Stuart Forster reviews Sunday lunch at Sunderland Stadium of Light’s Riverview Brasserie.
The Riverview Brasserie, at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, served Sunday lunch on non-match days throughout the 2017-18 season.
Disclosure: Stuart Forster, the author of this post, was invited to dine as a guest of the Riverview Brasserie on 20 August 2017. Sunderland Association Football Club did not review or approve this post.
It was the prospect of food rather than football that prompted me to return to the Stadium of Light. As a fan of Sunderland, recent seasons have been lacklustre and painful. Watching the team’s disappointing performances during the 2016-17 season dulled my passion for a club I’ve supported since childhood.
We were shown to table number six in the brasserie’s sizable modern dining room. At the time of writing, six is the squad number of Sunderland AFC midfielder Lee Cattermole.
Though the flame of my passion for football has been doused, a pilot light continues to flicker. Deep down, I hope that the football club soon return to the top level of English football.
Selection at the Stadium of Light
Perusing the Sunday lunch menu was the first time that I’ve looked down anything other than a team sheet at the Stadium of Light.
Introduced in August 2017, the menu features four or five options under each of the three courses, including vegetarian dishes — no 4-4-2 formation here! The drinks list includes a selection of draught and bottled beers, along with reasonably priced wines, most of which are available by the bottle.
Among the starters, the duck and port pate, served with local chutney and toasted sourdough bread, caught my eye. The Newcastle fan accompanying me quickly went for that. We had a game plan worked out for our visit to the Stadium of Light — we’d agreed to choose different options.
Like a tumbling player looking in vain for a penalty, the leek and potato soup appealed but, ultimately, did not convince. Instead, I ordered the prawn cocktail, served with brown bread fingers. It was a decent choice but the robust flavour and texture of the pate and toast proved the winner in the early exchanges.
A traditional Sunday lunch
The main course dishes included an Emmental cheese soufflé and a cod loin wrapped in Parma ham. On a different day either could have ended up in front of me but I was set on a traditional British roast.
The beef, served with a Yorkshire pudding and gravy, proved succulent and filling. The herb-crusted rack of lamb was also tasty and well presented. Our attentive server ensured we had plenty of vegetables to accompany our choices of meat.
Hearty portions meant we decided to share just one dessert between us — a spiced orange and Drambuie pudding accompanied by a butterscotch sauce.
Lunch at the Riverview Brasserie
The Riverview Brasserie is on the stadium’s third floor. On match days it’s the restaurant where four-course meals are served to guests attending with premium hospitality packages. The restaurant is accessible via the ground’s main entrance.
For fans of football’s history, that means an opportunity to view the world’s oldest painting of the sport. Thomas M. M. Henry’s vast work was completed in 1895 and hangs behind the reception desk. It depicts a game played between Sunderland and Aston Villa.
Heading towards the lift that leads to the brasserie takes visitors past a glass cabinet holding the mac, trilby hat and red tracksuit of former manager Bob Stokoe. The man nicknamed The Messiah led Sunderland to an improbable FA Cup triumph in 1973. The 1 – 0 victory at Wembley Stadium over the then mighty Leeds United team is still talked of fondly on Wearside.
Opposite the lift that rises to the Riverview Brasserie stands a cabinet displaying medals, old football jerseys and other memorabilia.
As the name of the brasserie suggests, the dining room overlooks a curve in the River Wear. It is worth heading over to the windows to view the sweep of the riverside along which ships used to be built.
Sunderland Stadium of Light
Dining at the Riverview Brasserie is a way of visiting the Stadium of Light, whose 48,707-capacity made it England’s sixth largest football ground at the beginning of the 2017-18 season.
The first league match played at the stadium, in 1997, saw Sunderland beat Manchester City 3 – 1. It has subsequently hosted Premier League and England international fixtures. The likes of Oasis, Take That as well as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have also performed summer concerts at the Stadium of Light.
At the time of this review, Sunderland AFC play in the Sky Bet Championship, England’s second tier. After ten consecutive seasons in the Premier League, there have been a number of empty seats at the stadium during the opening home games of the 2017-18 season. That was also true of Riverview Brasserie as we ate Sunday lunch. Of course, a promotion may well change that. The brasserie can do that in the short term via local radio stations but the football team will have a play an entire season.
I’d happily revisit the Riverview Brasserie for another roast dinner. Hopefully, I’ll have no beef with performances on the pitch when I eventually return to watch the team play.
The Riverview Brasserie is in the Stadium of Light, Sunderland (tel. 0371 911 1555).
Thinking of visiting Sunderland? Take a look at the See it Do It Sunderland website for an overview of attractions in the city in North East England.
This post was written by Stuart Forster, an award-winning travel and food writer from North East England.
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