One of Sunderland’s longest-standing and most-loved hotels has been given a makeover – and we think the results are nothing short of brilliant.
What was once an old-fashioned, tired-looking hotel (though it was built over 170 years ago, so we can forgive that), is now a sparkling new place to lay your head. A modern, four-star haven, decked out to the highest standard, made for residents in search of a somewhere-by-the-sea staycation and visitors looking for a taste of the suite life – even if just for the night.
If you aren’t familiar with it, you’ll discover that location-wise, it’s spot on – perched right at the beach overlooking Roker Pier. It’s worth booking up for the views alone; Sunderland’s coastline looks pretty-as-a-picture just as the sun is coming up and Roker beach’s sparkling shore ain’t a bad sight first thing in the morning – especially on a crisp, autumn day.
All this and you’re still within easy each of Sunderland city centre and its nearby attractions, including The Stadium of Light, the Empire Theatre and the award-winning National Glass Centre.
Couples, chums and families are all welcome to spend a night here – there are 43 en-suite rooms on offer, ranging from cosy double rooms and airy twins, to superior, suite-like boudoirs. No two rooms are the same – they retain the hotel’s quirky irregularities (mind the slightly wonky floors in some) and features and are all individually named and decorated – but some things they do have in common, we found, is that they’re spotlessly-clean, comfortably warm (good to know this time of year), brimming with character and have that home-away-from-home feeling.
We snapped up a Superior Room, meaning a sea view in the morning was guaranteed (a big plus for us), along with a plush queen-size bed for two and a spacious bathroom, complete with a near-giant hot-tub bath (the room’s stand-out feature) and separate shower. Nice big flatscreen with Freeview TV, too.
Decor-wise, like the others, the room takes on a nautical theme – an obvious nod to its whereabouts.
The interior designers could’ve got this very wrong – heading down the cheesy route of stripy wallpaper and anchor motif overload – but, thankfully, their sailor-inspired choices have paid off. We really liked the mix the trunk-style storage, boardwalk-like wood, rope wall lights and the vintage telescope in the window. You’ll even find your own broadsheet newspapers, packed with all-you-need-to-know information about the hotel’s amenities, whereabouts and restaurant menus – a quirky and appreciated little extra. We can also report that the bed, with its thick, marshmallow-like duvet, plump pillows and crisp white sheets, was a triumph – we slept like babies.
A big thumbs up for the food you’ll find here, too. We enjoyed a slap-up Italian meal at the Italian Farmhouse restaurant – one of three foodie hubs under the hotel’s roof. The others are Poetic License Bar, home to Poetic License distillery, where we enjoyed pre-dinner, gin-infused cocktails, and Let There Be Crumbs tearoom – a place for moreish Afternoon Tea and every sweet treat under the sun.
You won’t find particularly fancy Italian grub at the Farmhouse, but dishes will fill you up – and everything’s cooked to a high standard. More like home comforts, such as rustic garlic breads, traditional-style pizzas, hand stretched and cooked in wood-burning oven, big bowls of pasta, sizzling picks from the grill and classic desserts like tiramisu, gelato and limoncello cheesecake.
After a restful nights’ sleep, we headed downstairs to Let There Be Crumbs, where brekkie takes place. The continental buffet serves up all the essentials – all your usual cereals, toasty breads, jams and spreads and fresh fruit. For us, a bowl or two of natural yogurt, berries and seeds, along with a sausage and bacon bap and dippy eggs, did the job.
We also must add that the service during our stay was second-to-none, from start to finish. We were greeted with smiles and sent on our way with them, too, and if ever we needed anything, there was always someone on hand. Kudos to the breakfast staff for navigating everything – and everyone – so smoothly on a busy Sunday, and the bar staff who didn’t think twice when it came to helping us pick out our perfect tipples. If ever you’re on the hunt for a place to stay around these parts, it has to be Roker Hotel. It gets everything right-on.