Review: D’acqua, John Street, Sunderland

Interior and exterior of D'Acqua Restaurant - John Street, Sunderland...
Interior and exterior of D'Acqua Restaurant - John Street, Sunderland...
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SNAILS are slippery little suckers aren’t they?

I found this out on a visit to one of Sunderland’s posher restaurants.

To my knowledge, there aren’t any other restaurants in the city centre serving up snails, so I thought I’d give this latest addition to the D’acqua menu a try.

My choice of starter was more down to the novelty factor, rather than the desire to actually eat a culinary cousin to the snails that plague my garden plants.

Turns out this French delicacy, priced £6.50, wasn’t half bad. It was more meaty than I’d expected and didn’t have the slime factor I’d previously associated with the dish,

Still, I couldn’t eat a whole plate.

My dates for the evening, Cara and Jodie, baulked at the very idea of snails. But, after some gentle persuasion from me, gave them a try.

Jodie’s ended up in her napkin while Cara managed – just – to keep hers down, but neither were impressed.

Thankfully for them, there’s a host of safer options on the menu at D’acqua

To start, Cara chose the bresaola, air-dried beef with shaves of parmigiano reggiano and wild rocket for £7.50.

I sampled some and it was lip-smackingly good – not unlike the cured meats you get in Spain that practically melt on your tongue.

Jodie, meanwhile, tucked into a breaded seabass with cherry tomatoes for £8. It was beautifully presented and though a little pricey compared to starters at other venues in the city centre, I’m assured it was worth the extra pounds.

On the main meal menu, which is inspired by Italian and French cuisine with an English twist, you can choose from a choice of pastas, risottos and pizza.

There’s also a more enticing list of general mains and grills such as Barbary duck breast served pink, with morello cherries, muscovado sugar and port (£17) and 8oz fillet of beef wrapped in bacon, pan fried, topped with pate and napped with rich Madeira sauce (£24).

I was eventually swayed by the risotto haddock which, at £11, is one of the cheaper options.

It arrived promptly and was presented in a giant, trendy-shaped white bowl. With a perfectly-poached egg perched on top, the risotto looked delectable and I couldn’t wait to demolish it with my fork.

I wasn’t disappointed – it was just the right side of creamy without being too rich and was plump with prime chunks of haddock and a sprinkling of softened leeks.

Jodie enjoyed the same dish as me while Cara chose the meat cannelloni (£9). Like the other pasta and risotto options, it can be ordered as a starter portion for a lesser price.

This dish claims to be a “chef’s secret recipe” and whatever he does with the dish, he’s doing it right. Cara lapped it up.

Despite our belly-busting meals, we were persuaded by our waiter to try the dessert plate.

For your £12 you get a pick ‘n’ mix of some calorie-laden classics: brioche bread and butter pud; Ameretto choc torte; banoffee mess; creme brulee; white choc bubble wrap and ginger sponge and ice cream.

I was stuffed, so only managed a few meagre mouthfuls. However, judging from what I tasted, this pudding is definitely worth saving myself for in future.

D’acqua – named after the building’s former life as the Sunderland and South Shields Water Company offices – has always been one of my favourite restaurants in town.

Though it’s at the quiet end of the city centre, its excellent food and classy, yet chilled, setting is always enough to lure me in.