Was this Sunderland restaurant the best in the city?

Mengs of Fawcett Street in 1900, showing the patisserie.
Mengs of Fawcett Street in 1900, showing the patisserie.
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In recent years, places to eat have opened up in the city centre in increasing numbers.

And regular reviews of these establishments indicate that many are of a high standard.

Inside the Meng's restaurant.

Inside the Meng's restaurant.

However, are there any that can compare to what arguably was Sunderland’s greatest ever restaurant - Meng’s.

Philip Curtis, from the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, looks back at a Wearside favourite.

Although it closed in the 1950s, there is no doubt that Meng’s still holds many happy memories for numerous Wearsiders.

Many dined there or held their wedding reception in the Fawcett Street restaurant.

Considered an upmarket establishment during the first half of the twentieth century it was THE place to eat and be seen at in Sunderland, with part of the building used as a ‘patisserie’ with hand-made cakes on offer

Philip Curtis, Sunderland Antiquarian Society

It was originally named Meng’s Brothers Restaurant, but later just became known as Meng’s.

It opened in 1889 and for over sixty years was considered the finest restaurant in the town. The Meng family originally came from France and two brothers opened the restaurant directly opposite the site where the Town Hall was completed the following year.

Considered an upmarket establishment during the first half of the twentieth century, it was THE place to eat and be seen at in Sunderland, with part of the building used as a ‘patisserie’ with hand-made cakes on offer.

Morning coffee and afternoon tea at Meng’s was very popular with ladies who luncheon.

The 1900 Mengs menu.

The 1900 Mengs menu.

Discerning regulars were served by ultra-smart waitresses surrounded by the restaurant’s wonderful oak-panels and mahogany and marble décor. It became synonymous with top class cuisine and was famed throughout the county.

In the early twentieth century, the restaurant provided entertainment with music of the day from their resident palm court trio who were seated on a raised platform playing above the chatter of the ladies who always seemed to take off their coats but NEVER their hats.

In the 1920s and 30s, Meng’s also provided music for wedding receptions and concert parties through their house band, Fred Lucas and his Syncopated Dance Orchestra.

The menu of 1900 was certainly mouth-watering but seems very limited when compared with the fare on offer today.

Lunch for 2/6d (12½p) consisted of fish entrée or joint, sweet, savoury followed by cheese and celery. Luncheons a la carte were served from noon.

The evening dinner menu was even better but cost 3/6d (17½p): Hors d’oeuvre, soup, fish, entrée, savoury and cheese and celery. Obviously they loved their cheese and celery in those days.

The same menu also pointed out that Meng Bros Restaurant catered for balls, and dinners.

In fact, it pretty much could cater for anything you wanted and have the equipment you needed thrown in as well.

Entrees, galantines, jellies and creams could all be provided to order, as well as “plates, glass and naperys” available for hire.

In the years between the two world wars, Meng’s was specialising in “table delicacies” such as veal and ham pie, cooked ham, pressed beef and ox tongue, as well as “roast chicken fresh daily” and chocolates and sweets on sale at the counter.

They were also promoting that its rooms, including the dance hall and supper and whist rooms, were available for dinners, dances and bridge parties.

The local council also felt that Meng’s was the best and usually booked the restaurant to provide the catering whenever Royalty or important dignitaries came to the Town Hall to dine.

Meng’s continued to serve Wearsiders in Fawcett Street for more than sixty years.

But after the Second World War was over, competition grew as the city centre flourished once more and establishments like Milburns and Lockharts increased in popularity.

In the mid-1950s, the restaurant closed and the premises became used as a furniture shop.

However the mere mention of the name Meng’s evokes fond memories for many Wearsiders.

Are there any readers who can recall having their wedding reception there?

Or perhaps you paid a visit just to dine there and would like to share some fond memories.

Get in touch by emailing chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk