Our family go back a long way with the Roker Hotel. I first stayed there as a small child (I’m now 30), so our first of many visits date back to the end of the eighties. It was always the place we stopped at whenever we visited our relatives in the area and it very much remained our default choice from there until the early 2000’s. Sometimes there were a couple of visits in any given year – so effectively it’s a hotel we knew as well as our own home. We’ve even held a couple of large family parties there. It wouldn’t surprise me if we’ve stayed in half the rooms it has to offer over the years. As a child, we usually had rooms 118, 119 and especially 121 (several times!).
Anyway, one thing lead to another (not necessarily down to the hotel) and we stopped off in a few other different hotels in the area towards the back end of the last decade on the fewer occasions we visited.
Last week (30th July – 1st August), was the first time we had been to the Roker Hotel for several years and it was more of a ‘nostalgia trip’ for myself and my father than anything else. Despite being away from the place for so long, it felt so right to ‘come home’ to the Roker again. Despite having had a few makeovers in that time, I was delighted to see the character and ‘soul’ of the hotel we knew and loved so well had been largely, if not entirely, retained. It hadn’t been ruined. The best way I could describe it was that ‘everything had changed – but nothing had changed’. What made it such a nice place and different from more modern hotels was still there… That’s what originally appealed to us – it’s quirks. Everything was still recognisable. The general layout, the corridors, the public spaces e.t.c… It’s only been given a very pleasant and thorough redecoration. I don’t even mind the grey exterior paintwork (it’s almost always been cream – which I liked).
On arrival, we were dealt with swiftly and politely and handed the key card to our room – 127. Call me ‘sad’, but I knew where it was even before there was an offer of an explanation. Providing there were no changes made to the layout (which I hoped not – it was part of the character), I could go straight there. It was also one of the last rooms I had when I brought a friend up there for a football match. Going up the stairs and it was clear there were no real changes barring a thorough redecoration! Very happy indeed!
The room we had was nicely decorated in a not ‘over the top’ way, nicely presented and about as close to spotless as you can get this side of a laboratory. No complaints at all, there. Similar story with the bathroom. A few small spots of mildew but well within levels of acceptability, especially given the bathroom in the particular room has no natural ventilation. I’ve stayed at more expensive places down the road from here which haven’t been as nicely presented as the Roker Hotel. Also thanks to it being up on the second floor, it was also very quiet and sleep wasn’t an issue. The little mints were also a neat touch.
The new ‘Poetic Licence’ bar is a real asset to the place. Nicely furnished and some tables finished with copper tops. A reasonable selection of ales on offer at reasonable prices too. Service was generally swift and was only understandably slower when it was extremely busy in the evenings. The outside terrace area is a very nice touch indeed, but sadly takes up about half a dozen former car parking places. Given the Roker Hotel is more popular now than I remember it (it’s more of an entertainments venue now than it ever used to be), this is something I’m in two minds of. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose… We ate in there both evenings and again, service was swift and the staff very polite. No issue at all with the quality of the food and I highly recommend the Steak and Sonnet 32 Ale pie. However, it come with cabbage and not with chips?! The only time I’ve ever had a pie and had to order chips separately…! Just a small disappointment in what was otherwise two very decent evenings in the bar area.
Let There Be Crumbs is in what used to be the old general restaurant area (never visited the hotel when this was the Chinese restaurant – not really my thing). It’s also still where you go for breakfast. The breakfast itself was nice indeed, although the self-service split opinion between me and my father. Tea and coffee was brought to us though and we were asked if we wanted any more when our cups ran out. Unfortunately we never had the chance to experience it during the day as we were out both days and it had already closed by the time we returned. A shame really… Something to do next time, I suppose.
The Italian Farmhouse isn’t really my thing (pub grub is!), so I didn’t go down into there. As a side note, I presume this is why room 143 (just another room we’ve had in the past - twice!), is now on the first floor rather than being along the corridor and down the stairs?!
So even after all these years, the Roker Hotel still remains a family favourite of ours and a place that truly feels like home. If you’re after somewhere that has a bit of character (not just a bland box), somewhere with a sense of history, somewhere with a nice homely feel to it and somewhere with great sea views at a reasonable price, the Roker Hotel is somewhere you’ll struggle to beat just about anywhere – yet alone Sunderland. I loved it as a child, I loved it growing up and despite a bit of a sabbatical from it in recent years, I still love it as an adult. I only know of one other place in Britain that has this effect on me. It’s one of only two places which is a ‘default’ choice when it comes to accommodation.
So, thanks to all the staff there for what made a very nice, personally nostalgic experience for a couple of Roker Hotel ‘vetrans’. It has a few little things I’d change but overall it would be unfair if I was to rate this any less than five stars. It’s still very much the ‘landmark building’, as described on it’s website, I remember and love. It’s a true icon and deserves to be preserved, especially given it’s 170+ year history (built in 1842 if memory serves me). I have absolutely no problem in recommending it to anyone and very much to returning in the future – only this time the gap will certainly not be anywhere near as long. (It’s already being planned, actually…!) less