Review: Libert Brown, Hylton Retail Park, Sunderland

Liberty Brown, Pizza House, Bar and Grill at Hylton Retail park.
Liberty Brown, Pizza House, Bar and Grill at Hylton Retail park.
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IT’S out with the Old Orleans and in with the new at Sunderland’s latest restaurant-cum-bar.

Owners of Liberty Brown have ploughed £400,000-worth of improvements into the former Old Orleans and former Quincy’s restaurant, but was it worth it?

We were about to find out.

The hype surrounding this venture has been big. Mostly due to the fact that Liberty comes from the same stable as high-profile Newcastle watering holes including Florita’s, As You Like It and Mr Lynch.

However, the owner of those successful Toon ventures is in fact a Mackem, Duncan Fisher, who was keen to branch out into his home city.

This site seems an odd choice. In the shadow of a Premier Inn and Hylton Retail Park, and a fair few miles outside of the city centre, it’s a destination venue.

Although it seems to have plenty to draw you in. There’s a bar section for cocktails, organic beers and other beverages, a garden area for children, plenty of parking and, of course, a restaurant area.

I’d visited on the venue’s opening night last month, but it was so busy you couldn’t really get a full picture of what the place was like.

So I returned with colleague Jane in tow to try out the food menu.

It was Friday evening and we hadn’t booked, but there was a sprinkling of tables available.

Though the large, rounded booths, decorated in a shabby-chic style, are the best seats in the house, they’re for larger groups so we were seated at a cosy table for two.

The menu’s simple, yet effective with a good choice of basic dishes: pizzas, burgers and fajitas etc that are in keeping with the laid-back atmosphere.

There’s also a good small person’s meal offer of a starter, main, dessert and bambinocino for £5.95. Bambinochinos seem to be all the rage at the minute – basically baby cappuccinos with hot frothy milk and chocolate powder instead of coffee.

Back in the single, adults world, Jane and I chose to sup cocktails instead. There’s a great choice on offer and they’re a bargain, coming in at about the £3.75 mark.

Food-wise, we chose one of the scrummy-sounding sharing options: the flat bread with marinated olives, houmous, tzatziki and chilli-cream cheese.

The dips were delicious – we could have eaten a plate full of the chilli-cream cheese – well worth the £8.95 price tag, but we expected a home-made flatbread, rather than pitta bread.

Jane chose a light main meal of Japanese-style rare beef and a salad. The beef was perfectly pink and rare and Miss O’Neill liked the concept of having “something small” for portions – more room for dessert.

My choice was more substantial: linguini pasta, king prawns, chilli and garlic (£8.95).

Service was prompt and friendly, but I was slightly disappointed that the pasta was penne and not linguini as stated on the menu.

Though the prawns were plump and tasty, the sauce was slightly bland and I expected it to have more of a kick.

Our shared pudding too – the cheese board – was a bit of let down as it included little cheese and what appeared to be Jacob’s crackers.

The advertised chutney accompaniment was also, in fact, salsa, which neither of us are particularly keen on.

I have been back since this meal though and enjoyed a superb pizza and an amazing risotto to start.

Hopefully, what we encountered was teething problems, but, call us fussy, we had expected to eat what we’d ordered.