Jake and Laura Siddle opened Faru Durham three months ago bringing fine dining to the city. Savour’s founding editor, Georga Spottiswood, chats with the husband-and-wife team about their success so far, the menu, drinks and what customers can expect.
They’re the salt-of-the-earth husband-and-wife team who have opened Faru in Durham – and things have been going phenomenally well for Jake and Laura Siddle.
The pair, who are the former head chef and front-of-house manager at Newcastle’s Michelin-starred House of Tides, took the plunge to open their own restaurant in April and say it’s been a “dream come true”.
“It’s been quite a whirlwind, there has been so much going on, but it’s been a great start,” says Jake, 29.
“18 months ago, it was just a dream, then it got closer to reality when we had tradesmen renovating the place – then before we knew it, we had a team. It’s our first time in business, so dealing with everything was a big learning curve but once all that was done, we got to work on the menus and the wine lists, then opened our doors. It’s been an unbelievable journey so far.”
Sat on Durham’s Silver Street, Faru – which is open from Wednesday to Saturday – offers its guests a tasting menu experience, with optional wine pairing.
“We only offer one menu and it’s the same menu for lunch [served on Fridays and Saturdays] as on the evening, so everyone that comes to visit us can enjoy the same experience,” says Jake.
“We’ll change the menu seasonally, but I’ll never change the whole menu at one time – just one or two dishes every three weeks, depending on what produce is available. We’ll always keep things fresh.
“We’ll always do a tasting menu, too, as it’s what we know. We did it for nine years at House of Tides and we really enjoy creating this type of menu,” he adds.
Although the couple always envisaged opening their own venture, Laura admits it was both sets of parents who give them the push that they needed.
“They all said we needed something of our own and between the four of them, they really gave us a kick in the right direction.
“Originally, we looked at a few venues in Newcastle, but as we’re both from the Teesside area, we thought ‘what about Durham?’. It’s the middle point of Teesside and Newcastle and we now live in Newcastle.
“We did a lot of research before we opened as we appreciate that a tasting menu is a specific way to dine out. From that, we felt that there was a foodie audience to cater to. 90% of our customers so far have been from Durham and everyone has said, ‘we needed this’, which is lovely to hear. The support has been amazing.”
Both Jake and Laura went to Middlesbrough College and studied Hospitality and Catering, but it wasn’t until they started working at House of Tides in 2014 that they became a couple.
“We spent nine years at House of Tides which is a long spell in the hospitality industry. So, the time was right to do something together that was our own. We want Faru to offer what we enjoy when we go out eating and drinking – great food and great service,” says Jake.
“We love going to different places such as Barrio Comida in Durham, we love St Vincent, in Newcastle and Ophelia that’s just opened in Gosforth. We want to offer a place that’s really approachable and fun,” adds Laura, 30.
“When people come in, they’re coming into our environment and we just act ourselves, we have fun and we have a laugh. We want people to see the fun we’re having, so they have a fun experience. The food we’re cooking, the wine we’re serving, it excites us, and hopefully that’ll filter down to our customers.”
The couple has cultivated a strong team, too. Sous chef Liam Cavana met Jake when he studied at Middlesbrough College. Joseph Spowart is chef de partie and handles the first part of the menu: the snacks; Anna Skyba is the pastry chef and Sophia Mercer, who used to work at House of Tides, is assistant manager.
“They’re all class and have so much passion for what they do. We’ve created a little family. Sophia left House of Tides and went to work for a retail company, but she’s come back into hospitality just to work with us. Anna is from Kyiv, having relocated to the UK from Ukraine. We saw what she was doing on Instagram and loved her work, she has some serious baking skills,” says Laura.
Inside, the restaurant features an open-plan kitchen, a wine station, and a cocktail bar. The décor is minimalist with soft, muted tones and a mural from Spain features across one of the walls.
“I’ll be honest, I bet everyone thinks that Laura did the interior design, but I’m going to put my hand up and say I was involved too,” laughs Jake. At home, if we did wallpaper, I wouldn’t have a clue and Laura would decide. But with Faru, I got involved. I had to sit in all the chairs we tried out, too. That’s important, guests need to feel comfy when they’re having an experience that lasts around two hours.
“It’s all open plan, you can see every working of the restaurant, you can see the kitchen, you can see Laura on wines, you see the inner workings of a restaurant. Every table has a great view. It adds a bit of theatre – and people are loving it, you can see them watching, absorbing everything.”
“I’m very indecisive,” laughs Laura. “I didn’t want the responsibility of choosing a colour for the walls that people thought was ugly!
“Our parents have all helped massively with the renovation. They weren’t too happy about carrying the wine fridges though, there was a lot of heavy lifting and there were a lot of bruises. As parents, they try to absorb our stresses. They are constantly checking in on us. I definitely think they’re proud of us.”
Speaking about the menu, Jake says there have been some real crowd pleasers such as his Hen of the Woods dish.
“It features a chicken fat crumb, and we mix yeast through it as well. It’s served with a chive emulsion, pak choi and mushroom ketchup. We finish it off with a mushroom dashi broth. It’s been a huge hit and is a firm favourite.
“I have a massive sweet tooth so I love the strawberry compote with caramelised milk granola, brown butter ice cream and a Yuzu custard espuma.
“Liam and I spend loads of time obsessing over what dish we make from the ingredients. That’s’ part of the fun.
“I get the whole team to try the dish as the chefs may think it’s amazing but Laura and Sophia taste from a different perspective. I never want a dish to go on the menu where some people love it and others don’t. I want everyone to think, ‘that’s a nice plate of food’.”
Having a business is very different to being a head chef and Jake says both he and Laura are constantly looking at the bookings.
“We can’t achieve anything without them. The business side of things takes over. Everything at the moment is so new to us and we’re just trying to get into our stride. We’re not looking a year ahead; we’re just looking at every three months. That way we can control things more easily. We can make changes we want to make.”
When it comes to wine, Laura shines and her passion and knowledge about the subject captivates her guests.
“We have a lot of new world wines on the menu as well as classics and some low-intervention wine,” she says.
“We have quite a lot of English sparkling, too – it’s my new thing. I have always been a sucker for Champagne. I love it. I have a wine on called Artelium which is an exceptional English sparkling. It’s one of the best I have tried. Every time I serve it and talk about it, people say ‘that’s unreal’.
“I also have wine on from Tenerife which is a bit of a curveball, but it is going down really well. It’s an organic wine so it’s a nice process to talk to people about and to try and push them a little bit out of their comfort zone – because no one is going to the supermarket to buy Tenerife wine.
“I love Riesling. I would bathe in it if I could! In terms of grape variety, it is so versatile: you can get dry, you can get sweet.”
Asked what their ambitions were for the venue and if a Michelin star or trying to gain any other accolades were on the agenda, Laura says: “For us, it’s a new business and early days. You can’t really think about that. We just want to get our consistency right and get into our rhythm – make sure everything is how we want it and that we’re offering the best experience we can to our guests.”
Faru is open from Wednesday to Saturday and guests can book a 6.30pm, 7.00pm, 7.30pm, 8.00pm or 8.30pm sitting. On Fridays and Saturdays, lunch is served from 12pm to 1.30pm.
For more information, visit faru.co.uk