REVIEW: Roker Hotel, Sunderland, following its 4 star upgrade

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Things are looking nautical and nice at the Roker Hotel as it celebrates being bumped up from a three star site to a four star hotel.

The upgrade is thanks in part to the renovations of its rooms, which have been given a Mackem makeover.

One of the new rooms at the Roker

One of the new rooms at the Roker

In keeping with its location in Roker, where some rooms offer uninterrupted views of the landmark pier as it stretches out to sea, owners Tavistock Hospitality have brought the outdoors in and given the rooms a new shipshape theme.

Murals hark back to picture postcard scenes of yesteryear Roker, light fixtures are strung with old ships’ rope, telescopes at the period windows offer a closer view of the North Sea and there’s even complimentary seaside rock in the rooms, just to remind you that life’s a beach here.

The rooms are the latest redevelopment at the site which in recent years has seen the creation of Let There Be Crumbs cakery, the Italian Farmhouse and Poetic License bar and distillery.

The latter has become the jewel in the crown of the new chapter here, with its eponymous gin going on to be stocked at high-end retailers and bars, as well as racking up numerous drinks awards.

On a stay at the hotel we headed downstairs to see what all the fuss was about on a gin tasting night, which are going to be offered at the bar in the coming months. As the gin is made on site in Gracie, the 500-litre still that looms large in all her gleaming glory at the back of the bar, the staff can’t help but be knowledgeable about their ‘Mother’s Ruin’.

We tried the classics, which have helped make the brand’s name, such as Old Tom, a traditional dry gin, and Northern Dry Gin, a punchy number with hints of juniper, cardamom, pepper and citrus. Make sure to wet your whistle with the new rarity, a smooth blend of cherry and basil. It’s a limited gin though, with only around 500 bottles made, so catch it while you can.

After all that gin, we’d worked up an appetite and we didn’t have far to go - ten yards, in fact. The Roker’s pretty much a one-stop shop for accommodation, food and drinks, so we ate at the Poetic License bar.

Being in a hotel, the food’s an informal affair and the summer menu offers what they call soul food. It doesn’t feature the gumbo and cornbread you’d expect of a menu dubbed ‘soul food’, but it’s hearty stuff all the same – a good selection of burgers, flatbreads, Mexican, meaty ribs and more.

Gin tasting at Poetic License

Gin tasting at Poetic License

We went for one of the oh-so-trendy hanging skewers which arrived, as you’d expect, on a hanging skewer, a more dramatic presentation than the humble plate,

Bar food can be hit and miss, but the lamb (£9.95) was beautifully tender and came punctuated with peppers and drizzled with tzatziki.

Along with our sides, the portions are plentiful for the price - they have a licence to fill! But, thankfully, we didn’t have far to roll ourselves back to our room with a view.

Hanging kebab at Poetic License

Hanging kebab at Poetic License