Review: Juniper’s Pantry, Silksworth Lane, Barnes, Sunderland

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FLEDGELING business Juniper’s Pantry is proving quite the culinary talking point.

Since it opened in July, chefs I’ve interviewed have spoken of it, social network sites are awash with people singing its praises and it’s become a favourite haunt of Olympic boxer Tony Jeffries and members of pop outfit Frankie & the Heartstrings.

What’s its secret? I was about to find out.

Though primarily a delicatessen, you can sit in at Juniper’s, but, as the sun had his hat on, we opted for one of its set menu picnic baskets.

It was a good job too. I’d never be able to choose from the menu.

There’s way too many yummy options, all made in-house, such as pies, soft cheeses, breads, pastries, stocks, sauces, salt cured hams and local delicacies to lip-licking sandwich fillings such as slow roast beef, fiery chilli bang bang chicken and piri piri prawn with caramelised onions. Sandwiches are priced from £2.40.

The picnic option, which needs to be ordered 24-hours beforehand, was perfect for a little picker like me, however, as it included a mixture of delectable morsels.

We went with the vegetarian option (£11.95 per person) which includes a selection of artisan breads, olives, organic butter, guacamole, caramelised onions, grilled courgettes stuffed with goats cheese, a selection of canapes, caramelised vegetables, Mrs Keen’s cheddar turnovers and a pudding of chocolate brownie with orange ganache and fresh fruit salad.

Vintage basket in hand, my friend Helen and I made our way to the nearby Barnes Park to devour the goods.

It was all very civilised. We took a chequered blanket, a lace parasol, straw hats and Pimm’s and soaked up one of the last days of the summer.

Helen’s a snapper by trade so we even held a makeshift picnic photoshoot.

It seemed a shame to demolish the picnic basket, each item had been carefully wrapped and labelled – but it had to be done.

There was plenty of oohing and ahhing as we picked our way through the basket.

The bread in particular, we had a rosemary and a tomato and chilli option, was divine. Topped off with some organic butter, it was a real treat for the tastebuds.

Juniper’s owners, brothers-in-law Roger Dickson and David Gill, have a real passion for foods sourced in the North East and it shows in the fruits of their labour.

The cheddar turnover was scrumptious, the chutneys were plump with flavour and the filled courgettes were simply delicious.

As you can tell, I was impressed, and it was only my full tummy which prevented me from scoffing the lot.

After a short walk back to Juniper’s, we rounded the afternoon off with coffee.

Silksworth Lane’s not an obvious destination for somewhere like Juniper’s, but it works.

You can watch the world go by, as you try to resist some of the cakes and pastries being baked behind you.

The decor too offers something a bit different, it’s all very classy, vintage chic with the homely essence of Beamish thrown in for good measure.

I’ve certainly jumped on the Juniper bandwagon, you should too.