THERE’S been a renaissance at The Ropery.
“Not another one,” I hear you cry. Granted, the venue has changed hands numerous times over the years in a bid to lure people to this riverside spot, but this new venture may well have the right ingredients to make it work.
There’s a new name for starters, The Ropeworks, which gives it a fresh identity while also harking back to the history of the place.
You’d think the imposing building alone would be enough to attract people here. Once Webster’s Ropery, it’s said to be the oldest remaining ropeworks building in the world. Yet still the venue has had a mixed bag of fortunes.
Its current guise has been up and running for around four months and there’s much to tempt you on the food front.
While the downstairs pub area serves tapas, burgers and sharing platters, the upstairs function room has been transformed into an Italian bistro named La Cucina.
We were given both menus to dip into as we were seated at one of the downstairs booths. These are a new addition since my last visit more than a year ago and they help to make a room which can feel a little cold more cosy.
Touches, such as huge barrels, stripped back wooden tables and an open fire, are both traditional and trendy and you can’t find a better spot to take in views of the Queen Alexandra Bridge. Unless of course you take a pew on the Ropeworks terrace which, though well laid out, is probably best reserved for warmer days.
If the setting isn’t enough to attract you away from city centre restaurants, the prices probably will.
I’m a great lover of tapas and this is one of the cheapest options I’ve seen at £10.95 for four plates. For those who are drinking, not driving, there’s a great offer of four tapas, a Jug of Sangria, bottle of red, white or rose wine or four bottles of San Miguel for £14.99.
It was too good an offer to miss and I went for the salt and pepper crispy squid, tempura tiger prawns with sweet chilli, roast chorizo with paprika oil and cheese croquets.
Instead of arriving on an array of plates and platters sprawled across the table, the dishes are neatly presented on a chunky wooden board which enables you to easily manoeuvre your fork between them all.
Tapas can often be overly greasy, but care had been paid here to keep the flavours true. The pot of diced chorizo, already an oily meat, was enhanced, not swamped by, a light paprika oil.
And the salt and pepper squid was the right side of chewy, encased in the lightest of batters.
The tempura prawns, too, were a treat. Well presented in a mini silver bucket on a bed of salad, the large, fluffy-coated tiger prawns almost spilled from the pot and tasted as good as they looked.
My friend tucked into her choice of pizza, which start from £6.25, with gusto.
Feeling fiery, she chose the diavolo – chorizo, pepperoni, jalapenos, peppers, onions and fresh chillies – which is £8.95.
There was plenty of topping for her to get her teeth into and the base was hand-made on site, which helped to give it an authentically Italian texture and taste.
The venue was once famed for its live music and that tradition has remained with live music ringing out at this slice of Sunderland history every weekend.
There’s nothing ropey about this latest reincarnation.