Glasses were raised to the Mac Trust when the culture group bought the Dun Cow in 2014 and brought one of the city’s most impressive, historic watering holes back to its Edwardian glory.
Painstaking hours were spent restoring its period features, and improving its ale offering, which have seen this pub return to being one of the city’s best boozers.
The building in its entirety was given a new lease of life including the upstairs function room, which was returned to its turn-of-the-twentieth splendour.
It seemed odd, therefore, when Longhorns took over the food side of the business and turned the first floor into a Texan-style BBQ house, complete with black wooden walls and hipster benches and stools.
Granted, it was in keeping with the successful Longhorns brand, but it seemed to jar with this corner stone of Sunderland’s Edwardian quarter, one of the few areas of the city centre which still retains its historic charm.
New venture The Chop House is a much better fit.
The black cladding is thankfully gone to be replaced by a rich red and sage green colour palette that’s much more reminiscent of the site’s heritage and really opens up the room, with period windows offering great views of its Empire and Minster neighbours.
The chef at the helm of the chopping block is David Gill, who had success with his Juniper’s Pantry delis before taking over the reigns in the kitchen at The Cavalier in Silksworth. His signature cooking style is hearty gourmet-style pub grub, which works well in this proper pub setting.
It’s a beefed up menu compared to his previous ventures, however, with steaks being dish of the day, every day. There’s no less than nine variations of steak available, from the delicate 7oz fillet steak (£19.50) to the more decadent cut, côte de boeuf, which is priced at £42 based on two to four people sharing.
For those struggling to make a choice, our waiter was particularly helpful and really knew his stuff when it came to the various cuts.
For non-steak devourers, there’s also a range of white meats and fish, as well as a small vegetarian section and a less fancy menu for mini munchers.
There’s also a good range of starters, including potted shrimp and toast, crab cakes and Scotch egg, the latter of which were a firm favourite at Juniper’s.
I chose one of the meatier options: beef tartare (£8). It was a rare treat: beautifully succulent slivers of meat topped with shavings of Parmesan, capers and shallot rings.
We chose a sharing steak for mains - the chateaubriand which was £37.50 between us. Cut from the thickest part of the tenderloin, it had a beautifully buttery tenderness, especially as we’d asked for it medium rare. Sublime.
There’s various sides and sauces available, the house Chop sauce was particularly moreish, but when the meat’s this good it doesn’t need dressing up.