It’s the ultimate 30th birthday present for any chef: a place of your own, with your name above the door. And Jack Baker is making the most of his celebrations.
His eponymous brasserie – complete with Jack’s Bar in the basement – opened last week with an open house party that attracted more guests than the old Beauchief had seen in years.
It’s a measure of his bosses’ regard that Jack has been given a free hand with the hotel, which won acclaim as the fine-dining Beauchief, but failed to pay its way.
After ten years with BrewKitchen, opening the Cricket Inn, Catch and Relish among others, he was ready for a fresh challenge – and Jack Baker’s Brasserie was exactly what he needed to get the creative juices flowing.
The new look is more than simply a rebranding exercise. As a casual ‘restaurant with rooms’, it now offers laid back hospitality and a menu to match.
Jack spent weeks planning what he should offer. The result is an eclectic mix: brunch, afternoon tea, a daily-changing bar menu (from £5) and a dinner selection of tasting boards, gastro-style starters, classics, slow-braised roasts and grills.
The biggest change is that the Beauchief is now very much a family venue.
A Sunday carvery offers a home-cooked roast for £7. There’s a choice of gammon, turkey, beef or nut roast, with seven different vegetables, stuffing, bread sauce and Yorkshire puds.
Children pay just £3, with a kids’ toy corner and a magician thrown in. Better still, accompanied under-eights eat free from the children’s menu, every day of the week.
“We want this place to be buzzing,” says Jack. “It’s a big challenge, but I love it!”
We slip in the night before the launch party, to put the new regime to the test.
The place has a noticeably more relaxed feel and service has improved too. Our waitress, Naomi, is engaging, efficient and knowledgable about both food and wine.
She recommends the twice baked blue cheese soufflé and it’s a good call: light but firm, with a creamy sauce of molten cheese and a salad of home-pickled beets, green beans and hazelnuts.
My companion goes for cock-a-leekie terrine from the set price menu (£14 for two courses, £18 for three).
Good and meaty, wrapped in leeks, it comes with triangles of sage and onion toast, a bacon and tarragon salad and unusually delicious prunes, marinated in something alcoholic.
So far, so good. And main courses continue the theme.
Belly pork has been braised in apple juice and cider, then rolled with a swirl of black pudding and topped with crisp, deep-fried sage. It comes with a smoky sauce of puy lentils and a mini pan of creamy mash.
A ‘taste’ of Round Green Farm venison is a real treat: a mini suet pudding filled with gamey meat and mushroom, enriched with chocolate; a carrot-topped shepherd’s pie, fragrant with rosemary and juniper; and a slice of chargrilled liver, tender, pink and beautifully moist.
We complete our meal with a shared sticky toffee pudding and americanos. Dinner for two is £49.50.
Jack Baker’s Brasserie, The Beauchief, Abbeydale Road South, Sheffield (0114) 235 5100 www.thebeauchief.com