Aperitif rarely drops out of the top five restaurants on Sunderland TripAdvisor – and it’s not hard to see why.
While there are more adventurous, more ‘Instagrammable’, places in the city, Aperitif is reliably good. While new openings pop up around this burgeoning culture quarter in the city, it’s Aperitif’s consistently-friendly service, cracking atmosphere and filling dishes that keeps people coming back for more.
Restaurateur David Liu, who’s had the prime location next to the Sunderland Empire since 1987, was also at the helm of Ming Dynasty, famed for its theatrical dry ice dessert platters, but gave it a more modern twist as Aperitif in 2019.
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Now, it’s a vibrant Italian restaurant with a neat grey and orange colour scheme that takes its colour cue from a refreshing glass of Aperol Spritz.
Its ideal location means it fills up fast for pre-theatre dining (it’s also a great spot for a post-show cocktail), but as it was in between shows on our visit we managed to get a table for two. It’s best to book ahead, however.
Some of the front-of-house staff have been serving hungry Mackems for decades and their hospitality was spot on, this is a place that really makes you feel at home.
You’ll be hard pushed to find something you don’t like on the menu, which has an extensive choice of chicken dishes, ravioli, risotto, pizza, pasta and more.
I really enjoyed my choice of seafood risotto, which was a great-sized portion for £11.90. The moist rice had just the right amount of bite and was punctuated with plenty of squid, fat prawns and mussels.
Sunday lunch is great value for money too at one course for £8.95, two for £11.95 and three for £13.95. And they certainly don’t skimp on the portions, which come in a choice of beef, pork, lamb, chicken and turkey & gammon.
My mam really enjoyed her choice of lean leg of lamb served with a huge, fluffy Yorkshire pud, the kind you can never quite achieve at home; plenty of veg and a gravy boat for extra pours.
Make sure to fit in a cocktail or two – they’re certainly cheaper than the Empire next door. My espresso Martini, or expresso Martini as your nan may call it, was beautifully smooth with just the right amount of foam and caffeine kick. Prices are fair at £5.90 for spritzes, mojitos and classics for £6.90 or two for a tenner.
Meanwhile, children’s specials are £4.90 for half a portion of pasta or half pizza and chips.
Our bill, including a main each, a side, a bottle of wine and a cocktail, was £47 – with a complimentary shot of Limoncello for the road, an old skool, but always welcome, touch.
You can shave even more off your bill if you visit in happy hour, which runs daily from noon until 7pm with pizza or pastas priced £7.90, chicken dishes priced £9.90 and prawn dishes priced £10.90.
Good value food and swift service with a smile? Aperitif isn’t just an appetizer, it’s got all bases covered.