Tavistock Retro Italia, Roker Hotel, Roker

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A search of Wearside restaurants for something new left us at a dead end, so we headed for the seaside.

The back end of the festive season meant many places were still shut, and after a unsuccessful trawl of Houghton and Washington, we ended up in Roker.

I’ve not been into the Roker Hotel for a few years and hadn’t heard of anyone who had eaten at Retro in the past.

I tentatively went through the front door to see if the restaurant was open and was told to come in by the friendly staff.

To start, I chose the gamberoni, while my girlfriend had a garlic bread layered with tasty mozzarella.

My prawns were dripping in garlic, white wine and chili. If the portion was any bigger, I’d have devoured that as well, it was that moreish.

The pizza fiend in me meant I went for the pizza diavola.

It’s a pizza I’ve had a few times, but have often been let down – the chorizo sausage often too smokey for my taste or the pepperoni not up to standard.

At Retro, however, I needn’t have worried. This might as well have been a pizza straight from the old country.

The crust was light but crispy, the toppings blended together well with the flavours, including some red hot chillis, provided a real kick that left me reaching for my pint of lager.

Girlfriend Siobhan’s a big fan of steak, and she went for a fillet priced at almost £19.

Despite the different presentation, the meat was stacked up rather than laid flat on the plate, it hit the spot, accompanied by vegetables and a rich peppercorn sauce.

We ummed and ahhed over a dessert, but the staff persuaded us to take the plunge.

I went for a trio of ice cream scoops (toffee, vanilla and pistachio), while Siobhan opted for the dessert of the day, a cheesecake topped with sponge and a berry compote, which she rated as good, but not outstanding.

The bill, including drinks, came in at a more than reasonable £60.80. Not the cheapest meal I’ll have, but we didn’t mind paying that for the quality of grub which was served up.

David Allison