After a major refurbishment of its kitchen, which has doubled its size, The Engine Room bistro at The Fire Station has launched a new outdoor terrace which is proving a popular sun trap.
Investing in the kitchen has allowed the bistro to increase its food offering, which is available throughout the day, served indoors, outdoors and at its sister bar, The Dun Cow.
It is the latest addition at the Fire Station, which dates back to 1908 and which last year welcomed its new £11 million auditorium. Visitors can also look forward to a purpose-built outdoor stage being created on an old car park to the rear of the site.
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Called The Parade Ground, after its previous use by the fire service, the new outdoor stage area will hold around 600 people and will have dining pods for people to dine in as they watch an outdoor show.
Rhys McKinnell, CEO of Pub Culture, which operates the food and drink side of the development, says it is exciting to see all the pieces come together, as new life has been breathed into the Edwardian Fire Station.
The building had lain derelict for 22 years before being taken over by The MAC Trust to create a new cultural attraction for Sunderland, while also attracting visitors to the city.
"It’s all part of our transition to becoming a more food-led than wet-led bar,” he explained. “We have a fabulous auditorium and we’re creating a fabulous destination for people to dine, too.
"The beer garden is, of course, always available for people who just want a drink, but we really wanted to elevate the dining experience. You can really feel the whole city centre piecing together and it’s creating a great offering for people.”
While The Engine Room is already popular for pre-theatre drinking and dining for Empire and Auditorium audiences, the new terrace is also attracting new people through the doors.
"It’s a great signpost for people and really catches their attention. It’s a little oasis in the heart of the cultural quarter,” explained Rhys.
The Dun Cow also has a new pavement licence, meaning people can sit outside the historic Grade II-listed pub, which also dates back to the Edwardian era.
Other new developments at the pub include a refurbishment of its upstairs drawing room, which is available for private hire.
A number of hospitality businesses have opened around the Fire Station in recent years, such as Vesta Tilley’s, The Little Shop, Mexico 70, 2 Church Lane and the revamped Peacock pub.
They are set to soon be joined by four bars and restaurants on the ground floor of The Holiday Inn in Keel Square, which it is believed will be occupied by already successful brands.
Meanwhile, Culture House, a new library and cultural attraction for the city, will be housed on the site of the former Annabel’s, Luciano’s and Corner Flag units, following their demolition.
*The Engine Room bistro is open Monday to Thursday 11.30am-11pm, Friday and Saturday 11.30am – midnight and Sunday 12 noon- 10pm.