Sunderland Restaurant Week: 17 – 25 March 2018

The first Sunderland Restaurant Week of 2018 takes place from 17 to 25 March. More than 40 cafés and restaurants will participate. Diners can take advantage of two- or three-course menus costing £10 or 15 respectively. During the daytime, participating cafes will feature £5 offers.

This is the third Sunderland Restaurant Week. Since the previous event, held during September 2017, a handful of new dining establishments have opened in and around the city centre.

El Nido, Skull, Mexican
A decorated, Mexican-style skull and cocktails at El Nido.

El Nido Mexican restaurant

One of them is El Nido (46a Frederick Street). Located at basement level, El Nido is a compact, Mexican-themed dining space and bar. At the time of my visit El Nido’s proprietors were in the process of launching a new menu.

Spiced chicken, El Nido
Spiced chicken topping a dish served at El Nido.

The starters on the existing menus included guacamole, tortilla chips and chilaquiles. Recommended for sharing, the latter are tortilla chips topping with salsa, cheese and a choice of meat.

During Sunderland Restaurant Week El Nido is offering the combination of a starter and a burrito or two tacos for £10. For an extra £5 diners can add a dessert or a cocktail to their meal. When it comes to cocktails, the house specials include smoky Negronis, made with mezcal, and Margaritas.

Cocktails, Margaritas, El Nido
Margaritas served at El Nido Mexican restaurant.

No. 2 Church Lane

No. 2 Church Lane (whose address is, unsurprisingly, the same as its name) stands opposite Sunderland’s Empire Theatre. This bar-restaurant is a popular place to dine before shows. It opened during the summer of 2016 and the menu features several vegan and vegetarian options.

At its heart, this is a fashionable burgers and beer joint: a place to gorge on comfort food. A casual dining space, No. 2 Church Lane is characterised by chalkboards and walls of exposed brick and stone.

Vegetarian burger
Vegetarian burger served at No. 2 Church Lane.

Looking for a Big Mac? You’ll not find one of those here. You will, though, be able to order a Big Mackem, named after the nickname for people from Sunderland. The chargrilled El Pollo del Diablo — butterflied chicken in Cajun spice — is a burger that I’d return to eat.

The halloumi fries, served with a selection of dipping sauces, proved such a hit that none were left when I returned to grab a second helping.

During Sunderland Restaurant Week a burger and fries is available for £5. Two courses costs £10 per person while three are priced at £15.

Chicken Burger, Fries
Cajun-spiced blackened chicken burger served with fries at No. 2 Church Lane.

The Engine Room at The Fire Station

The Engine Room at The Fire Station (High Street West) opened in November 2017 and hosted a royal visit during February. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stopped by on the same day that they crossed the city’s new Northern Spire Bridge.

Sunderland’s former city centre fire station stood empty for nearly a quarter of a century. £5 million was invested in the building’s conversion into a sizable yet cosy food-led pub. Firefighters’ helmets are displayed on the tiled wall and above the bar, which stocks a decent selection of hand-pulled ales.

The Engine Room’s menu features the likes of seafood chowder, salt and pepper squid and pulled pork nachos among its starters and light bites section. Burgers, steaks plus fish and chips count among the main course options. During Sunderland Restaurant Week three courses will be available for £15.

The Engine Room at The Fire Station in Sunderland.
The Engine Room at The Fire Station.

A visit to The Peacock

The Peacock (287 High Street West) has opened at the triangular premises that were formerly known as The Londonderry pub. The renovation of the Edwardian, Grade II Listed Building has removed the Londonderry’s notoriously sticky floor. Dingy décor is also a thing of the past. I was pleasantly surprised by The Peacock’s inviting interior. Light and spacious, it features the Sunderland Room, on the ground floor, where framed photos from around the city are displayed.

After sampling one of the ales, a plum stout, I tucked into a selection of desserts. The pick of the bunch had to be a cheesecake that works in a slice of carrot cake: two dishes that I’d normally ponder between choosing.

During Sunderland Restaurant Week three courses will be available for £15 at The Peacock.

The nine-day event promises diners an opportunity to test out restaurants that they haven’t yet visited or a chance to return to favourite haunts and pay less than usual.

A cheese burger served at The Engine Room.
A cheese burger served at The Engine Room.

Further information

Sunderland Restaurant Week is organised by Sunderland Bid, which publishes the quarterly Vibe Magazine about happenings in the city. Vouchers for dining at participating restaurants can be downloaded from the Sunderland BID website.

Follow the #EatDrinkSunderland hashtag on social media to view food photos and find out the latest developments about the restaurant week.

Photography illustrating this post is by Why Eye Photography. Specialising in food, travel and portrait photography, Why Eye Photography is based in the north-east of England and available for commissions across the region.

Stuart Forster, the author of this post, can be commissioned to write food and travel features.

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Disclosure: I visited the restaurants mentioned above during a group ‘safari supper’ showcasing four of the venues participating in the third Sunderland Restaurant Week.

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