REVIEW: Let There Be Crumbs, Roker Hotel, Sunderland

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Let them eat cake ... and breakfast and elevenses and lunch. For this new cakery and tearoom in Roker is about more than just its main ingredient.

Sure, there are cakes. Plenty of them. Plates piled high with decadent wedges of carrot cake, Victoria sponges oozing with jam, giant jaffa cakes almost as big as a side plate, moreish Mississippi mud pies and huge clouds of pastel-coloured meringues that teeter on top of each other vying for your attention.

The list goes on – this is a Willy Wonka experience for Wearside’s sweet tooth.

But savoury palates needn’t miss out – there’s plenty on the menu to cater for both with a range of salads, sandwiches and quiches.

With a strong emphasis on traditional English fare and locally-sourced produce, you’re certainly not in Thai China anymore.

Any hints of the restaurant’s former guise as an Asian eatery are long gone to be replaced with quintessentially English tea room trinkets, even the bar is covered with old reclaimed-look tea transportation boxes.

Large chandeliers add an air of grandeur, while a mural of Roker lighthouse on one wall doffs its cap to the venue’s coastal location. Arrive on a quiet day and you can even bag a table in the windows which offer sweeping vistas of our coastline.

Word of mouth has spread fast about this new development in the Roker Hotel, and it always seems to be bustling on weekends.

We visited for afternoon tea on a Saturday and managed to get one of only a sprinkling of spare tables.

The English meal has undergone a renaissance of late, but this is one of the only places in Sunderland, I’ve found, which seems to offer a good quality afternoon tea.

The cheapest of the options, which is served with a Rington’s tea of choice, comes in at £13.95.

Feeling indulgent, we went for the more opulent G and Afternoon Tea, £17.95, which includes a gin cocktail. It also includes the obligatory tea which, rather refreshingly, is loose leaf tea here – tea as it should be.

Service was a little slow, but we had arrived at the busiest time of the venue’s week and our meal soon made the wait worthwhile.

Our three-tier plate was laden with a base of sandwiches – with the crusts cut off, how very English – which included salmon and dill, cucumber and ham.

A kaleidoscope of cakes filled the middle tier – mini Victoria sponges, macaroons, mini eclairs, fruit tarts and the dessert of the day, a fruit trifle. The macaroons, in particular, were a delight. Morsels of brightly covered pink and lemon pop-in-your-mouth treats filled with raspberry and lemon.

As if that wasn’t enough, the scones provided the cherry on the top of this afternoon tea.  

Chunky cheese scones were demolished first before we ploughed into the sweet versions, smothering them with lashings of clotted cream and jam.

We were stuffed but, thankfully, staff will box up your leftovers for you to enjoy later in the day.

Presentation was pretty as a picture and even our gin and tonic provided a picture moment. It was served in a Hendricks china tea pot and cups, which was laced with lemon and cucumber.

But you don’t have to spend the whole afternoon grazing, as we did.

Light bites are well-priced with a slices of cakes from £2.25, sandwiches from £5.95 and quiches from £5.95.

Despite this being a day time venue, it’s open from early morning until 6pm each day, it also has a good drinks menu with a range of wines and draught beers including the owner’s own brew Sonnet 43 IPA at £2,95 a pint.

When it comes to breathing new life into a hotel restaurant and giving it a unique charm and character all of its own, Let There Be Crumbs seems to be a sweet success.