done while the first colour was still wet and leaving some of all of the colours showing through here and there. Once dry, I used the same brush to pop a little cobalt blue here and there for some darker areas within the foliage.

Now to the mill in the foreground. I used the same colours and process as in the cathedral but everything was a little stronger, including the shadow mix.

At the same time I painted some dark green/Hookers green and burnt sienna into the river area as reflections. I also put in a bit of Charles Evans Sand mixed with raw umber to reflect the foreground building. All this has to be good and solidly dry before the river is painted. Using my ¾ins flat brush I used a mix of cobalt blue with burnt sienna, going heavier on the blue.

I quickly stroked through all the reflections and filled in the river area, leaving a bar of white showing to indicate the weir.

Finally, strengthening the same mix, I put a couple of touches of darker water here and there. Job done!

All materials used were by Winsor and Newton. For more free projects, courses and art materials visit charlesevansart.com or follow me on Twitter @charlesevansart

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