A TRIP to Sambuca proved so purse-pleasing that we came up with a new adjective to sum it up: bargainacious.
This was my first visit to this North East chain and pretty soon it became apparent that its slogan of “every hour is happy hour” was spot on.
The menu is cheap as chips. So much so, you can pick up a three-course daily lunch special for £3.95 – yes £3.95!
Running Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 5pm, the offer includes minestrone soup or potato skins to start, any pizza or pasta for a main meal and ice cream or coffee for pudding.
Even if you don’t go for that particular offer, the rest of the menu will hardly dent your bank balance with pizzas and pastas priced from £2.50-£3.95 and starters priced from as little as £1.50.
It was the promise of bargain-basement prices which had lured me to this off-the-beaten track restaurant in Sunderland’s fish quay.
Friends had been raving about the place for months, but I was worried it was all too good to be true.
Chum Jane and I made the trek to its chilly location on a wild and windy Sunday only to find that the hype was true.
We hadn’t booked, but luckily we were able to find a table amongst the diners enjoying a three-course Sunday lunch for £6.95.
Interior-wise, it doesn’t look too dissimilar from its previous incarnation as Villa Del Porto, but Jane informed me the menu was just like the Sambuca in North Shields – full of cheap staples as well as fish specials on the board, which change depending on what’s been brought in on that day’s boats.
Service was super-duper and swift and we enjoyed sweeping views over the River Wear which seemed to counteract how chilly the restaurant felt.
To start, I chose from the board and went with a bruschetta which was loaded with deliciously gooey goats cheese.
Jane, meanwhile, enjoyed prawns in a hot chilli sauce. She was presented with chunky, juicy prawns, immaculately presented in a thick, red sauce.
It was absolutely delicious and left her chasing the last of the sauce with her cutlery.
Our main meals, some of the most expensive in the restaurant, both came in around the £10 mark which was still cheap considering the quality.
Jane opted for seabass with crevettes. Sadly, there was no seabass left, but haddock was an almost-adequate substitute.
It came with huge prawns, thoughtfully presented with a finger bowl to clean-up her sticky digits.
I’m assured it tasted fresh and packed with flavour. Her meal was accompanied by a small platter of roasted veg, which was a little overdone, but the silky smooth mashed potato saved the day.
My main meal of a seafood risotto in a tomato sauce also got the thumbs up.
It was jam-packed with sea food and tasted divine. Even though I was stuffed to the gills, I forced myself to finish the huge portion.
As I nursed a full tummy, Jane ordered a sweet tapas – a mixture of bite-sized desserts.
Pretty soon, a plateful of creamy dollops of tiramisu, cheesecake and ice cream was whisking its way to our table.
Even though you still get change from £3 for this dish, it’s a good size and is perfect for sharing – if you can bear to.
It received only a little thumbs down for the use of squirty cream, but apart from that it was the cherry on top of the cake.