Review: The Italian Kitchen, Southwick, Sunderland
The view from the lounge window in my grandparents' high-rise flat encapsulated much of Sunderland's history in an instant.
Looming large on the horizon in both size and stature were the shipyards.
Nestled cosily underneath, and named as a toast to the city’s brewing heritage, was Vaux’s Dray and Horses pub.
More than 30 years later, well okay then, 40 years later, and the shipyards, brewery and flats have all sadly disappeared.
Strictly speaking, the Dray and Horses is no more either.
Instead the premises are now home to The Mill pub and Italian Kitchen restaurant.
With a family birthday to celebrate, we thought the latter was a suitable location for a rare sortie north of the river and a fond reminisce about Saturday evening teas in that crowded Hahnemann Court lounge.
Cue my first surprise.
As muggins here was given the responsibility for booking the meal – which translates as it’s my fault if anything goes wrong – I logged on the restaurant’s website for contact details.
Quaintly from my point of view, and despite the presence of new streets nearby, its address is still Hahnemann Court.
Our table booked in advance, we turned up at 4pm on the hottest Sunday of the year so far.
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The weather understandably meant that not everyone wanted a traditional roast.
Yet while the restaurant offers a reduced general menu on Sundays, there was still more than enough choice to keep the table happy. My wife, for instance, quickly vouched how tasty her beef and tomato lasagne (£7.25) was.
Famished after chasing ineffectually after footballers half my age, I was desperate to prove that I could actually tackle a Sunday dinner and launched myself at the carvery (£8.50).
Showing a speed sadly absent just hours earlier, I soon demolished the generous helpings of pork, turkey, vegetables and Yorkshire pud.
With family anecdotes getting retold – and rewritten – others were not so quick and it was only after the restaurant’s supposed 5pm Sunday closure that we finally got round to discussing sweets.
We need not have worried and were politely served with delicious desserts such as hot chocolate fudge cake and toffee apple pie (£4.50 each).
So pleased were we with our lot that we continued babbling around a table outside.
Cue second surprise: you can add a sea view to the Hahnemann Court mix.
One quick note of caution. The Italian Kitchen’s deserved popularity means it can be difficult to find a place in its tight car park and there are tales of diners getting ticketed for using Aldi supermarket’s premises next door.
Now there’s one surprise you do not want to bargain for.