EATING out on an evening in Sunderland is a challenge.
After deciding on an impromptu trip out for tea, my dining companion and I visited four restaurants in the city centre looking for food.
It was only shortly after 8pm, but all of them had stopped serving, with one even admitting they’d thrown in the towel at 5pm.
Fed-up and leaning towards a takeaway, we headed out of the city centre to Seaburn.
Not only was Gabrieles open, it was packed on a weekday evening and offered a late happy hour from 9pm-10pm.
We grabbed one of the last tables and quickly scanned the menu of Italian classics – from pasta and pizza to steak, chicken and fish.
Prices range from £6.10 for a margherita pizza to £21.50 for a fillet steak.
I felt I deserved a treat by this point, so I opted for a main-course sized serving of scallops from the specials board.
My friend chose risotto, in Bolognese sauce with ham, peas and mozzarella.
Eight chunky scallops were presented with sauté potatoes and a salad that sadly would have looked more at home on the takeaway kebabs we’d considered.
Although the scallops were juicy, they were sitting in a small puddle of water, or lemon juice, or lemon-flavoured water that left my potatoes and salad slightly soggy.
To console myself, I took a few forkfuls of my friend’s risotto, which was heavy on the Bolognese and light on mozzarella, but still won points by being thick, rich and quintessentially Italian in a generous portion.
With my dish costing £13 and his £6.10, he’d definitely won on value and flavour, but the bill presented a sting in the tale, with his pint of shandy costing £3.
Two main courses and two soft drinks came to £23.40, as we arrived 10 minutes before happy hour was due to start.
The quaintly-decorated, cosy Italian is clearly a favourite with diners and it might be wise to book a table, especially at weekends. I’m guessing they love its great location on the seafront and extended opening hours, but the cuisine wouldn’t inspire me to make a return visit.