What’s the new Bonded Warehouse all about?
Though the name may be the same, there’s new owners at this historic 19th century warehouse on Sunderland’s Fish Quay. But when they reopened the doors at this site after months of renovation I was a bit baffled as to what it was.
Though it’s owned by the same people as the popular local gourmet burger brand Fat Hippo, it’s not a Fat Hippo restaurant - though you can get their burgers on Wednesdays - and it may be in a student area, but it’s not a student bar.
It’s a bit of a hybrid really, with a bar operating downstairs called The Tap House, which also hosts gigs, and a wedding and events space upstairs.
It seems other people haven’t cottoned on to what its identity is either as the couple of times I, or friends, have visited for food it’s been close to empty. A shame really, because the food is some of the best, and most imaginative, I’ve had in the city for a long time.
The menu’s a concise selection of small plates and sharing boards, an informal affair which suits the relaxed vibe at this converted warehouse where the playlist on Sunday night was Northern Soul with a side of funk.
Rather than a restaurant, it’s more of a bar with food, served from Wednesdays to Sundays, which is designed for sharing, as you work your way through the more extensive drinks menu.
Ale lovers can wet their whistle with draught options from North East breweries such as Wylam, Allendale and Anarchy, as well as rotations of more unusual porters, stouts and strong IPAs, with prices starting at £4 a pint. For those after something lighter, there’s also an excellent choice gins and wines, starting at £4.50 for a small glass.
We lined our stomachs with four plates between us, which was more than enough - beetroot hummus with whipped feta on sourdough (£4), halloumi fries (£5), short rib croquettes (£5) and lobster mac and cheese (£5).
Service was swift and informative and the staff were well clued up on what they’re pulling behind the bar as well as what they’re picking up from the pass.
A twist on the American classic, the lobster mac and cheese with bacon bits was sinfully good and adding a quality gruyere into the mix, instead of just a bog standard Cheddar, made it extra moreish. The whipped feta was another treat, light and loaded with flavour, which worked well against the punchy beetroot hummus.
Meanwhile, the gloriously chewy halloumi fries, given extra depth with molasses, pomegranate and mint, were devoured like we hadn’t eaten in a week.
Interior-wise, there’s the high level of attention to detail you get in the Fat Hippo venues, with decor that doffs its cap to the heritage of the building with exposed timber and bare, moody lighting, with the addition of splashes of foliage and studded leather couches. It’s cool, yet elegant, and far removed from the sticky floors of the building’s student union days. Hopefully more people will venture down to this corner of the city to find that out for themselves.