Christmas comes but once a year – and with it the challenge of finding a venue for the orgy of bacchanalian excess that is the Echo newsroom night out (last year we were out til nearly 11!)
This year we decided to look a little further afield then the city centre, and with colleagues from the Shields Gazette also gracing us with their presence, where better than the newest addition to Sunderland’s seafront?
The storied saga of the Fat Buddha hardly needs revisiting here, but the venue finally opened in the early summer - so how is it handling its first Christmas party season?
Extremely well, if our visit was anything to go by.
Like most places at this time of year, the Fat Buddha offers a special Christmas menu at a discount price - £19.95 in this case.
To be honest, these can be a mixed blessing.
Some venues offer cracking value for money, recognising that what they lose on the food they’ll almost certainly make up on the drinks if contented customers linger at the table or in the bar.
Others, however, will cut every corner possible to keep costs to a minimum - nothing kills the festive mood faster than a turkey dinner that’s obviously been sat under a heatlamp for three hours.
Fortunately, Fat Buddha have gone for the former option, with a Christmas menu which, although limited, offers something to suit virtually any palate.
For a shade under 20 quid, you get a choice of four starters, ten main courses and three accompaniments.
Our group pretty much covered the lot, from dedicated carnivore to vegan, but there was something for everyone among the choices.
I opted for chicken and sweetcorn soup to start, which was delicious, but I confess to casting envious eyes at the chicken satay.
My main course was pork ‘kakuni’ – slow roasted belly pork with sweet potato, and it was superb.
The pork was delicious and so tender it must have been cooking over a candle flame since September.
It’s always tricky picking a venue to suit all tastes, but I’m pleased to report there wasn’t a single dissenting voice after the meal – everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Service was brisk and efficient without being pushy and the only quibble was that the layout required us to occupy two facing booths rather than sit at one table.
We adjourned to the bar because no one was in a hurry to leave – always a good sign.