Steakhouses are like buses in Sunderland: you wait ages for a new one and then three come along at once.
Following the recent opening of independent businesses The Chop House at the Dun Cow and The Broadway in the former Wavendon off Chester Road, national chain Miller & Carter decided to take a bite out of the market by setting up shop in Newcastle Road.
There were some eyebrows raised at its choice of location, in the former Harvester pub, which is owned by the same hospitality group, but being out of town works.
Much like the successful Bellini, which is down the road in Seaburn Dene, it’s a destination restaurant where you can make a night of it for drinks and food – whilst also enjoying the perks of free parking.
Despite being a stablemate of the Harvester chain, Miller & Carter has firmly stamped its own brand on the site with a total refurbishment. An iron bull sculpture at the entrance reminds you that this is a place that’s serious about meat. Meanwhile, the interiors are what you would expect from a chain steakhouse, all deep reds and browns with American diner-style booths, as well as stand alone tables. It’s nothing too adventurous but it’s definitely smarter than its predecessor and with space for 170 diners, is still a good spot for large groups, wheelchair users and families.
And so to the raison d’être: the steak. There’s no less than 11 cuts to choose from, ranging from a dainty 8oz sirloin (£18.50) to a whopping tomahawk, which weighs in at 30oz and will set you back £49.95 to share.
The prices aren’t cheap but are as you’d expect for a steak that’s worth its salt, and it comes with plenty included, such as fries, an onion loaf, a tomato (literally just one wedge), a sauce and a lettuce wedge.
Having not visited a Miller & Carter before, I was bit confused over the lettuce wedge thing, but the staff are eager to chat about the menu and offer any explanations. Turns out the lettuce wedge, which comes with a choice of sauce ahead of your meat, is supposed to act as a palate cleanser.
I was dubious, but it was surprisingly refreshing.
Palate cleansed, I got stuck into the steak. I’d gone for the 8oz fillet, which I ordered rare. It comes served with a knob of parsley butter, which I wasn’t a fan of, but it’s easily swiped off. The meat itself was beautifully tender and my knife slid through its buttery flesh with ease. It was plump with flavour and didn’t really require the peppercorn sauce I’d chosen.
Not after a steak? There’s other choices too, such as burgers and pastas and also a sprinkling of veggie options for the non-meat eaters.
Special mention must also go to the wine list. There’s plenty of reds for those who want to perfectly pair with their steak, but my choice of white was also excellent – a beautifully crisp Riesling.
As far as new openings go, Miller & Carter have certainly raised the steaks.