WITH the number of independent outlets slowly dwindling in Sunderland, we should really do our best to support our traders and shop local.
I stand guilty of often heading to the nearest global-brand coffee chain for my caffeine injection.
So, in a break from the norm, I met a chum for lunch at one of the city’s smattering of individual coffee shops.
Biz-R’s got a prime spot on the corner of Bridge Street and High Street West – though its Continental feel with tables for al fresco dining is somewhat negated by the busy road it’s situated upon.
I visited on Thursday lunchtime and the place was choc-a-bloc with a mixture of diners from pensioners enjoying a leisurely lunch, to office workers grabbing a quick bite to eat on the run.
The decor has a charm of its own with a primary colours-based scheme and Jack Vetrriano-style prints peppered across the walls.
I visited during that mini-heatwave we encountered a couple of weeks back, so we hovered around the outside tables and swooped once one became available.
You have to order at the counter, but staff will bring it to your table if you’re eating in.
The menu offers pretty standard fare.
There’s a glass-fronted cabinet brimming with various paninis and toasted sandwiches. Flavours included BBQ chicken and mozzarella, avocado and sun-dried tomato, Mexican chicken, feta cheese and roast vegetable and more.
Toasted paninis are £3.95, but you can save some pennies by going for a toastie version which is just £1.90.
If you’re after something more substantial, look to the chalk boards which offer choices of soup of the day (£4.10), pasta dishes such as salmon pasta bake (£5.10) and jacket potatoes with a variety of fillings from £3.95.
I chose the chicken, bacon and tomato panini with salad. It arrived promptly and was laden with yumminess. Dining chum Helen enjoyed munching down on her Mexican chicken option too, which was again generously filled.
I was particularly impressed with the drinks menu which boasts a big choice of coffees, teas, iced coffees, smoothies, yoggies (yoghurt-based smoothies), freshly-squeezed juice and even beer and wine.
I’m a big fan of Starbucks’ frappuccinos on a hot day, but Biz R’s iced mocha gave it a good run for its money. So much so, that I ordered a second one as Helen and I enjoyed our seat in the sunshine.
Though we had nabbed a prime table in the sun’s glare, we felt no pressure to free up the table – a pet gripe of mine.
I’m not a big pudding-lover, but those with a sweet tooth can pick from a choice of, what looked like, homemade delights. Date and walnut cake, lemon cake, farmhouse cake, caramel slices and more were all on offer on our visit.
My only quibble with Biz-R is that you can’t pay by card, so make sure to pack your paper money.