REVIEW: City Bistro, Sunderland College city centre campus

Sunderland College City Centre Campus, City Bistro restaurant.
Sunderland College City Centre Campus, City Bistro restaurant.
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Students have swapped cooking the books for cooking up fine fare at this latest addition to the city centre.

Following on from the success of The Lounge, the commercial restaurant at Hylton Campus, City Bistro is giving diners the chance to enjoy purse-friendly food with flair while students get the chance to flex their culinary muscles.

Salmon on risotto

Salmon on risotto

They have help, of course, in the form of head chef Kelvin Linstead, whose CV comes with some clout, after stints at Peace & Loaf in Jesmond, Jesmond Dene House and Slaley Hall in Northumberland.

Like The Lounge, the restaurant is open to the public for lunch on Wednesdays and lunch and dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but this time it’s housed within the brand spanking new £29million campus.

The new setting knocks socks off the last one and is a large 80-seater restaurant decked out in cool blues and muted hues, with a large window giving diners a view of the pass and the state-of-the-art kitchen in which the dishes are crafted by chefs of the future.

Leave your notions of student food being all Pot Noodles and baked beans at the door: the food they’re rustling up here is bringing something a little different to the city centre.

In an area swamped with Italian and Indian restaurants, City Bistro focuses more on seasonal English dishes, such as beef featherblade, celeriac, mushrooms, onion and leeks, and pigeon breast, celeriac, leek and black garlic.

In keeping with the fact this is a training facility, prices are fair and it won’t set you back more than a fiver for a starter or more than £15 for a main course.

We shaved even more off the bill by visiting during Restaurant Week, which offered a menu of three courses for £15.

To start I chose the ham hock terrine with pickles and celeriac puree.

It was prettily-presented with swirls of carrot and sprigs of crispy kale contrasting with the dusky pink meat and a satisfying splodge of velvety puree. The terrine was beautifully-smooth and a less fatty offering than when I’ve had this dish elsewhere.

For mains, I chose the salmon, fennel, risotto and lemon.

The coral flesh was perfectly flaky and was balanced well with its bed of lustrous risotto.

The cheese pudding was a little under whelming with only two triangles of cheese, but this was perhaps our only quibble of the night.

As we ordered a second bottle of wine – yes, there’s an alcohol licence, just like any other restaurant – it’s easy to forget you’re sitting in the college, especially as frosted glass obscures the less-than-picturesque bus station opposite.

Despite the good deal, and the fact it was Friday night, we were two of only a sprinkling of diners – but word of mouth is still getting out about City Bistro.

Trust me, school dinners have never tasted so good.