Stuart Forster reviews Sunday lunch at Sunderland Stadium of Light’s Riverview Brasserie.
The Riverview Brasserie, at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, now serves Sunday lunch on non-match days.
Disclosure: Stuart Forster, the author of this post, was invited to dine as a guest of the Riverview Brasserie, which 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 in the 2016-17 season crushed a passion for club I’ve supported since childhood.
We were shown to table number six in the brasserie’s sizable modern dining room. Six is the squad number of Sunderland AFC midfielder Lee Cattermole, I thought as we were seated. The flame of passion may have been doused but perhaps a pilot light still flickers? Deep down I can’t help but hope that as the season progresses my interest will be rekindled by quality performances and victories.
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 mid-August, it features four or five options under each of the three courses — no 4-4-2 here — including vegetarian dishes. 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 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 waitress 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 butterscotch sauce.
Lunch at the Riverview Brasserie
The Riverview Brasseries is on the third floor of the stadium. On match days it’s where four-course meals are served to guests attending with 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. Those teams will face each other this season in the Sky Bet Championship. In the late 19th century they counted among England’s most successful clubs.
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 a then mighty Leeds United team is still talked of fondly on Wearside.
Opposite the lift that leads up 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, meaning its worth heading over to the windows.
Sunderland Stadium of Light
Dining at the Riverview Brasserie is a way of visiting the Stadium of Light, whose 48,707-capacity makes 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 plus Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have also performed summer concerts at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland AFC currently play in the Sky Bet Championship, England’s second tier. After ten consecutive seasons in the Premier League that means there have been a number of empty seats at the stadium during the opening home games of the current 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 to the Riverview Brasserie to order another beef. Hopefully I’ll have no beefs when I eventually return to watch the team play.
The Riverview Brasserie is in the Stadium of Light, Sunderland (tel. 0371 911 1555).
Why not visit the Riverview Brasserie as part of a Sunday out exploring Sunderland? Take a look at the See it Do It Sunderland website for an overview of attractions in the city.
Photos illustrating this post are by Stuart Forster.
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