CUTE little cafes don’t pack the leafy streets of Ashbrooke in Sunderland – and that always surprises me.
With its imposing Victorian houses and true blue voters, I thought it would be a haven for ladies who lunch.
Luckily, business-savvy Joanne Dixon has spotted the gap in the market and set about filling it with the gusto of a tasty sandwich.
Along with mum Mary, the former beautician from Grangetown has been running the cafe for just a few weeks.
I popped in with a friend for a pre-local election pit stop, as covering the event for the Echo can often see journalists arriving home at the same time as the milkman.
My friend has a reputation for being a bottomless pit when eating out, so I was pleased to see the deli offers more substantial dishes like paninis and jacket potatoes, as well as sandwiches and salads.
I went for a prawn salad, which came heaped with just about everything you could want from a light, healthy meal – beetroot, coleslaw, sliced egg, sweetcorn, lettuce and more.
My accompanying cuppa was served with a crunchy little biscuit, which was a nice finishing touch and a well-deserved treat after munching through my five-a-day of greenery.
My hungry friend went off menu in his quest for fullness, but Jo and her mum were happy to mix and match panini fillings.
At first he opted to have it served without salad, but after spotting my colourful feast, menu envy kicked in and he decided the salad bar was the way to go.
His toasted snack looked packed with hot, stringy cheese and it all quickly disappeared with no complaints.
The leftovers of my large portion of salad went next and it didn’t take much persuasion from Joanne for him to sample a slice of her home-made cheesecake.
A rich slab of chocolate and Bailey’s-flavoured dessert was the perfect end to our teatime treat.
A few stolen bites confirmed the biscuit base was thick and crunchy and the whole thing wasn’t overwhelmed with the taste of alcohol.
A steady stream of customers came through the doors of the cosy cafe while we were eating, including school children eager to have a milkshake whipped up in their favourite sweet flavour.
We were also persuaded, with not much effort, to sample one of Mary’s homemade cheese scones, which she had whipped up at the request of the hair salon next door.
It seems homemade food served up in a cosy setting is what Ashbrooke has been waiting for.
The deli welcomes orders by text and offers free deliveries on orders of £10 or over, which is about what our bill came to.