High quality food at low prices - what we thought of City Bistro at Sunderland College

It may be a training restaurant, but City Bistro could teach a thing or two to some more established premises when it comes to serving up quality dishes.

Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 11:55 am

Sunderland College's commercial restaurant, at the campus opposite Park Lane, is back open providing, arguably, some of the best food with flair in the city centre.

City Bistro means students get excellent hands-on experience in catering and front of house, whilst under the guidance of industry professionals.

For diners, the bonus of eating at a training facility is purse-friendly dishes that don’t cut corners on quality – there’s not many places you can pick up five courses for under £20!

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The recent Game Night, one of the themed evenings at City Bistro, Sunderland College

Evening sittings are themed, with set menus released on the restaurant’s Facebook page, with menus designed around everything from French food and ‘80s night to grill night and Italian night. But, be warned, it books up fast, with all its Christmas nights fully booked, so keep your eyes peeled for 2022 dates.

After not being fast enough on a couple of occasions, we managed to get a booking for the recent game night with a set menu of £19.95 per person for five courses.

It’s easy to forget you’re sitting in a college at the 80-seater restaurant (although covers are still reduced for Covid) with its sleek, Scandinavian-esque design and open pass which looks into possibly one of the largest, best-equipped kitchens in the city.

The joy of a set menu is that you don’t have to spend ages umming and ahhing over choices and you often get to try some unexpected delights. Such was the case with our first course: spiced guinea fowl samosa with a plum jam.

City Bistro-City Campus, Park Lane, Sunderland.

It’s not something I would have ever put together, but it worked a treat – the flaky samosa encasing the flavoursome, moist dark meat, whose light, natural sweetness was heightened by the plum jam.

As the name of the night would suggest, this was a meat-heavy night, and our next course was a perfect comforter on a nippy November night: a tender and juicy pan-fried wild duck breast, beautifully presented with blackberries, cassis and chicory which added an extra depth of of flavour. They certainly don’t skimp on the portions, and it was a good size considering we weren’t even half way though the meal yet.

Another new discovery was course three, a palate cleanser of yoghurt, juniper and rosemary sorbet, a subtly savoury twist to the norm which was in keeping with the flavours of game. There’s certainly no other restaurant in the city serving up such imaginative courses.

For the final meat course of the night, our knives slid through a tender saddle of venison with ease, served with twists of spätzle, hazelnuts, heritage carrots and bordelaise sauce. It was a triumph, a real medley of seasonal flavours, with a perfectly earthy slab of pink venison, that was incredibly good value for money.

The 80-seater restaurant currently has reduced covers due to Covid

Sweet tooths were satisfied with a tangy lemon tart with a velvety blackberry chantilly, followed by filtered coffee and petit fours.

There’s also a good alcohol menu, featuring well-priced tipples, from local Darwin Brewery bottled brews such as Tall Ships lager (£2.85) and Galapagos Stout (£3.45) to spirits, liqueurs and fortified wines.

Wines are also very reasonable, and you can pick up a very decent sauvignon blanc for £16, or wines by the glass from £3.50.

Service was attentive and friendly and there was certainly no major giveaways this wasn’t their full time job. Top marks.

Spiced guinea fowl samosa

:: Look out for themed evenings announced on the City Bistro Facebook page. The restaurant is also open for lunches in term times. Reservations are not taken through Facebook messenger, you’ll need to Tel: 0191 511 6270 or email [email protected]

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Pan-fried wild duck breast, blackberries, cassis, chicory
Saddle of venison with spätzle, hazelnuts, heritage carrots and bordelaise sauce