Sunderland and fine dining have never been easy bedfellows. But in tune with the changing cityscape, a head-turning restaurant has emerged in an unlikely place.

City Bistro is housed within the sparkly new Sunderland College. But a student kitchen it is not.

Surroundings of blonde wood, contrasting walnut feature walls and teal furnishings give an air of sleek modernity that make it every inch a city centre restaurant of its time.

Statement lighting and an open kitchen lure you in and you pray the food delivers.

A LESSON IN GOOD FOODFrom the kitchen, the man making sure it does is Kelvin Linstead. He’s spent time in kitchens at Jesmond Dene House, Peace&Loaf, Jesmond and Slaley Hall. The food he’s teaching students to serve up here is certainly setting standards.

The menus are impressive and the food delivered on-point. What’s more you can feast well for prices that are not fine-dining – a £9.95 two-course feast could include cod brandade, cucumber, gin and tonic as a starter with a follow-up of chicken breast, celeriac, mash and wild mushrooms. For £11.95 you can bring chocolate mousse and peanut brittle to the dining party.

As a prelude to the city’s Restaurant Week (11-19 March), we dined on main courses in the City Bistro, which is headed up by restaurant manager Himal Arachchi who has worked at numerous Hilton UK restaurants, and a five star resort in the Maldives.

A main course of cod came with a sweep of cauliflower puree, fondant potato and a soft herb crust. Light puddled parsley sauce surrounded a piece of fish which was skilfully cooked – perfectly white and fleshy, on the cusp of just-right translucent.

A great plate of food, beautifully presented and as good as you’d get in a more pricey, top-notch restaurant. We also spied and tried a fine-looking, inventive veggie dish of charred leeks, egg yolks, wild mushrooms and beurre noisette – a great combination.

A LESSON IN GOOD FOODThe restaurant is a genuine training environment for around 150 students – who are learning skills from catering to front of house. The benchmark is high with real attention to detail, teaching and honing  skills that create work-ready graduates able then to transfer to top level restaurants anywhere.

According to Rob Stewart, curriculum leader for hospitality and catering at the college, “this is not a student kitchen, the type of food on offer is something seasonal and really different with a modern service.”

Try for yourself – City Bistro is taking part in Sunderland Restaurant Week which sees the city’s eating places offering £5, £10 and £15 menus covering every type of food.

#EatDrinkSunderland   /  @_citybistro