New meat and vegan burgers on the menu at Sunderland's No2 Church Lane as it adapts to Tier 2 covid restrictions
A Sunderland restaurant which closed for just two weeks during the pandemic is determined to stay open amidst the ever-changing restrictions.
No2 Church Lane opened as the city’s first dedicated burger restaurant in 2016 and has since built up a loyal following with its vegan burgers, as well as its classic meat options, which come in a number of different varieties, from a burger topped with jalapenos and nachos to a patty smothered in pizza sauce.
While many businesses around them have remained closed due to the pandemic, including Sunderland Empire, Revolution, Dun Cow and The Peacock, No2 Church Lane only closed for a fortnight during lockdown – and only then to undertake a refurbishment.
Despite Tier 2 restrictions making operations difficult for many businesses, the Church Lane owners are determined to stay open and retain their staff and are doing much to attract custom. As well as running a delivery service of their burgers, which has proved popular throughout the pandemic, they’ve recruited a new chef with a firm focus on improving their offering further, and are running events which people can take part in at the restaurant within their households or bubbles.
Owner Samuel Evans said: “The main reason we want to stay open is for the staff, we want them to be looked after.”
Prior to the pandemic, No2 Church Lane was one of the businesses who benefited from the Empire’s 300 performances a year and it was a popular place for pre-show burgers, as well as for cast after-show parties.
In the past few months, however, the business has had to navigate total lockdown, adapting to delivering food, Eat Out To Help Out, Local Lockdown and then Tier 2 restrictions.
Sam said: "Eat Out To Help Out went really well and we were busy with positive feedback. It helped us get back some of what we’d lost in lockdown, but we’re not turning over anything like we were. With the scheme you were just playing catch up and clawing back some of what you’d lost.”
Like all city venues, one of the biggest factors affecting business is the laws against the mixing of households indoors.
"Whereas a table of six may spend £150, a table of two who occupies the same space, may only spend £50, so it seriously reduces the amount you can take,” explained Sam.
Among the socially-distanced events the restaurant is offering in the coming weeks are quizzes themed around Gavin & Stacey, Harry Potter, Disney and Friends.
Sam said: “We’re very aware that if we don’t move and adapt, we’ll just be another business that can’t survive.”
As well as events, there’s a new head chef at the helm, Richard Owens, who’s passionate about building on the restaurant’s already well-regarded vegan offering, while also beefing up the meat choices.
Sam said: “Richard is a phenomenal chef with some great ideas. Vegan food is often sidelined in other restaurants, but we’ve always had a philosophy of doing it and doing it well. “Since he started we’ve even had customers asking for his recipes.”
Richard said: “People are becoming more and more aware of sustainability and the effect the amount of meat and dairy we eat has. As a result, people are having meat-free days or adopting a plant-based diet.
"We’re putting even more of a focus on where our ingredients have come from here. People assume some things are bought in frozen, but everything we do is fresh, down to the sauces, rather than buying them in. It’s important to minimise miles and use local suppliers whilst still providing the best quality you possibly can.”
New meat burgers on the menu include the App, Crackle and Pork, a pile of pulled pork and crispy crackling served with apple sauce and the Bhaj-Mahal, tandoori marinated chicken breast topped with onion bhaji and raita sauce.
Meanwhile, new vegan options include the Proper Mint Beef, minted beetroot and green lentil patty topped with melted goats cheese, served with beetroot chutney and the Everything’s Beta with Feta, spinach and falafel patty, topped with red pepper hummus and crumbled feta.
It comes as the Echo is running its #SupportLocal campaign to encourage people to use and support local businesses.