End of an era as Elizabeths restaurant closes after long history in Sunderland

Elizabeths Restaurant, Bridge Street, Sunderland, is on the market.
Elizabeths Restaurant, Bridge Street, Sunderland, is on the market.

A well-known Sunderland restaurant which has served up dishes to generations has closed its doors and is now on the market.

Elizabeths, in Bridge Street, has shut after decades of keeping Wearsiders well-fed after its owners decided it could no longer run with such a small number of customers.

Inside Elizabeths back in 2003.

Inside Elizabeths back in 2003.

Now the search is on to find someone to take on the business and breathe new life into the city centre building.

It has been run by Michael Roche and his wife Mandy for the last 23 years after his father Sean bought the business from his friend and fellow Whitburn resident Stan James.

Stan, who also owned the Blackboard in Cleadon, ran its kitchen alongside his wife Doreen, while her sister Mena Bassett looked after the front of house.

Its name had been changed by the James family in honour of their favourite restaurant in Coventry, with the new signs put up after they had taken it on from Milburn’s bakery firm.

Going for lunch or dinner there when there wasn’t the kind of restaurants and pub food we have now was quite an occasion.

Peter Nicholson

It is believed the restaurant’s days go back to at least the Second World War, when it was the place to be seen by Sunderland folk as they dressed up and enjoyed a lunch or dinner away from their graft.

Sean, 77, who worked as an engineer, said: “It’s all down to a lack of customers.

“When we bought it there were queues outside and up the street to get in and we were told there was a time when as many as 400 meals served in one day.

“But it’s just died and we couldn’t afford to keep it going.

Elizabeth's Restaurant, Bridge Street, Sunderland.

Elizabeth's Restaurant, Bridge Street, Sunderland.

“It was a sad decision.

“It happened quite slowly but we just said we would have to put it on the market and that’s what we’ve done.”

A message on the business’s Facebook page delivered news of the closure to customers with the post: “Thanks for all your support over the years, both staff and customer, it’s really been appreciated.
“But there comes a time when we have to move on, anyone fancy a bargain?”

The last menus for diners included Sunday dinner or steak pie and a three courses for £10 deal, offering soup, potato skins or garlic mushrooms, followed by steak pie, chips or veg, quiche, salad and chips, cod, chips and peas or chicken curry, rice or chips or both, then a pudding of chocolate fudge cake with cream or ice cream, banana Eton mess, ice cream or sponge of the day and custard or ice cream, with tea or coffee too.

Elizabeth's Restaurant, Bridge Street, Sunderland.

Elizabeth's Restaurant, Bridge Street, Sunderland.

The freehold of the building is on the market for offers of over £150,000, which includes three restaurant rooms, a kitchen kitted out with catering equipment, various cupboards, toilets, store rooms and fridge rooms, with a general storage room on the first floor.

The remainder of the building is not on sale.

Peter Nicholson is handling the sale for Andrew Craig, with a number of people voicing interest in taking on the property.

He remembers being taken along by his mum Mary Wright, who held it close in her heart after it became the place to be seen when she worked at a nearby garment factory, but said the restaurant has struggled due to competition and changing tastes and habits.

He said: “Going for lunch or dinner there when there wasn’t the kind of restaurants and pub food we have now was quite an occasion.

“My mum loved it and it was the place to go back in the day.

“The girls all used to pack another set of clothes because they would have to get changed to go in.

“Parts have been the same for years, but it has good sized rooms, so you can get about 20 people seated in one and 50 or 60 in another and then there’s a third room.

“We’ve now got the for sale sign up in the window and we’re working to find a new owner for it.”