SALE shoppers have descended on the towering malls of the MetroCentre.
I’d normally avoid its seemingly-limitless array of shops until well into February.
However, a friend was in a shopping emergency that Sunderland couldn’t satisfy and we deemed the weather too chilly for the streets of Newcastle.
So, we jumped on a train at Sunderland station and joined flocks of other retail worshippers heading to the outskirts of Gateshead.
We decided a good meal was a must before plunging into shopping central.
The Handmade Burger Company is one of a host of restaurant chains in the MetroCentre’s new Qube complex and like most of them, had a queue of hungry diners outside.
Fortunately the line quickly went down, still giving us enough time to browse the menu of more than 40 varieties of burger.
None of your mass-produced patties here – the Burger Company’s brag is that its burgers are made from 100 per cent Scottish beef.
It’s not just beef lovers who are catered for. There are also more than 20 chicken, lamb, fish and vegetarian burgers available.
My queen of shops dining companion treated herself to a chicken burger, with a guilty pleasure topping of brie and cranberry.
I opted for my Sunday dinner in burger form, with fresh lamb and mint sauce.
We both decided to skip the sourdough buns to make more room for burger and I was pleasantly surprised when staff offered us a free side order each in lieu of the admittedly delicious-sounding buns, which are whisked up in a fourth-generation family bakery.
I’m not usually a burger fan, associating them with late-night offerings from grubby takeaways, but my lamb burger lifted the humble snack to new lip-smacking heights.
Chunky, juicy and laden with flavour, it came with a pot of zingy mint sauce and heaps of peppery rocket.
My friend’s chicken burger was equally well-received, smeared with slices of melting brie alongside a serving of sweet cranberry sauce.
We shared a crispy house salad of mixed leaves, peppers, onions and pine nuts, served with bottles of dressing to slosh about as we saw fit, two flame-grilled corn on the cobs and our complimentary sides of grilled veg and coleslaw, which were sadly neglected in favour of our delicious burgers.
Decor is plain and simple – no burger joint kitsch here, but avoid sitting “outside” unless you love people watching, as it’s a little drafty.
With a drink each, our meal came to £23.95. Excellent value for money, as we were both still full well into the evening and managed to shop without dropping.