By Georga Spottiswood
Pictures on social media, a fellow journalist’s review in the newspaper, customer comments in food groups – I’d heard so much about The Lamp Room but had never eaten there.
I say “not eaten”, I’d tried the food after Savour’s lead photographer, Sean Elliott, and I had been to the bistro-cum-restaurant on Seaham’s seafront during food shoots for the magazine – but that’s not exactly eating out.
What I mean is sitting down with friends, socialising over food and soaking up the atmosphere.
So the ladies and I booked. Now, I wouldn’t normally jump straight to the point. Writing a review is similar to the art of food, the chef teasing you with an amuse-bouche – to give you a flavour of what’s to come.
I’m going to skip right past the appetiser, delve into the mains and say this place is outstanding. And since my first visit, I’ve been back on a number of occasions. I even had a phone call from a friend the other evening asking where he could take a lady on a first date. “The Lamp Room,” was my instant reply. Even if they didn’t hit it off, they’d at least remember the food.
It was a Thursday evening when the ladies and I dined at The Lamp Room – it’s only open on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening, and Monday to Sunday during the day.
We started with cocktails: a strawberry daiquiri; expresso martini and a mango daiquiri. I don’t have a sweet tooth, so mine was the martini. It’s not exactly hard to get this cocktail right, but trust me, I’ve had some bad ones. This, however, was tremendous.
We were sat in the best seat in the house, in my opinion. A leather booth with views to the green and the statue of world-famous WW1 soldier Tommy. Beyond that is Seaham’s rugged coastline, and if you’re dining by day at The Lamp Room, a stroll down to the beach is a must.
Owners Russ and Mel even offer a tea and coffee take-away service so you can enjoy a cuppa on the green grassy area outside if the sun’s shining.
There are two evening menus: tapas, and surf and turf. Although the latter features Lindisfarne oysters, oyster shots with Bloody Mary, fillet steak and half a lobster and other seafood delights, we went for the tapas.
We’re recommended two to three per person by our waitress – who is extremely friendly, professional and knows the menu like the back of her hand, a must when you have guests like us who are indecisive. There’s just too much to choose from and it’s all very tempting.
Halloumi and chorizo; chicken yakitori; duck spring rolls; belly pork; calamari; Thai lobster curry; ginger chilli beef, tempura prawns, sliders and a mini surf and turf is what she recommends. So, we order it all and it makes its way to our table neatly presented as a tapas tower.
The slow-cooked belly pork is crispy and juicy and is complemented by Doreen’s black pudding and minted pea purée. The black pudding is baked, rather than boiled, giving it a more meaty taste – which works perfectly with the the belly pork.
The calamari is misshaped, it’s cut into rings and strips for texture and, unlike perfectly shaped frozen rings, this stuff is fresh.
For a bistro and restaurant in Seaham, lobster flies off the menu. We watch as a fillet steaks and half lobsters are placed on the table beside us. We get glad eye – and take our surf and turf dish and Thai lobster curry down from the tower and tuck in.
The lobster meat is cooked in a Thai red sauce and served with a jasmine rice and lime and coriander yoghurt dip. It has the perfect amount of chilli and hints of lemongrass.
The dishes are all top-drawer – and we wash them down with a bottle of Malbec and a dry white (£22.95 each).
The wine list is another plus point. The Lamp Room has a good selection, and not just your standard stuff either. Russ and Mel are currently in the process of putting their staff on wine courses, so their front-of-house service includes wine waiters, too.
This bistro is no ordinary bistro, it’s forward thinking, its staff are cheerful and informative and the food? Well, this place knows what it’s doing.
Our bill, for the three of us, comes to £137.14. www.thelamproom.co.uk