SANTA has arrived ... and he’s warming his bottom at Liberty Brown.
And it really is him, just ask our Isaac.
After a storytime session with the bearded one, our eight-year-old, clutching his special gift, pulled me to one side and confirmed: “He’s this year’s Santa.”
I expect the “this year’s” bit is our Isaac’s way of explaining to himself how Santa appears to change depending on which Santa he’s confronted with. I mean, there’s so many of them about.
At Liberty Brown, the build up to the meeting probably clinched the deal.
As part of the Liberty Brown Santa experience you have face-painters and balloon modellers plying their trade before you embark on a carrot hunt with the elves. That hunt leads you to Santa’s Magical Grotto where you’re greeted by Santa, and yes, he is warming his bottom on a log fire.
All very Christmassy, particularly Santa’s booming delivery laced with plenty of throaty “ho, ho hos.” All that excitement builds up an appetite.
We took up the Santa Grotto experience and followed up with a festive Sunday lunch roast.
Liberty Brown may advertise itself as a pizza house, bar and grill, but its Sunday dinners are up there with the best.
Not surprisingly, our two boys and the wife, full of Christmas spirit, opted for the turkey, which arrived in healthy portions.
The kids’ meals come as part of a meal deal that, for them, included garlic dough ball starters and ice lolly desserts.
I opted for the beef, which is served either pink or beyond pink.
Liberty Brown, like its sister site As You Like It in Jesmond, does not skimp on the quality. The restaurant boasts that it sources its ingredients locally and favours organic produce. Its kids menu is 100 per cent organic and it even has organic beer … brewed by monks, no less.
Our Sunday dinners arrived with all the trimmings, giant Yorkshire puddings, nobbly carrots, mash, turnip, roasties and an extra gravy boat for those who like to drown their dinners. The meal slipped down as easily as Santa down a chimney, barely leaving room for dessert.
We choose to share pud, and after some arm wrestling it was the chocolate caramel tart with mascarpone vanilla cream that won the day.
The Sunday dinner costs you a very competitive £8.95, though you can supersize to a trio of Sunday roasts on the plate for £11.95 if you’re feeling particularly peckish. Two courses will set you back £12.95, but the three-course children’s Sunday dinner plus a drink is just £5.95.
For a festive feed full of Christmas cheer, Liberty Brown delivers and to top off that warm glow, a portion of the money from every Santa visit goes to the Grace House Hospice Appeal. Magic!
* Santa’s Magical Grotto costs £8, booked in advance. Call 0191 516 9009 or log on to www.libertybrown.com
Liberty Brown, Hylton Retail Park, off Timber Road, Sunderland Enterprise Park.