REVIEW: Juniper’s Pantry supper club, Sea Road, Fulwell, Sunderland

Juniper's Pantry - Sea Road, Fulwell.
Juniper's Pantry - Sea Road, Fulwell.
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THE term “supper club” conjures images of an underground dining establishment, a place where people in the know go for fine food.

Behind a fairly unassuming facade on Sea Road we found ourselves in a candlelit haven of mouth-watering meals.

During the day this latest venture from the people behind the original Juniper’s Pantry in Barnes is a cafe and deli.

Its menu and foods are the same as its forefather, but it’s bigger in size, which makes it a more comfortable venue for sit-in scoffing.

And by night it makes for a restaurant that abounds with charm, from photos of local bare-knuckle fighters of yesteryear on the walls to produce hanging from the ceiling, this feels like one of those places you might stumble across in an historic market town.

The supper club string to the deli’s bow runs on Friday and Saturday evenings. Pricing is kept simple: two courses for £20 or three courses for £25.

The Christmas season menu is concise, but well thought out and features belly-warmers such as fillet of Rockcliffe beef wellington with spinach, truffle, wild mushrooms and potatoes (note: there is a £7 supplement on this dish); pheasant, partridge and venison pie with root vegetables and game gravy, and roast duck with pumpkin purée.

To start, I chose lobster and pork crackling salad, which is the only other dish with a supplement (£5).

What arrived was a perfectly balanced tower of shredded salad and lobster, dressed in a delicate sauce vierge.

Perched on top was a light and crisp wave of crackling. The fatty crisp balanced well with the lighter nuances of the seafood and looked so pretty it was committed to Instagram before we even took a bite.

King scallops with Spanish ham and potato puree caught my eye for mains.

Anyone who has eaten in Juniper’s Pantry before will know they don’t skimp on portions and this was one was perfectly filling.

Plump with flavour, the scallops were juicy and silky against the crisp ham. You may think “potato puree” is just a fancy way of saying mashed potato, but this one put my lumpy mash to shame. It was beautifully smooth and creamy and worked well with the sprigs of samphire which peppered the dish.

As neither of us have sweet tooths, we swerved pudding choices of passion fruit custard tart and lemon and vanilla poached pear tart tatin, in favour of the cheese board.

I’ve dined in ‘posher’ establishments where cheese boards are often a damp squib – a few tasteless crackers and a few slivers of cheddar does not a cheese board make.

No such disappointment from the Juniper’s version.

A chunky slab of wood was brought to our table brimming with colourful cheeses – smoked applewood ewes’ milk, Northumberland nettle cheese and black bomber cheddar – and homemade pickles and chutney.

Though the cheeses were delicious, it was actually the Parmesan shortbread which stole the show. The warm, buttery cheesy discs crumbled into submission on first bite and were a luscious base for the main ingredient.

Drinks-wise, alcohol isn’t sold on site so you would need to bring your own booze. But, be warned, there is a corkage fee of £2.50 for wine and 50p for beers.