Sunderland institution The Old Vestry still going strong as it serves up new menu

One of the city centre’s oldest pubs may have entered a new chapter post-lockdown, but it’s still serving up the atmosphere of a traditional boozer.

Friday, 1st July 2022, 4:04 pm

Many have fond memories of The Vestry in Fawcett Street, which has served up countless pints and chicken and chips in a basket over the decades.

In 2017, city businessman Graeme Tuckwell took over the downstairs of the building, formerly 5th Avenue, turning it into The Albert, after it had stood empty for more than 20 years, which has become a popular bar and function room.

Then, in 2019, he took on the upstairs Old Vestry site which had been operating as a tearooms. He reinstated the central wall to retain the old character of the pub with its traditional dark wood bar and stained glass features.

The Old Vestry has entered a new chapter

Meanwhile, the dining area to the right of the bar blends more modern features and tropical print wallpaper with exposed brick walls, giving the overall site a different feel across its three areas.

Food has proved a popular addition upstairs and from Monday, July 4, there’ll be even more choice on the menu which is building up a following for its hearty portions of burgers, lasagne, nachos, grill dishes, afternoon teas and Sunday lunches.

"We always wanted to do food up here, but we decided to try something a little different,” said Graeme. “It’s pub food, but nothing is microwaved, it’s all freshly-made lasagne, burgers and sauces and all good quality.”

Speaking about reopening the upstairs, he said: “We put the pub back to its original footprint, which people remember so well. Everyday we get people who come in and reminisce about the Old Vestry or 5th Avenue. We have a fantastic relationship with our customers and we have people who come back time and time again. I think people appreciate and respect that we’ve kept the atmosphere of the Vestry.

The Vestry joint offering of the bar, tea room and The Albert. Owner Graeme Tuckwell and mum and bar manager Elsie Tuckwell.

"We don’t have places like Annabel’s, Ku Club and Chambers anymore, so it’s great that people can still come to one of the old pubs and remember what it was like.”

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He added: "In the bar, we really wanted to retain the traditional feel and character of a local pub. We don’t have an outdoor area, but the next door dining room is like our garden room and is much lighter and brighter, it’s popular for things like afternoon tea which we’ve brought back.”

Like many pubs in the city centre, The Old Vestry has noticed an increase in footfall over the summer, partly due to Sunderland’s promotion as well as a string of events, such as Sunderland Pride and the Stadium of Light concerts.

The Vestry has been returned to its old footprint

Graeme said: “Because we’re so close to the train station, we get a lot of away fans, as well as home fans on match days and we’re really looking forward to the new station which should really open up this side of town.

"We were also really busy after Pride and the concerts, which has introduced new people to the bar. We’re in one of the oldest streets in the city and we’re noticing new places opening up all the time, providing more variety, which really helps to bring people into the city centre."

:: The Vestry is open seven days a week from 11am and from 12noon on Sunday. The Albert is open on weekends, but check it’s not booked for a private function before visiting.

The Vestry has a long history in the city
Owner Graeme Tuckwell.
One of the burgers from the new food menu
The garden room at The Vestry
The Vestry joint offering of the bar, tea room and The Albert.
The Albert downstairs is in the old 5th Avenue site
How The Vestry looked in December 1994, from the Echo archives
How The Vestry looked in December 1994, from the Echo archives