REVIEW: Bare pop-up restaurant showcases the power of plants at The Good Apple Cafe, Sunderland

The Good Apple Cafe, Derwent Street, Sunderland

The Good Apple Cafe, Derwent Street, Sunderland

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If something isn’t a hub, it’s ‘pop-up’ and if it isn’t tapas, it’s a tasting menu.

As a nation, we have fallen in love with the unique, the ephemeral and the diverse.

And while it may induce the ire of food critics such as Jay Rayner, it does make sense.

Variety is the spice of life, and a one-night-only burst of different tastes across an array of small courses meets this urge for diversity.

Yet just as the tasting menu looks set to eat itself, Bare has brought an interesting new twist – delivering the format to a more niche audience with all-vegan and vegetarian menus.

The itinerant eatery moves from location to location serving elegant dishes using seasonal and regional ingredients, and we were lucky enough for them to set up shop in Sunderland for the evening on Saturday.

Bare

Bare

Host venue The Good Apple Cafe on Derwent Street scrubbed up well as its earthy interior played host to a more delicate cuisine than that it usually serves up during the day (not that the its in-house offering isn’t usually excellent).

The £25 five-course menu opened with ‘snacks’ – a small shared pot of crispy kale, a miniature teacup artichoke crisps, and sourdough bread.

Tasty and wholesome, it did its job of getting our appetites fired up for the rest of the menu.

Next up was a 15-component salad made up of seasonal and foraged ingredients.

The kale and artichokes made a second appearance here, as well as purple-sprouting broccoli, neatly scattered alongside other plant-based wonders.

The real star of this course, however, was the dressing – zesty and piquant, it made the vegetables sing and dance.

I’d ordered the vegan menu and my date the vegetarian options, and it was on the third course that our roads split in different directions.

While I was brought a wild garlic risotto topped with pine nuts, she was served “cauliflower cheese” – a cauliflower risotto with Northumberland Original cheese and honey.

Mine was a little on the al dente side, but its stodge was a welcome yang to the ying of the lighter salad and snacks.

My dining companion, however, reported hers was too crunchy and she left more than half of it.

“Pre-Dessert” was next in the form of a pine granita. Light and bathed in flavour, it was a good palate-cleanser after the allium notes of the risotto.

For the real deal dessert, our roads split again, taking two different rhubarby routes.

I think vegans were the winners here, with a trio of fluffy mini doughnuts dusted in vanilla sugar served next to a tangy forced rhubarb compote.

Across the table, my vegetarian accomplice was served her rhubarb poached with cardamom ganache and white chunks of “roasted chocolate.”

The ganache, she said, was a little light on cardamom, in her humble opinion.

The Good Apple doesn’t have an alcohol sales licence, but was serving soft drinks – and offered a fair £3 corkage on bring-your-own, allowing us to imbibe of a bottle of white wine, which managed to match all the courses well.

It’s perhaps not the sort of meal I’d like to eat every weekend, but this was a good way to try a range of flavours and ingredients cooked in innovative ways. And it was definitely a great event to bring something different to Sunderland.

Ross Robertson