By Waseem Mohamed
A new, 40-cover restaurant from renowned chef Ruari Mackay could be opening on Durham’s Silver Street, provided the owners can raise £100,000 by crowdfunding first.
The restaurant, to be named ‘Coarse’, will offer a tasting menu at a relatively affordable price, with a six-course tasting menu costing £35.
The co-owners have already raised £13,500 of a £100,000 target. To encourage people to donate, a range of rewards are being offered by the restaurant. These range from having your name printed on the menu and free meals, to a full private dining experience either at your home or in the restaurant. To those willing to pledge £120 or more, a guaranteed reservation during graduation week, when restaurants in Durham are usually notoriously overbooked, is being offered.
Speaking to Palatinate, co-owner and Durham University alumni Craig Lappin-Smith explained the philosophy behind the new restaurant. He described how he had met chef Ruari Mackay whilst working at Bistro 21 (a now-closed restaurant in North Durham), and how he “became very good friends” with both Mackay and his partner, Gemma Robinson.
Lappin-Smith also explained why Durham was an ideal location for a new tasting menu restaurant. He commented that Durham “lacked good restaurants… it’s mostly just a lot of chains”, with only a handful of “nicer restaurants that you would go to for a special occasion”.
The co-owners hence identified Durham as an ideal place to open the city’s first tasting menu restaurant, aiming to serve “three fantastic target markets – ‘locals’, students and tourists”.
Lappin-Smith also described how the restaurant is designed with students in mind. He stressed that “from the beginning we have wanted the restaurant to be very inclusive and accessible”, and while he notes that “it’s not something we would expect students to be going to every week”, he believes that Coarse “would be a fantastic option” for students wanting to celebrate “one special occasion each term”.
The co-owners hope that the new restaurant will “bring more vibrancy and life to Durham’s city centre”, with Lappin-Smith promising that Coarse will offer “an experience, and not just a meal – it will be fun and it will be something people talk about”.
Coarse will be the first restaurant that popular North East chef Ruari Mackay will be an owner of. He began his career over 20 years ago, training alongside Michelin-starred chef Terry Laybourne, before becoming head chef at Bistro 21, The Garden Inn, and, most recently, The Traveller’s Rest.
He has received widespread appraisal for his cuisine, from the likes of The Guardian’s Jay Rayner and The Chronicle’s Secret Diner, the latter of which described Mackay as a chef “worth following around”.
Coarse have already published sample menus and a link to their Kickstarter page. While the tasting menu is normally rigid, the restaurant will be able to cater for vegetarians in a separate menu, as well as special dietary requirements.
Image: Craig Lappin-Smith