REVIEW: Bistro No.4, Station Road, East Boldon

No4 Bistro and Cafe'Station Road'East Boldon'Sunderland
No4 Bistro and Cafe'Station Road'East Boldon'Sunderland
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No.4 by name, but this cafe/ bistro is No1 when it comes to seamlessly blending quirky interiors with mouthwatering food and the friendliest service this side of the Wear.

I’d been tipped off about this place, which opened in December, by Ma Wheeler, a notoriously hard-to-please diner, who’d given it the highest of recommendations.

Formerly part of the adjacent bathroom showroom, it looks a simple affair from the outside, painted bottle green to blend in with its neighbours on this small stretch of shops.

But, inside, it’s a treasure trove of playful interiors.

There’s Penguin paperback books-printed wallpaper, stags’ heads with a mish mash of ornaments dangling from their antlers and even hand-made knitted tea cosies for your cuppa which bear the namesake number 4.

It’s all very prettily-presented, a theme which also translates in the food.

This is a daytime venue – it’s open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm, so the menu features a selection of breakfasts, salads and light bites, as well as a few hearty choices, such as traditional fish and chips, for good measure.

We decided to share our starters – a grilled halloumi (£4.95) and antipasti platter (£6.50).

The former was a chunky portion, served with a light and refreshing cous cous salad and a zesty dressing, while the latter was a Mediterranean feast of prosciutto ham, salmi, chorizo, olives, mixed salad and some wedges of fresh red onion and pepper bread.

Despite being cheaper than other platters of this ilk elsewhere, there was no shortage of meaty morsels for us to work our way through.

After our filling starters, we shunned carbs for our main and stuck with salads.

Mine was fuss-free but it allowed the fresh ingredients – salmon, rocket and tomatoes – to shine. There was lashings of smoked salmon in my bowl - not bad at all for £7 – with a delicate saffron alioli on the side to add some zing.

My friend’s choice, however, stole the show.

She’d gone for a marinated warm Asian beef salad. It’s a rather left-field addition to the menu of a village cafe, but it certainly earns its place.

I had a serious case of plate envy as a huge portion of richly marinated beef chunks on a bed of Asian slaw was placed in front of her.

The beef was tender and beautifully cooked, while the Asian slaw and Korean dressing were a lively accompaniment containing hints of lime and chilli.

The staff were super friendly and helpful and were keen for our feedback on the dishes. The verdict: thumbs up all round.

Three of my friends have had babies recently which means baby-friendly venues, with the all important baby-changing facilities, have become a must. (I never thought I’d ever say that.)

This place has a great child-friendly atmosphere, with plenty of families sprinkled on the surrounding tables. No formality or stuffiness here.

There’s even a drinks licence (a small glass of Chardonnay costs £3.20, with Peroni priced £2.95), for those wanting an afternoon tipple while they take in the charm of this delightful little dining spot.