A year on since it first opened its doors and City Bistro has established itself as a landmark destination on Sunderland’s growing restaurant scene.
The city has seen an exponential rise in the amount of independent restaurants opening in the last three years – a 23.4 per cent increase to be exact – and the people behind City Bistro are proud to be part of this foodie revolution.
“It’s great to see so many new restaurants opening in Sunderland,” head chef Kelvin Linstead enthuses. “Culture is such a massive part of the city now and I think food goes hand-in-hand with this. We’re seeing so many new cultural opportunities here and independent restaurants are emerging because of this.”
The upsurge in Sunderland eateries is something that is welcomed by the team at City Bistro, and they’re keen to play a role in the restaurant renaissance.
“It’s all healthy competition in our eyes. We want Sunderland’s restaurant scene to flourish and it can only do that if we have a wide choice of good quality places to eat,” adds Kelvin who has worked in the industry for 17 years.
As an experienced chef with stints in some of Newcastle’s most celebrated restaurants – including Peace and Loaf, Jesmond Dene House and Pan Haggerty, Kelvin has introduced a new dining element to the food scene in Sunderland.
“At City Bistro we pride ourselves on producing high end dishes that are made from scratch – from the bread we serve to the sauces used in our dishes and everything in between. You don’t get many restaurants that can say everything is freshly made and I think that’s what makes us stand out from the crowd.”
A year on since the bistro first opened and it has carved out a reputation as a restaurant that serves up sumptuous modern European fare at reasonable prices. And its loyal customer base speaks for itself.
“We have people coming back time and time again. Some of our customers come back on an almost weekly basis and it’s a great feeling. You know you’re doing something right,” adds Kelvin.
And if the reviews are anything to go by, City Bistro is doing a lot right. Lauded as the ‘best restaurant in Sunderland’ by a food critic, the eatery has a perfect score of five stars on TripAdvisor.
“The reception we’ve had since we opened has been phenomenal. There’s been so much positivity around us opening and the fact that we’ve had so much good feedback makes us work even harder to produce top quality dishes.”
And that enthusiasm is shared by the team of students who work under Kelvin at City Bistro, which is one of Sunderland College’s commercial outlets.
Housed in the college’s new City Campus on Park Lane, the bistro is not only an esteemed restaurant but it also acts as a training kitchen for the next generation of chefs.
“We’ve had some real talent coming through the doors and they’ve gone on to get jobs in some first class restaurants. It’s something we’re really proud of and I think giving them the opportunity to work in an establishment like this, where they learn industry standard cooking, has given them a head start in their career.
“Although we are a training kitchen, we are a professional outfit and nothing is done to a mediocre standard here. The students know that and they have really stepped up to the mark.”
Kelvin and his sous chef, Martin Smith, are keen to vary the menu on a regular basis, and they work around the produce that’s available on any given day.
“We have regular customers and we don’t want them to come in one week and find the menu is exactly the same as the previous week. We like to change it as often as we can to make sure our ingredients are the freshest they can be, and of course it makes it more interesting in the kitchen to be able to create new dishes every week.”
And the two weeks in November where City Bistro will be celebrating its first birthday will be no exception.
Kelvin and his team have created a special lunch menu for the occasion which will run from November 13 to 24, with a flavoursome medley of dishes including grilled mackerel with beetroot, horseradish cream and watercress; root vegetable and goats cheese pithivier; and raspberry frangipane.
A series of artisan food evenings to celebrate the anniversary throughout the two-week period are also on the menu for diners who have a love for gourmet cuisine.
City Bistro’s restaurant manager, Himal Arachchi, adds: “We are trying to do something different to other restaurants in the area and the introduction of our speciality food evenings have been extremely successful.
“For our birthday celebrations we have organised a beef and beer night including a beer pairing option with some of the finest ales and craft beer available, and we’re hosting seafood, tapas and nose to tail pig evenings. The menus have all been made by Kelvin who has put his stamp on the dishes, so they’re definitely not boring!”
Beef carpaccio, steak tartar with quail egg, rare Asian beef salad and oxtail stuffed fillet wrapped in parma ham are some of the mouth-watering dishes on the ten-course tasting menu for the beef and beer night.
And diners with a palette for all things seafood can choose from oysters, mackerel with charred cucumber and gin and tonic, seafood platter, monkfish broth with clam and chorizo, and blackened salmon with pak choi during the seafood evening.
“We’re really looking forward to the birthday celebrations,” says Kelvin. “On the actual day of our first birthday – November 22 – we’re having an afternoon tea party with prosecco, and it’s going to be a great atmosphere. We’ll be busy in the kitchen but I think we’ll all have time for one or two glasses of prosecco!”
Kelvin is hoping there’s cause for more celebration in the future as the restaurant sets it sights on national recognition.
“We’re aiming for an AA rosette and to be included in the Michelin Guide, and we’re all confident we can achieve this. It’s a really exciting time for us at the moment.”
To find out more about the special offers available to celebrate City Bistro’s first birthday, click here or call 0191 5116270.
City Bistro is open Monday to Friday for lunch from 12-3pm and Thursday and Friday for dinner from 5.30-8pm.