THOSE hankering after Spanish food aren’t often catered for by Sunderland and its sea of Italian and Asian restaurants.
Thankfully, for those like me who like tucking into tapas, their prayers have been answered.
In a bid to entice custom to this oft-forgotten corner of the city, the new owners at The Ropery have opened a tapas restaurant.
It’s set downstairs, away from the main bar, and is a haven of Mediterranean morsels.
My Thursday night visit with Echo chums Cara and Georga was quiet, we were the only diners, but we ended up having a meal that can be best described as excellent.
The decor is typically Spanish – think terracotta colour scheme and rustic seating – and makes for a warm and welcoming atmosphere which was complemented by excellent service with a smile.
We’ve visited this riverside venue before to sample its bar menu which was nothing short of superb, so we had high expectations for its tapas and grill section.
The menu is split into small picky bits (£3.45 each), meat (£3.95 each), seafood (£4.95 each) and vegetarian dishes (£3.95 each). Or you can order from a choice of paella (£19.95) to share between two or three people.
We decided to choose three dishes each, which more than satisfied us.
We were presented with a veritable feast. The meal started with the tabla de queso y fiambre – a selection of mixed cheese, cured meats, olives and sundried tomato and bread, which was well presented on a trendy wooden platter (£6.95).
It was divine and set the scene for what proved to be a real treat for the tastebuds.
The queso chiprote, fried Cypriot halloumi, proved a particular favourite of mine. However, I also couldn’t get enough of the cheese and ham croquettes and chorizo in red wine.
Warmed-through pitta bread dunked in a huge mound of houmous was another highlight – in fact I couldn’t choose one favourite, they were all winners.
The girls also enjoyed some chunky pork meatballs in Spanish tomato sauce, grilled squid in chilli, pil pil prawns which knocked their socks off and a deliciously-light chicken in white wine and cream dish.
Each was presented in charming little terracotta pots and we were assured that if we couldn’t finish our meal, it could be wrapped up and taken home for later.
We persevered though and managed to polish off £70-worth (with drinks included).
My only quibble with The Ropery is that you can’t pay by card, so make sure to bring cash.
Cara, Georga and I jet off to Marbella each year where we’ve become regulars at our favourite tapas place in the mountains.
This place though has fast become our favourite for tapas on home turf.
Each dish is freshly prepared on site too, so you don’t get the heated-up texture you sometimes experience in chain tapas restaurants.
It’s great to see someone going out on a limb at The Ropery which is a top spot if only people would make the effort to head to Deptford.
If tapas isn’t your thing, try the main bar for a host of live entertainment and classic English dishes.