D’Acqua, John Street, Sunderland

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WHAT lurks beneath the surface of the old Sunderland and South Shields Water Company building is a sublime restaurant.

Appropriately named D’acqua, meaning restaurant of water, it’s a venue that’s awash with good food in good surroundings.

 Built beneath the renovated Hawksley House apartments, D’acqua is a subterranean kind of place with all the trendy trappings of a modern eaterie: exposed brickwork, fishtanks and oak floors.

The basement archways help to create cosy corners and we were seated in a lounge area while we picked our way through the menu.

Aside from the usual starters – garlic bread, prawn cocktail and the like – there’s some unusual appearances from chicken livers and a Sunderland-esque starter of grilled ham and pease pudding stottie with beetroot puree.

I chose the grilled goats cheese with red onion marmalade and wild rocket (£5.25).

After being seated at our table, I was soon presented with a chunky medallion of cheese, topped high with red onion and rocket, that oozed flavour.

It was gloriously gooey and more-ish and I savoured every bite. If anything it was a little too rich and I struggled to finish my next course. But, after seeing the well-presented seafood risotto (£9.50) that was put before me, I gave polishing it off a good shot.

Unlike some seafood risottos, this one was loaded with huge chunks of the main ingredient – large prawns and scallops you could really sink your teeth into.

In the end I admitted defeat and had to leave some of the arborio rice, but my dining partner, Georga, persevered with her options.

To start she had a creamy chicken liver pate with orange, fresh thyme and handmade chutney on toast. (£4.80)

Like mine, Georga’s starter was a generous portion and it was evident that some time had gone into its presentation.

Her main meal was a stone baked chicken breast and garlic pizza. It’s hard to get this dish wrong and was a tad expensive at £7.20 but it went down a treat.

To me though it seemed a shame to choose such a safe option from a menu that boasted fillet foi gras, squid ink black spaghetti and posh seabass fish and chips.

Perhaps other diners will dip their toes in the waters of D’acqua a bit more than we did.

Katy Wheele