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The resurgence of the restaurant and culinary scene in downtown Durham has been mighty impressive. Over the past several years, burgers, pizza and beer along with national recognition have been showered upon the Bull City. But as an ethnic food lover, I was always concerned that the food scene wasn’t quite diverse enough in downtown Durham. But things are slowly changing in the Bull City, thanks to addition of the Viceroy on Main Street! This new, Indo-British gastropub has made a splash in downtown Durham. From food to decor and service, the Viceroy has come out of the gate strong with room to get even better. Why am I impressed? Read on about my first two visits to Viceroy…
Given the newness of the Viceroy, the signage up front is still not complete but just look for the armor stand and VIC decal at 331 W. Main Street. Even though the Viceroy bills itself as a pub, it has a hostess stand up front because it’s usually busy. The deep, rich scents of Indian food waft through the air here, a good sign. The Viceroy sports a smallish bar on the left and a long dining room to the right. In between the two spaces is a narrow table with stools for quick dining. Booths are lined up on the sidewall while 4-tops fill in the rest of the space. The decor at the Viceroy is detailed and eclectic, filled with lovely touches, rich wallpaper and hanging lamps. Viceroy’s walls are covered with vintage Victorian images and the ambiance is cozy and warm, great for a date!
Now let’s move on to the Viceroy menu, it’s a bit small with maybe 15 items in total. Given that Viceroy’s origins are from a food truck, the tight menu makes more sense. You can choose to go the more Indian route but there are also a handful of British favorites such as a pasties and shepherd’s pie. Over my two visits I can say that the appetizers shine. Make sure you try the pasty, I’ve done an oxtail and corned beef pasty which showcases a tender flaky crusty wrapped around tasty braised meat! The sausage rolls on the current menu also feature the pasty dough, delicious.
Don’t miss the spicy gobi sukha, tender cauliflower florets fried with a spicy melange of onions, peppers and curry leaves. Love the simplicity and flavor behind this vegetarian dish. And the madras scotch egg I tried was decent, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the deep-fried egg and sausage app. Most appetizers are in the $7 to $9 range, very reasonable.
The main entrees are in the $13 to $19 range which is great for downtown Durham and focuses on Indian dishes including tandoor (clay oven fired meat). Spiciness at Viceroy is from a range of 1 to 6 and on the money. You will get some sniffles if you order up a 3 or 4 and watch out at the high end! I’ve ordered up my favorite chicken tikka masala which goes by the name mug mykanwala at Viceroy. It’s a nice version of tikka masala served up with some slivers of ginger on top and basmati rice. My only concern was the $17 price for a smallish portion of this Indian favorite. An order of cumin-charred jeera wings really brought the heat nicely and is served up with flavorful onions and peppers, wow!
Service at the Viceroy is decent, they seemed well-trained but just a bit inexperienced given the newness of the restaurant when I’ve visited. Given Viceroy’s popularity, they tend to be a bit busy which will also impact service levels. But not a big deal and to be expected in the opening months of any new spot, I would expect it to settle down soon. Overall the Viceroy is a wonderfully decorated, warm eatery for good Indian food. And while I typically go bare-bones and inexpensive for my ethnic eats (i.e. cheap), Viceroy does a nice job of walking the line between upscale eatery and authentic flavors. They are off to a very good start and if the crowds we saw during our visit was any indication of their popularity, I’d have to say that downtown Durham was dying for some decent Indian eats! So welcome to the hood, Viceroy, I’m looking forward to my next, spicy visit…