How new restaurant Spent Grain is helping to create a 'foodie quarter' in Sunderland city centre

A new restaurant is helping to create a ‘foodie quarter’ in a once under-used corner of the city centre.

By Katy Wheeler
Monday, 12th July 2021, 2:24 pm

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Creating eight new jobs in the city, Spent Grain opened for the first time once restrictions were lifted in May after totally transforming an empty unit in John Street.

In its first two months of trading it’s already building up a regular customer base thanks to its seasonal, fresh foods, all day dining options – from breakfast coffees and pastries through to evening meals – and relaxed ambience.

It’s been brought to the city by chef Michael Jameson, who has decades of experience in hospitality, and has already had success in the city with The Urban Terrace Kitchen deli in Pallion which he opened with wife Zoë Jameson.

Spent Grain in John Street

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Spent Grain, named after the by product of brewing, is his first city centre venture and he says he’s delighted to be part of a burgeoning dining culture at this end of the town.

Michael, who opened the restaurant with business partner Julie Gibson, said: “I really can’t complain, the support since we’ve opened has been fantastic.

"Coming out of Lockdown, we didn’t know how it would go, but it’s been good with some great feedback. People are really enjoying the food and style of service and the fact you can just come in for a coffee and a cake or for something more formal, like a business lunch, through to a relaxed evening meal.

"People are really enjoying the small plates, grazing, and just soaking up the atmosphere.”

The restaurant has given new life to a once empty unit

Spent Grain is yards away from Mackie’s Corner, which has undergone a huge transformation to house a host of creative independents, such as Fat Unicorn deli, Sweet Petite cake shop and Cafe 1851 restaurant and bar.

Other new additions in John Street include Undisclosed, CoffeeHaus and BierHaus as well as Geek Retreat cafe. Meanwhile, Proven People has given new life to the empty former Divino’s Pizza unit in Burdon Road, while Bennelli’s is bringing a true taste of Italy to the cafe at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

It builds on existing businesses in the area such as 808 Bar & Kitchen in St Thomas Street, BURGeR in Frederick Street, Looking Glass in Athenaeum Street, as well as Sunniside’s bars and restaurants, to create a breadth of choice for diners.

“This end of town is becoming more and more alive and you can see a real foodie quarter developing,” said Michael. “The businesses are very supportive of each other and we often recommend places to go from here for drinks, such as Sam’s Bar and Cafe 1851 and the soon to open Church Door.

Inside Spent Grain since restriction were eased.

"We can do that because there are independents here with brands you can believe in, so people have that confidence to recommend other businesses and you can see that customer base growing consistently.”

Although Spent Grain opened under restrictions, Michael says many of the measures implemented, such as extra cleansing, table service and masks, as a personal choice, will remain in place from July 19.

*Spent Grain in John Street is open Tuesday to Saturday 9am-9pm and Sunday 11am-6pm.

What’s on the menu

There's an open kitchen to watch the chefs at work. Head chef John Rylance.

::Coffees and pastries

Coffee is made using Durham-based Fika Coffee, while pastries and cakes are from the excellent Bread& based at the BIC


You can enjoy two courses for £15, served from 11.30am-4pm, with options such as ham hock terrine, piccalilli, salad and sourdough; black pudding with pancetta, asparagus and hens egg salad; roast cod with spiced ramen and wilted greens and vegan goulash, celeriac mash and rocket salad.


The evening menu is served 5pm to 9pm and includes bar snacks, such as beef taco with chipotle mayonnaise (£5), small plates such as falafel, roast squash, pickled radish, avocado and chilli oil (£6), mains such as steaks and slow roast pork belly with roast parsnips, potato rosti, apple, chutney and black pudding (£12).

People can pop in for coffee and cake


Puddings include options such as lemon tart, peanut and pistachio brittle (£5) and frangipane with mascarpone cream (£5).

::Sunday lunch

Sunday lunch is two courses for £15 and three courses for £20 and includes a traditional beef lunch, as well as other options such as chestnut mushroom, courgette and pea risotto and pan fried chicken with parma ham, roast vegetables and tomato ragu.


There’s a range of cocktails on the menu, such as blackberry smash and blueberry gin sour, all priced £7. Beers include local brews such as Double Maxim (£3.50) as well as classics such as Peroni and Moretti (£3.50).

There’s also a range of wines by the glass, priced £6 for a large.

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Inside Spent Grain since restriction were eased with Barista Kyle Kirkwood.
A prawn dish from the menu
Inside Spent Grain since restriction were eased.
Inside Spent Grain since restriction were eased.