A new restaurant in Sunderland city centre that’s not an Italian or Indian?
Choosing to bring a flavour of Greece to Wearside made an impression on us before we’d even stepped through the door at An-Athene.
It’s easy to miss the door, in fact. It’s tucked downstairs in Frederick Street in the former Paprika which, though small in size, was always a big favourite with diners.
This new culinary kid on the block is as dinky as its predecessor with only a handful of covers, but it makes for a cosy and quaint setting for a meal.
The decor is simple but sweet with Meditteranean-inspired terracotta walls, feature walls that look like a little library and candle jars on the tables.
The menu too is brief but we found more than enough to satisfy our rumbling tums.
It’s a selection of mezedes and meze which is like a Greek tapas, small plates for a pick ‘n’ mix selection of food which are designed to be shared.
We started with the mezedes section, which is like a starter section, but you can order it all together with the main Meze section if you’d prefer.
It’s got all the Greek classics: feta, olives and tzatziki as well as dippy bits from further afield, such as houmous.
We ordered the latter and were presented with a good-sized portion for £3.45. It tasted more fiery, chunky and fresh than shop-bought houmous and I’d put money on the fact it was rustled up by hand behind the scenes.
The meze section is split into three sections: veggie, meat and fish with six or seven choices in each.
Halloumi is a particular favourite of mine so that was a must-choose. Priced £4.45, we got three substantial slabs for our pennies which, though fried, wasn’t lathered in grease, and proved deliciously gooey as we tore the chunks open.
It was joined on our table by gandes – saganaki tiger prawns in garlic, tomato, peppers and feta which were as good as any I’ve had abroad.
We also tucked into kleftico (£5.95) – lamb topped with herbs and feta –which wasn’t as rich as I’ve had before but still hit the spot taste-wise.
They’d managed to prepare the kalamarakia (squid, priced £4.95) perfectly too – it’s so disappointing when the dish descends into a rubbery mess.
We steered clear of pudding despite being sorely tempted by the baklava – filo pastry laced with nuts and honey – which is priced £3.95.
In keeping with the menu’s theme, there’s a Greek yoghurt on there too though the inclusion of Cornish ice cream seemed a little incongruous.
They’d run out of chicken for the chicken souvlaki and houmous – we’d tried to order a second round as it was so delicious – and we were unable to pay by card as there wasn’t a card machine yet but I’m sure these were just teething problems for this fledgeling business.
We left feeling satisfied but not overly-stuffed and it was refreshing to dine out on cuisine that’s not common place on Sunderland menus.