As transformations go, they don’t get much more dramatic than at Sunderland’s newest Indian restaurant.
Nine months of extensive renovation work to the tune of £600,000 has been ploughed into turning this once-derelict basement at Wearside Masonic Temple into Mumbai Silk – and it shows.
This is a restaurant where the decor certainly has the wow factor, from the Chicago speakeasy-style bar and trendy feature lighting, to the private dining room and its striking Indian mural.
But while the restaurant has carved its own identity in the under-used space, it also pays homage to the history of this fine building in Burdon Road, which dates back to 1932.
Mid-war period tiling contrasts well with exposed brickwork, while old safes from Masonic lodges, which were left in the basement, now make for quirky units.
As well as the 102-cover restaurant, the new addition, which serves food from 5pm each evening, features Charlie’s Bar, where non-diners can just enjoy a drink from a well-stocked bar, with a good range of wines and cocktails, as well as ciders and beers on tap.
For the big spenders, there’s even a premium Champagne menu. Together, the bar and restaurant created a smart destination venue, away from the blaring music of the city centre pubs – though street parking is at a premium for those driving.
We’d booked ahead on a Saturday night and it’s best to do so as the booking diary was chock-a-block. It seems word has got around about the new restaurant, which already has a following thanks to its sister sites, Mumbai in Haswell Plough in East Durham and Mumbai Majestic in Hartlepool.
Much like the interior, the menu offers a modern take on Indian classics, with starters including Mulagathani soup (£4.50) and Baja scallops (£8.95) rubbing shoulders with the usual suspects, such as onion bhaji (£2.90) and samosa (£3.90).
There’s also a wide range of mains on offer, including grill tandoori choices, modern fish cuisine, fusion chicken, lamb and a substantial choice for vegetarians.
Visit during happy hour, daily from 5pm to 7pm and until 6.30pm on Saturdays, and you can pick up four courses for £10.95. Otherwise, a chicken korma comes in at £7.40, with prices rising for the more adventurous dishes.
After the obligatory poppadoms and pickles appetiser, I chose the paneer tikka to start (£5.50) and was presented with four large chunks of this spongy cheese, with its subtle flavour heightened by a rich yoghurt sauce.
For mains I had tandoori chicken (£10.95), two large hunks of chicken on the bone served on a sizzling plate, and with a small salad.
The meat was succulent and given extra depth by the unmistakable smokiness of the tandoor oven. It was a rich flavour of India which matched its smart setting.