REVIEW: Casa Rio, West Sunniside, Sunderland

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FOOD fans with a hankering for anything other than Italian and Asian can be left stumped in Sunderland.

However, one eatery is straddling Mediterranean countries to serve Greek and Spanish 
dishes.

The two aren’t often menu bedfellows, so the restaurant has two different ones.

One menu is the Spanish version and the original from this Spanish-themed venue.

The other offers Greek meze morsels. If the choices, which include moussaka (£4.45) and kleftiko (£5.95) look familiar, that’s because they are. They are from the An-Athene restaurant in nearby Frederick 
Street, which is owned by the same people.

As the restaurant is dressed to look like a traditional tapas place – think Spanish flags, barrel tables and terracotta walls – we chose from this menu.

It’s a little dark inside the two-room venue and a little chilly, but the food soon warmed us up.

There’s a fairly large choice of dishes on offer that are reasonably-priced between £3.45 and £4.95, which is cheaper than I’ve seen in chain tapas restaurants.

Particularly purse-pleasing was our starter, a sharing board of mixed cheeses, cured meats, olives, sundried tomatoes and fresh bread.

There was more than enough for two of us and it only set us back £6.95. Had we known how generous it was, we wouldn’t have ordered quite so much tapas.

Staff warned us dishes are prepared fresh on site, so they don’t necessarily arrive at the same time.

Ours did though, and we were soon faced with the prospect of wading through ham and cheese croquettes, chorizo, pork meatballs, gambas pil pil and halloumi.

The gambas pil pil – prawns in garlic, oil and chilli – were not as fiery as I’d hoped, but at least they hadn’t skimped on the main ingredient, as is often the case with this dish.

The meatballs were served in a classic tomato sauce and were plump with flavour. The chorizo, smothered in a red wine and paprika sauce, was also a triumph and reminded me of summer nights spent eating this dish in its birthplace.

Sunniside, of course, is no Costa Del Sol, but for those after an alternative flavour in Sunderland, it’s worth a visit.