Will Hadrian conquer Sunderland this Christmas?
The Roman emperor has lent his name to the latest addition to the city’s eating out scene. But while he may have managed to construct a frontier wall that spanned the breadth of Britain, Sunderland city centre can sometimes be more difficult to master.
Many new ventures have come and gone in the past couple of years, and although Hadrian’s Tipi may only be a temporary structure it has enough about it to keep people entertained over the winter months.
It’s a spin off from its successful namesake in Newcastle and has set up camp as part of the city centre’s Christmas offering in Keel Square, which will also see the return of the ice rink.
Tipis are all the rage these days and this one is as good an example of the trend as the ones I’ve visited in Newcastle and York with its own fire pit, seating areas complete with fur throws, bar and regular live music acoustic slots which help to create a great atmosphere for a chilled afternoon / night out, as well as a photo booth if you want to take home a memory of the night.
As well as the tipi itself, there’s a range of seven street food and drink stalls outside, selling everything from hot chocolates, coffees and cocktails (two for a tenner) to bratwurst and fries loaded with shredded duck. It’s all sinful food designed to be eaten with your hands and there’s benches which line the street food village for diners and drinkers.
Prices aren’t the cheapest at £3.99 for a bottle of Sol, £4.29 for a bottle of Peroni and £4.69 for a pint of Heineken, but it’s not really a place you go to get tanked up for a night over the town. It’s aimed more at people wanting a casual catch up and families using the soon to open ice rink, as well as four-legged friends who are also made to feel welcome.
Beer and spirit drinkers are well catered for with a decent choice, including house special Roman’s Ruin on draught, however, wine drinkers have a more limited range from which to choose, bar the basics.
Tummies rumbling, we took a seat outside, but could still hear the great acoustic act and their Amy Winehouse covers.
The Hatch 76 van proved tempting with its calorie-heavy menu of chilli loaded cheese fries (£5), Vietnamese fries (£4) and grilled halloumi sub (£5), but it was the exotic wafts coming from the Mivesi Bangladeshi street food stall that won me over. You might remember them from the Tall Ships Races in the summer where their melting pot of flavours made them one of the more popular stalls.
Vegans and vegetarians are well catered for with options such as chot poti (£6) and vegetable pizza made with naan bread (£7), as well as plenty for the meat eaters.
I chose the grilled chicken tikka with grilled halloumi wrap (£7). It was a whopper with the wrap struggling to hold the rich mix of meat, cheese and salad with my choice of yogurt sauce. The Cypriot cheese isn’t something I’d ever think to put with Indian food but its distinctive saltness worked well with the spice of the tikka.
There’s plenty of outdoor heaters to warm your cockles as you get stuck into your bait on a Wearside winter’s night - but you’ll still need to wear a coat, even if you are a hardened Northerner.