See inside Sunderland city centre's newest coffee shop and bistro

0
Have your say

A new business whose name is inspired by Sunderland's shipbuilding heritage has opened in the city centre.

In honour of the nearby Keel Square and artwork The Keel Line, so-called because of the shipbuilding term, the new business has brewed its first cuppas as The Keel Lounge.

The Keel Lounge in High Street West

The Keel Lounge in High Street West

Around £50,000 has been invested in transforming the site in High Street West, which closed as Elephant Tea Rooms in May, into the new business which has already built up a loyal following.

Owners Sharon Downey and Joanna Veti say that the staff are key to the success of the business. Among their employees are ladies who lost their jobs at Elizabeth's when the landmark restaurant closed its doors in Bridge Street recently.

Sharon said: "I used to go to Elizabeth's myself and it was such a shame to see it close. It's important to have independent businesses like that in the city centre, rather than just chains. A couple of the ladies who used to work there were walking past and noticed we were opening so they popped in to see if we had any jobs. One had worked there for 39 years and another for 24 years, so they know exactly what they're doing."

Joanna said: "It would have been cheaper to employ students, but we want people who will take time with the customers. A lot of the regulars from Elizabeth's now come here and we've had some great feedback already, We have about 50 covers here and on Saturday you couldn't get a table."

The cafe and bistro is in the former Elephant Tea Rooms

The cafe and bistro is in the former Elephant Tea Rooms

As well as serving cakes and coffees, the site has an alcohol license and also serves up classic hot meals such as paninis and jacket potatoes.

Joanna said: "All our suppliers are local so we use a butchers in Whitburn and all are cakes are hand-made by a lady in Sunderland. It's simple food, which is done well."

From next year, the venue will also offer a first floor function room which is in the process of being renovated.

The businesswomen say they are proud to be part of an area of town that is undergoing a period of regeneration with the development of a new cultural quarter nearby.

Inside the new venture

Inside the new venture

Sharon said: "There's a lot going on in the city centre at the moment and I really believe that in three to four years it will be a completely different place with a different atmosphere."

The Keel Lounge has already built up regulars

The Keel Lounge has already built up regulars

The site is proving popular

The site is proving popular