SUNDERLAND’S coffee shop culture is still in its fledgling days, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality.
Take Cafe Roco for example.
Once a derelict shell of an Italian restaurant and newsagents, these two Grade II listed buildings have been extensively renovated to create a venue that’s definitely worth a visit.
In the shadow of the Museum and Winter Gardens, it offers pretty views of the park and is perfect for whiling away the hours on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
It’s a big coffee shop, with plenty of space for buggies or bulging shopping bags and though it was busy, we didn’t struggle for a seat.
Decor-wise, it’s got a touch of Parisian chic with large gold ornate mirrors while black and white photos on the walls hark back to yesteryear Sunderland.
The menu has plenty to get you licking your lips. There’s a good choice of breakfast options, but as we arrived post 11am we chose from the main menu.
The choices are simple – sandwiches, pastas, jacket potatoes and salad – but there’s plenty of unusual options that will leave you struggling to decide on just one, from the delicious-sounding roasted red peppers, brie and pesto option to the Spanish club sandwich (chorizo, avocado, sun-dried tomato and rocket.)
You can also choose to make your own sandwich from a big selection that includes pepper pastrami, crispy aromatic duck, feta, brie, crayfish tails and other yummy fillings.
A sandwich with one filling is £2.50, £2.90 for two and 50p for each extra filling after that.
I chose one of the speciality sandwiches, the Spiced Roco – chicken escalope, cheddar, bacon and sweet chilli.
For my £3.75, I was presented with a whopping sandwich that didn’t skimp on ingredients which was served with a side serving of marinated pasta.
It was scrumptious, just what you want on a pit stop from shopping, and was a bargain to boot.
My friend chose from the baked rustic sandwiches option – the crispy bacon, brie and spiced apple chutney.
It was also purse-friendly at £3.50 for a generous portion.
Tummies full, we had to resist the delicious-looking cupcakes and French pastries at the counter and instead opted for two large lattes (£2.05) which brought our bill to £11.
Though the place was busy, we didn’t feel rushed to free up our table – which is often the case at chain coffee shops.
Indeed, Cafe Roco is a lovely place to linger, read some of the magazines provided or catch up on emails using the free Wifi.