Where are the North East hotspots when it comes to dining? Newcastle? Durham? Or towns like Yarm and Hexham with their range of boutique restaurants?
Step up to the plate – literally – Sunderland, which may not be the place that comes immediately to mind, but that’s all set to change as the city takes its place as one of the most exciting and fast developing scenes in the North East region.
The change in the dining offered in Sunderland is a reflection of what’s happening in the city as a whole – with millions of pounds’ worth of investment to ensure it takes its rightful place as one of the North East’s leading cities.
From vintage teashops to restaurants which cater almost exclusively for carnivores, to vegan specialists and exotic food from around the world, Sunderland’s restaurant scene is developing at breakneck speed. If further evidence of that was needed then look no further than the city’s Restaurant Week, which recently returned for its fourth incarnation and saw thousands of people downloading vouchers allowing them to take advantage of day and night-time deals.
Driving awareness of Sunderland’s burgeoning restaurant scene is the city’s Business Improvement District, which not only organises Restaurant Week but has also created a food guide, which helps promote its aims of showcasing the area as somewhere to live, work and spend leisure time.
Sharon Appleby, head of business operations at Sunderland BID, believes the variety of restaurants in the city is at an all time high. “People seem genuinely – and pleasantly – surprised when they visit the city and see the variety of places we have to eat,” she said. “There is literally every kind of cuisine you can possibly think of and it’s a list which is continuing to grow as more and more new restaurants open.”
So put on your walking shoes – and your stretchy pants – as here’s our area by area guide to enjoying the best of what Sunderland has to offer.
PARK LANE AND SURROUNDING AREA
Fine dining is available at CITY BISTRO, the training restaurant which is part of Sunderland College. Here, they teach the next generation of top chefs and diners can benefit from top-quality food at very reasonable prices. You can even book in advance and enjoy the chef’s table so you can eat and watch your food being prepared.
Head to nearby Derwent Street and enjoy THE GOOD APPLE CAFÉ, which specialises in vegan and veggie food. Try the mouth-watering breakfasts or watch for the daily specials.
Further down the same street you’ll find ENFES, which specialises in Turkish dishes.
Next street up is Olive Street and here you’ll find the recently opened KINGS INDIAN TAPAS LOUNGE.
Back in Park Lane and it’s always worth a trip to PORT OF CALL, with a menu which boasts “meat, seafood and rum” – what’s not to love? It also has a tipi at the back.
You’ll also find in this same area one of Sunderland’s longest standing and much – loved cafes – LOUIS. Cosy and casual, it’s a great stop-off point for no-nonsense sandwiches, scones and other favourites.
If there’s one area of the city which has come into its own in terms of food, it’s Sunniside. From High Street West to Sunniside itself, look no further for a truly amazing range of offerings.
ANGELO’S at Sunniside is for anyone who really wants to sample genuine Italian cuisine. A multi-award-winning restaurant, it offers superb pasta and other Latin staples cooked in an authentic fashion.
Further down that same road you’ll find THAI BAY, which has deservedly become a huge city favourite. Genuinely delicious oriental dishes with a fun bar where you can also eat or just enjoy a drink before you dine.
In nearby Frederick Street, you’ll find the recently opened EL NIDO, the first in a number of new Mexican taquerias which have opened in the city. Cool and intimate, it has an authentic cantina feel.
The UK’s first branch of DÖNER HAUS, has elevated the humble Berlin-style kebab to fine dining status – find it in High Street West.
Head further down the street and stop off at KATIE’S GARDEN – particularly if you’ve got kids in tow. This magical, vintage teashop also runs craft sessions while you’re visiting.
While we’re on the subject of vintage – don’t miss out on SERENDIPITY TEA AND TRINKETS back in Frederick Street. Home-made cakes served on vintage crockery in a fabulous setting and with a brilliant cocktail list.
At the far end of High Street West you’ll also find ARABESQUE, the city’s only Egyptian restaurant. Easy to spot because of its impressive brass front door, it is styled liked a bazaar with a range of superb authentic Middle Eastern dishes on offer.
A short walk will also take you to the Echo 24 Building which is the home of one of the city’s most popular restaurants, ASIANA, which offers an eclectic mix of delicious oriental favourites.
MOWBRAY PARK AND SURROUNDING AREA
Against the picturesque backdrop of Sunderland’s city centre park, you can also find some real gems when it comes to dining. A firm favourite at Borough Road is THE FUNKY INDIAN TAPAS RESTAURANT which offers small plates of Indian food in the titular funky setting.
At near by John Street, tucked away in a basement is D’ACQUA, a stylish and muchin-demand eatery, which offers a range of Mediterranean classics with a twist.
Further up John Street is OLIVE AFFAIRE, a Greek restaurant which serves a range of traditional favourites.
At the other side of the park you’ll also find Sunderland’s Museum and Winter Gardens and if you want a pit stop from viewing the exhibits, you’ll find the café and restaurant has recently been taken over by HOLMESIDE COFFEE which offers great fresh food for those on the go.
EMPIRE THEATRE AND SURROUNDING AREA
If there was ever an area which has become the heart of the growing food scene in Sunderland, it’s around the Empire Theatre. First stop is definitely NO 2 CHURCH LANE, a burger bar with a difference. Huge, home-made burgers and hand cut chips like your granny used to make with a great veggie and vegan menu too.
And just across the road is THE ENGINE ROOM, part of Sunderland’s refurbished Fire Station complex. Think less North East and more New York with this uber stylish eatery which serves superior pub grub.
Just a few steps away is THE PEACOCK, the former Londonderry Pub which has been transformed into a great place for a pint – but with a no nonsense food menu too.
Also situated in this area is THE DUN COW, with a family friendly menu of great food.
New restaurants are constantly springing up in Sunderland – at the time of going to print another new Mexican restaurant is due to open and Hotel Chocolat has just launched a shop/café in the city centre. Don’t forget The Looking Glass too, which has recently opened in Athenaeum Street. It’s an ever-evolving restaurant scene – check out sunderlandbid.co.uk for more information.