Travel: Fine seafood and Georgian opulence at Darlington's Saltfish at Houndgate Townhouse

Georgian opulence and a menu that showcases the best of the North Sea’s larder combine at Saltfish at Houndgate Townhouse.

Set amongst a row of handsome townhouses in the heart of Darlington town centre, Houndgate Townhouse still retains many of the original elegance of the 1770s with its high ceilings, sweeping staircase and sash windows.

It underwent extensive renovation to turn it into luxury accommodation before closing in 2019. But now it’s been given further TLC under new owners Ellie Richmond and Jack Bowles who’ve added a seafood restaurant and wine bar that’s reeling in new custom.

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It’s the latest venture from the pair who put a stylish stamp on their previous businesses: Fox Hole pub, in Piercebridge, near Darlington and The Foxhall Inn on the A66.

Saltfish at Houndgate Townhouse, Darlington town centre

As Darlington enjoys a wave of investment, including becoming the Northern base for The Treasury, and subsequent influx of business travellers, it’s an ideal place to enjoy a break in the North East market town, whether for business or pleasure.

The Rooms

There’s eight double en-suite rooms in total which have all been sympathetically restored to make the most of the original features whilst also creating modern accommodation.

A heritage colour palette flows through the site with neutrals blending with muted purple, sage green and rich blues.

Houndgate Townhouse in Houndgate, Darlington town centre

It’s all very tastefully done with contemporary artworks that vary in each of the rooms and a striking waterfall light feature that spans the length of the staircase.

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We stayed in George Stephenson room, named after the Father of the Railways who drove so much of the trade in this corner of the world. And it’s a room befitting of the local hero with its four-poster bed, roll top iron

bath and windows overlooking the garden outside.

Saltfish wine bar and restaurant

The George Stephenson room. Photo by Tracy Kidd
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Despite its coastal location, the North East is remarkably bereft of dedicated seafood restaurants (chippies aside), but the on site restaurant, Saltfish, really makes the most of the best suppliers from local suppliers, such as Hodgsons of Hartlepool.

Ellie is a great chef who never fails to produce a hearty menu – if you’ve been to her previous ventures you’ll be familiar with her comfort foods.

The menu here is an equally great read, with fresh fish specials, seafood platters, oysters, grilled fish section, as well as non-fish options, Sunday lunches and more.

On our visit, we dived in with Beetroot Cured Salmon, Fennel, Apple & Crème Fraiche Slaw and Dill Oil (£9.95) and Smoked Haddock Scotch Egg, Pickles, and Parsley Dip (£8.50).

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Saltfish restaurant at Houndgate Townhouse

The salmon was a real treat, plenty of slivers of chunky, tender salmon whose naturally mild flavour was elevated with the zingy slaw.

For mains, my choice of Roast Cod Loin, Oyster Mushrooms, Spinach Malfatti, Samphire and Romesco Sauce (£21.95) also proved a real catch.

I was presented with a satisfyingly thick hunk of cod, which flaked into submission with the lightest of pokes, its light flavour complemented with a rich sauce that whisked my tastebuds to Catalan.

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My friend’s choice of whole plaice from the specials board also proved a real showstopper.

As well as the restaurant, you can just call in for drinks at the very impressive indeed wine bar which has a really well-thought-out wine list, as well as draught options and extensive spirit choices.

:: Saltfish is open daily for breakfast, as well as lunch from 12pm-2.30pm and dinner from 5pm to 9pm.

Whole plaice, top, and cod loin mains
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Facilities

Houndgate Townhouse is particularly accessible for those with mobility issues with a disabled lift, downstairs toilet and an adapted Deluxe Super King Room for wheelchair users.

There’s no parking at the townhouse itself, but Feetham’s multi-storey car park is just behind for overnight parking.

Prices

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Room rates are £110-£140 per room bed and breakfast.

Oysters from the Saltfish menu
There's eight rooms in total. Photo by Tracy Kidd.
The wine bar leads into the restaurant
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Houndgate Townhouse makes the most of its Georgian features