I was recently invited to one of Sunderland’s newest venues – The Bonded Warehouse. A while back it was published in our local press that the Fat Hippo brand had taken over the tenancy and was opening a new eatery in Sunderland. This really got my attention, the Hippo is my all time favourite restaurant, selling their hand crafted burgers. However, I found out that this wasn’t exactly true and in fact it was something a little bit more exciting for the City.

Meet the Bonded Warehouse – Sunderland’s newest and exciting venue for music, street food and hand crafted ales. Over the past couple of years Sunderland has seen its nightlife scene regenerated with a number of new bars opening its doors making Sunderland a new place to enjoy a night out, but what makes this newest venture so exciting?

Well the with the very successful burger chain The Fat Hippo behind The Bonded Warehouse it has been revamped to showcase  2 floors. Downstairs has been named the Tap House where you can see the doors opening from Wednesday through to Sunday selling small plates and a large variety of alcoholic and soft drinks. And at the end of every month there will also be a music and food event – so now you have something to look forward to after pay day!

Upstairs however is something a bit different. It has a wide open space which is perfect to hire out for weddings, christenings, and any other special occasions you may have. There is a good space at the bottom of the room which houses a stage for those music nights I mentioned earlier too.

Speaking of weddings there is a wedding fair scheduled to be held on the 10th February 2018 to showcase all that this newest venue has to offer.  And with a new Sunday club starting which is to be held monthly and a ticketed event with some good traditional sunday dinner offerings – its going to be a busy and vibrant place. I will of course be intending to check out the Sunday Club in the next few months with the family and I will share the review with you all in due course.

So I was kindly invited along to the first launch night last Thursday – when I arrived I was greeted at the door by Abbie who is the Fat Hippos and now the bonded warehouse Marketing Manager, I was handed a couple of tokens to be able to sample some free drinks or food from the street menu.

I had arrived early to get a feel for the place before the masses descended. The exterior didn’t look as if it had changed but the inside however was something totally different, and you can see that a lot of time and effort has gone into the interior design of the place – which I believe was designed by the talented Emmie Vincent, who has also worked on the renovation of Fat Hippo Durham.

It is the type of design that I love, a good mix wood and leather. Simple yet effective. Right down the middle of the Tap House was a long handmade wooden tall table with beautifully handmade brown tan leather bar stools, which were very comfortable.

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To one side there are a few tables with low hanging atmospheric lights, and at the rear of the room is a small stage area and more tall bar tables, ideal for the standing drinkers. What made the room standout was the beautiful hand crafted chesterfields made by the Chesterfields of London company. 3 in total, a long sofa situated against the wall for optimal viewing of the bar area, a smaller one on the opposite side of the room and a very artistic blue chesterfield – which added that pop of colour into the very rustic room. The quality of the seating is clearly visible and the workman ship second to none. A very good choice, these luxury sofas give the place a sense of sumptuousness.

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The actual bar stretchs from nearly one side of the room to the other, with the taps on the back wall separated by 2 large tanks of specially brewed ale, one called Bonded Tank Beer made by Allendale Brewery and the Bonded Session Larger made by Wylam Brewery Both of these ales will be permanent along with Blonde Star made by Anarchy Brewery co. and Caple Rd No1 made by Westons. I only had the pleasure of sampling two of the Bonded ales as i was driving, but both were very different flavours and both a good choice for a permanent ale.

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They were plenty of staff around to help and serve beer, food and ask questions, the bar staff were brilliant, working very hard to meet the needs of the customers, everyone had a job to do and they pulled it off very well. For the first night it seemed to run very smoothly and they should be proud of this.

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After a couple of hours of exploring the building downstairs, talking to the customers and staff, and generally talking it all in, Upstairs opened, and we were ready to sample the street food and live music .

Upstairs is where the venue or function room is, and where the music takes place. The room itself is a wide open space, the bar to one side, and a secret door near the bar, through this door hides something special which I never knew existed when i have visited in its previous form. A wonderful terrace with more handmade tables awaits outside. I can imagine in the summer this will be amazing for a chilled out drink, however the dark night made for a very beautiful scene, the outdoor area is on 2 levels with hanging lights around.

The food on offer will mostly be The Fat Hippos wonderful bugers which will take permanent residence here with other vendors taking up the offer to sell there fine foods on a monthly basis. On Thursday 4 foods stalls were available Fat Hippo Foul Play, La Petite Creperie and The Dough Bros Unfortunately I only tried 2 out of the 4, Fat Hippo its self of course (Im a BIG fan!) and La Petite Creperie.

The que for the food was very long and it looked as though everyone was sampling something from all vendors and by the looks on their faces – enjoying it.

For the pre launch we had the opportunity to listen to live music and sample the sound in the venue room. The band was Holy Moly and the Crackers who are a band made of 6 musicians. As soon as the music started we had people up dancing and getting involved with the music, the band itself were very good. The group were very multi talented, playing a range of instruments from base, guitar, drums, trumpet, violin and key organ. They were very impressive. and good luck to them for the future.

Overall the music was good, the food was good, the venue was good and the ale was good.

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Sorry – actually good doesn’t cut it, it was amazing, it truly was! The Bonded Warehouse is exactly what Sunderland needs, now people have a reason to come into Sunderland rather than leaving it for a good night out. It’s a stand out venue for a good time and a good night out with an amazing vibe.

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So what’s on?

February – To be confirmed, check back here for updates.

Im Lew – A blogger and father of two boys, three if you include the dog, living in Sunderland. Not sure I have the hang of this blog niche thing but hey ho, I’m doing it anyway – expect all sorts of randomness.

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