There’s a lot of good at Dr Feelgood’s. Quirky decor that makes you feel as though you’re sat in an ever-so-cool New York speakeasy, rather than a Wearside retail park: good.
A mouth-watering range of unusual food and drinks that you can’t pick up anywhere else in the city: good.
However, what’s not so good is the service. It’s been over a year since I last visited, when I waited over an hour for some lamb skewers to arrive, only to be told they had no lamb.
That was not long after the restaurant opened above Liberty Brown and, venturing back for the first time since, I hoped the last experience was down to teething problems.
Early signs were promising. We visited mid-afternoon and hadn’t booked, but with only a dozen or so fellow diners we were easily seated.
Our waiter was perfectly friendly and he certainly looked the part. Like the bar itself, the staff are a stylish, braces-sporting bunch.
He took our drinks order promptly and one thing you can’t fault Feelgood’s on is its drinks. Weird and wonderful, some come with plumes of smoke, some in a skull glass, some look more like a colourful chemistry experiment.
My choice of bumbleberry mint julep (£6.95) was a triumph of a tipple. I’m not usually a lover of whisky, but using whisky as a mere base meant it wasn’t too over-powering.
Instead, the other flavours – including chambord black raspberry liqueur, fresh raspberries and blueberries and mint – infused through the drink.
Even though our drinks had been served we still waited more than 45 minutes for our food order to be taken after a couple of failed attempts to grab our waiter’s attention.
We also had to ask twice for a table to be wiped down after a drinks spill. It’s frustrating to complain about the service when the food is of such a high standard.
Unlike many restaurants in Sunderland which go down the obvious route of an Italian menu, Dr Feelgood has thought outside of the box, drawing culinary inspiration from around the globe for his tapas.
There’s za’atar spiced halloumi with eggplant zaalouk from the Middle East (£5.95), duck spring rolls from the Far East (£6.95) and turkey, chorizo, butterbean and tomato stew (£5.95) from Spain, to name just a few.
The whipped goats cheese cones with sprinkles of red pepper, presented like ice cream cones in a test tube rack were a particular delight.
A perfectly light and savoury dish which looked like a sinfully sweet dish – this is a nod to the Heston Blumenthal-style of cooking.
It was the pork san choy bau which stole the show for me, however.
Again, it’s beautifully presented: a mini silver pan of mince, a tin of crisp lettuce leaves and a side spoon of chillis and crushed peanuts are served on a wooden board.
It means you can concoct your own parcels of tender mince and season to your liking. It’s a dish that’s impeccably executed and is a good-sized portion for £6.95.
The exceptional food and drink is enough to lure me back to this off-the-beaten track eatery, I just wish the service was a bit more snappy.