A chef who earned his stripes in the kitchens of popular pubs has opened a city centre restaurant.
Andy Barnett has built up a firm following with his Barnett’s at the Isis restaurant in Silksworth Row, and previously by bringing tapas to The Stackyard in West Herrington.
Now the 28-year-old from South Hylton has taken over a well-known city centre cafe to turn it into his first restaurant. Around £20,000 has been ploughed into transforming Raffles in Frederick Street into Barnett’s.
The cafe’s been operating in the listed building for more than 25 years, so Andy says he aims to keep the regulars happy with home comfort day-time offerings such as mince and dumplings and steak casserole, as well as Sunday dinners.
But evening service will be à la carte similar to the menu he ran at the Isis, where Barnett’s regularly featured in the top 10 in Sunderland’s Trip Advisor.
Andy, who closed the business for six weeks for a revamp, said: “It was stressful when we were doing the renovations, but we’ve really changed the way it looks, as well as installing a new kitchen. There will always be people who liked the old look because it’s what they are used to but, on the whole, the feedback’s been really positive.
“The site had a really good following as Raffles and there’s been a lot of interest from people walking past. I’m in the process of getting an alcohol licence, so while that is coming through I’ll be running the à la carte on Friday and Saturday evenings with as bring your own bottle and corkage fee.
“Once we have the licence we’ll be open seven nights a week. A lot of the menu will be food that proved popular at the Isis like belly pork, pigeon and scallops mains.
“There’s been a lot of interest, and I’m already fully booked for Mother’s Day.”
Andy says he chose the site after a number of new venues opened around Sunniside including Papadoms, Gin & Bear It and Thai Bay.
“The site had a good reputation,” he said.
“And I really think this area is finally starting to pick up.
“It’s great to see new restaurants opening up.”