12 new city centre food & drink businesses we've welcomed so far in 2021

Despite an incredibly difficult 16 months for the hospitality industry, many in the sector have used their spare time in Lockdown to create new business ventures.

Sunday, 4th July 2021, 4:55 am

In the first six months of 2021, as restrictions have eased, we’ve seen a flurry of food and drink businesses open their doors in Sunderland city centre.

Here’s some of them to try:

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A number of food & drink businesses have opened in Sunderland city centre in 2021
A number of food & drink businesses have opened in Sunderland city centre in 2021

One of the newest additions to the city centre is Spent Grain in John Street which is co-owned by Michael Jameson from the popular Urban Terrace Kitchen in Pallion. May 17 saw the restaurant, which is open seven days a week from breakfast through to evening meals, open its doors for the first time after its opening was delayed due to the pandemic. It’s a great space with features such as exposed brick walls, a huge skylight and open kitchen.

Colourful cocktails, live DJ sets and hand-stretched pizzas are on the menu at a new bar and restaurant serving up a slice of something different for the city.

Friends Lee Forster, Paul Stewart and Elliot Towsey are well-known in the local music scene for their decades of experience in DJing and events.

Spent Grain opened in John Street in May

Now they’ve channelled their mutual passions for good music and good food into Proven People, a new bar and restaurant in Burdon Road that’s bringing to life one of the city centre’s period properties.

Sunderland’s only bubble tea shop has proved a hit with its fun and fruity brews. Inspired by Taiwanese bubble teas, which are hugely popular, Lucky Cat Boba has opened up in a former vape shop in Park Lane.

Visitors can choose from either a fruit tea base, made with oolong and Jasmine tea, or a milk tea base, made with black assam tea. They can then choose toppings of popping juice bubbles with flavours such as passionfruit, cherry, lychee and more or chewy tapioca pearls, which are traditionally used in bubble teas and are known as ‘boba’ in Asia, hence the name of the business. Prices are £3.50 for a regular bubble tea or £4 for a large.

Proven People in Burdon Road

Italian cafe and coffee shop Bennelli's has opened in the former Holmeside Coffee in the Winter Gardens. It's very family friendly and offers panini, gelato, hot specials and more. The terrace is also a great spot for a Moretti or Limoncello Spritz.

Cafe 1851 is the latest addition to the excellent Mackie’s Corner development, which has become a hub for a host of creative independents. The bar and cafe honours the history of the site and offers a great range of cocktails, as well draught options, bottles and food such as burgers, stone-baked pizzas, nachos, pasta, open sandwiches and loaded fries on the menu.

Lucky Cat Boba in Park Lane

Following a £250,000 refurbishment, the former Revolution site has been opened as Street Bar by its new owners. Theatre Leisure, who also run The Rabbit, have created a world sports bar in the downstairs floor of the building which screens sports from across the globe - including the Euros. As part of the transformation of the bar, they've created an outdoor seating area which also has screens for those who prefer to watch the matches outdoors.

After the site has stood empty for a number of years, Halo has opened in the former Bud Bigalows bar with a large capacity indoors, as well as outdoor seating for food and drinks.

A once empty city centre unit is set to be a haven for fans of gaming. The Geek Retreat chain of gaming cafes has a huge following across the country, and now Sunderland has its own cafe for all things geeky – from games and superhero movies to anime and sci-fi. As well as gaming, people can enjoy American candy and drinks.

The Sweet Petite opened fully at Mackie's Corner in early 2021. Following the success of a cake trailer, which they pitched up in Seaburn over the summer, as well as strong delivery sales, husband and wife team Tommy and Laura Graham have been able to open their first shop. It’s allowed them to expand their range of home-made fudges, chocolates, cake jars, brownies, cheesecakes, brittles and more, as well as their signature chuffles – cheesecake truffles. They join a hub of existing independent businesses at the renovated Mackie's Corner, including The Fat Unicorn and Black Door Hairdressing.

New restaurant Undisclosed opened in the former D’Acqua site in John Street in May, bringing fine dining and speakeasy vibes to the city. Last month it unveiled its eight-course fine dining tasting menu with courses such as a beetroot and apple terrine served with picked apple, candied beets and an apple gel and wood pigeon complemented by dark chocolate and pickled raspberries. The tasting menu costs £75 per person, with the wine pairing an additional £55. The restaurant also offers a vegetarian version which is £65 per person. There’s also an a la carte menu available.

Coffee @ The Bothy has completely transformed the former Andrew Craig estate agents in John Street into a coffee shop selling drinks, cakes, jacket potatoes, panini and other light bites.

A mum-of-four has been a busy bee in lockdown creating the first city centre coffee shop which houses its own roastery. Dawn Hamblett, from Fatfield, has breathed new life into the former Coffea Caban unit in Blandford Street to open Hatty’s.

The bee-themed coffee shop is named after Dawn’s youngest daughter Hatty, three, and features its own roastery for roasting and processing its own coffee from Fairtrade beans.

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