Inside the Glass Onion Bistro as it proves popular addition to Sunderland, with mince & dumplings and more on the menu

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A new city centre bistro is proving a real glass act.

The Glass Onion is in its first few months of trading after taking over an empty unit and it’s already proving a popular addition to Blandford Street.

Business partners Carl Heron and Gary Smurthwaite have taken over the former Hatty's coffee shop site, which was also well known as its previous guise as the long-running Coffea Caban.

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They’ve put their own stamp on the unit, which is one of the city centre’s largest cafes with 64 covers.

The Glass Onion BistroThe Glass Onion Bistro
The Glass Onion Bistro

The pair opened the business just before Christmas in 2022 and they said custom exceeded expectations. So much so, they had to hire two additional staff members in the first three weeks.

Carl said: “My background is as a piano tuner, but Gary has a long background in catering. He suggested we go into business as he was looking to open his own site. We actually looked at a few units in South Shields and Boldon. But Sunderland, and particularly this unit because of the size, really appealed to us.

"There’s so many developments happening in Sunderland at the moment and it’s great to be a part of that. There’s been a cafe on this site for 35 years so people seem glad to see it open back up as that. There’s definitely a need for it at this end of town.”

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The cafe and bistro is already proving popular for its breakfasts, which start from £4.95, as well as scones, sandwiches and hearty meals such as mince and dumplings, scampi and lasagne.

The Glass Onion cafe opens up on Blandford Street. Co-owner Carl Heron.The Glass Onion cafe opens up on Blandford Street. Co-owner Carl Heron.
The Glass Onion cafe opens up on Blandford Street. Co-owner Carl Heron.

"We’ve had a lot of return custom and it’s just built and built,” said Carl. “We’ve not had any negative feedback and everyone seems to really like that everything is homemade.”

The cafe, which is family and pet friendly, is also planning to open on evenings as a bistro once more of the new additions to the city open up.

The name has become a well-known phrase recently thanks to Glass Onion: a Knives Out Mystery, starring Daniel Craig, on Netflix.

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Carl and Gary had come up with the name before the film’s release, but they say it’s become a talking point amongst customers.

The Glass Onion cafe opens up on Blandford Street. The Glass Onion cafe opens up on Blandford Street.
The Glass Onion cafe opens up on Blandford Street.

Meanwhile, the other end of the street sees the land being cleared at the old Peacocks site which will make way for a new road linking the west end of Blandford Street, Brougham Street and Maritime Terrace.

The road is being created through the site of the former Peacocks retail store, which was destroyed by a fire in 2019, facilitating a gyratory traffic scheme and bus priority route.

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The plans aim to improve public transport infrastructure and connectivity in the area near Sunderland’s central railway station while also improving links to taxi ranks as part of wider improvements in Holmeside.

:: The Glass Onion Bistro is open Mondays to Saturdays from 9.30am to 4pm.