City Bistro serving up bargain food by Sunderland chefs of the future

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Many people don't realise it's open to the public.

City Bistro at Sunderland CollegeCity Bistro at Sunderland College
City Bistro at Sunderland College | Sunderland Echo

It's one of the city centre's largest restaurants offering one of the best-value menus - yet many Wearsiders still don't realise it's there.

With its well-equipped kitchen and restaurant that seats 66 diners, City Bistro is a great training facility for Sunderland College's catering and hospitality students.

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But it's also a restaurant that's open to the public - and bosses at the bistro, which is housed on the ground floor of the college's Park Lane campus, are hoping to encourage more diners through the doors.

The large restaurant seats around 66 dinersThe large restaurant seats around 66 diners
The large restaurant seats around 66 diners | Sunderland Echo

For the public, they can benefit from a three-course menu for £15, with the Christmas menu offering three-courses for £20, while the students get invaluable first-hand experience of cooking in the kitchen and serving front of house.

They're guided in the kitchen by head chef Geoff Rutherford, known as Geoff the chef, who says it's great to see the budding chefs take pride in their work.

Head chef Geoff Rutherford, far left, with students in the kitchenHead chef Geoff Rutherford, far left, with students in the kitchen
Head chef Geoff Rutherford, far left, with students in the kitchen | Sunderland Echo

"We try and work with a seasonal menu, and change it every half term, working with seasonal fruits and veg, but I don't want to restrict the students too much," says Geoff. "I provide the framework for them, but they can change it, it gives them ownership and pride in their dishes."

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Most of the students are aged between 16-19, as well as some adult learners, and many have gone on to get good jobs in the industry.

Inside Sunderland College City Bistro with front of house student Maya.Inside Sunderland College City Bistro with front of house student Maya.
Inside Sunderland College City Bistro with front of house student Maya. | Sunderland Echo

Geoff, who also runs a cookery club with St Paul's Primary School in Ryhope, said: "My priority is giving them the best experience in the industry. So I'll take them to the Sunderland fish quay, so they can see the boats coming in and the whole process.

"We also make all our own bread here, so that when they're working in a kitchen they won't need to buy it in, they can just make it themselves. We always remind people that this is training facility and allow the students to make mistakes so that they can learn."

Inside Sunderland College City Bistro with restaurant manager student Carla Woods.Inside Sunderland College City Bistro with restaurant manager student Carla Woods.
Inside Sunderland College City Bistro with restaurant manager student Carla Woods. | Sunderland Echo

Eva Szemcsuk, front of house manager at City Bistro, said: "We do have our regular customers, which is great, but we'd love to have more people through the door as we have such a great space here.

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"People are always surprised when they come in for the first time and see the space and they love the food. I think many people walk past and still don't realise it's open to the public.

"They also like the big window into the kitchen, so they can see the dishes being prepared."

Catering students gain experience in the well-equipped kitchenCatering students gain experience in the well-equipped kitchen
Catering students gain experience in the well-equipped kitchen | Sunderland Echo

Moving forward, the team is looking to work with other Sunderland restaurants for takeover nights and, should demand be there, they may open on mornings.

Opening hours and how to book

The bistro is on the ground floor of Sunderland College's Park Lane campusThe bistro is on the ground floor of Sunderland College's Park Lane campus
The bistro is on the ground floor of Sunderland College's Park Lane campus | Sunderland College

City Bistro, Sunderland College city centre campus, is open Tuesday to Friday lunchtimes from 12pm to 2.30pm, with an additional evening service on Thursdays, with a sitting at 5pm- 7pm and 7pm-9pm. To make a booking email [email protected] with your details.

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Alternatively, you can Tel: 0191 511 6332. If someone isn't on hand to answer, make sure to leave a voicemail with name and mobile number and they will get back to you.

The menu

Mushroom starter at City BistroMushroom starter at City Bistro
Mushroom starter at City Bistro | Sunderland Echo

The current menu is running until December 4, before the Christmas menu starts.

It's priced one course for £4.50 or £8, two courses for £11 or three courses for £15.

Starters

Soup with homemade bread and butter

Baked brie and cranberry with homemade bread

Wild mushroom with garlic cream and toasted bread

Main

Beef bourguignon with glazed onions, carrots and creamy mash

Chicken fricassee with bacon lardons, mushroom and chard

Root veg crumble with wilted greens and grilled courgette

Dessert

Chocolate chip shop sponge with vanilla custard

Pear and maple tart tatin with vanilla ice cream

Winter berry pavlova filled with fresh berries and drizzled with raspberry puree

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