Wrapped in my big coat and seeking shelter from intermittent drizzle, I certainly wasn’t in Spain for May’s first Bank Holiday Monday.
While Spanish City can’t promise the weather of its namesake, it can provide a flavour of its spectacular architecture.
The distinctive Moorish dome of the landmark has long been a feature of Whitley Bay’s skyline, but lay criminally under-used for almost two decades.
A £10m regeneration investment brought it back to all its gleaming white glory and transformed its leisure offering with a mix of casual and more fine dining restaurants. After the site’s much talked-about opening last summer, visitors to the once derelict site are now spoilt for choice with six options for wining and dining: 1910 Steak & Seafood, Trenchers, Valerie’s Tearoom, Afternoon Tea, Waffle and Pancake House and The Champagne Bar.
After paying for parking (as the free on site parking is limited), we managed to get a window seat in Valerie’s (no relation to the national chain of patisseries) at this informal tearoom which doesn’t require reservations, except for afternoon tea, or offer table service.
It’s a light and airy transformation, complete with good disabled access, suitable for the site’s new chapter, but it also harks back to the glory days with Art Deco mirrors and sweeping foliage dressing the staircase.
As well as light bites such as quiche Lorraine and soup, there’s a good range of sandwiches available after 12. We chose from the brunch menu which is served throughout the day. There’s plenty from which to choose, from Portobello mushroom and smoked Northumbrian cheese omelette to toasted ham and Elsdon goat’s cheese croissant. Prices, however, are higher than elsewhere with an eggs royale coming in at £8.95 and a smoked salmon bagel with cream cheese priced at £9.50. I chose the smashed avocado with two poached eggs, which will set you back £6.95 and chose to add tomato (an extra 50p) and streaky bacon (£1).
It arrived promptly to our table, delivered by one of the friendly staff. The dish filled a hole, but it wasn’t the best I’ve had, considering the price. The seeded bloomer was on the soggy side, the avocado was far from plentiful and the bacon could have done with crisping up. An accompanying berry smoothie tasted packed with goodness, but was again on the pricey side at £4.20.
No complaints, however, about the cake offering which must be the speciality here. We were swayed by a tempting cake fridge of sweet treats and I really enjoyed my lime and raspberry macaroon which was perfectly executed, while my mum tucked into a more decadent coffee and walnut slice (£3.50), which was topped with swirls of cream and sinful chocolate shards.
Don’t leave without checking out the striking dome with its elaborate, renaissance detail which looks more like something from a grand capital city instead of a windswept Whitley Bay.
Five other places to try for brunch
•Flamingo Bar & Cafe, Seaham Marina, East Durham
For great quality at great prices, head to this pretty in pink health food spot in Seaham Marina. Tuck into nutritious food, such as superfood smoothies, clean cakes and buddha bowls in Instagrammable surroundings.
•Love Lily, Pier Point, Roker, Sunderland
This pretty tearoom offers great views of Roker Pier, as well as an excellent and imaginative cake selection which changes daily. The towering breakfast waffles will also get your mouth watering.
•Fausto, Pier Point, Roker, Sunderland
Expect high energy foods in this cafe which specialises in catering for cyclists, as well as dog walkers. The interior is charming with a Neapolitan ice cream theme.
•Port of Call, North Terrace, Seaham
Another great addition to Seaham’s burgeoning cafe culture scene, this sister site to the Sunderland Port of Call specialises in brunch and breakfast cocktails. Can highly recommend the bloody Marys.
•Revolution, Low Row, Sunderland
Put yourself to the test with the bottomless brunch at Revolution. It offers two hours of unlimited selected drinks with some food for £25 per person from 12-4pm on weekends. Booking essential.