Style icons of our time are often double acts. Take Dolce & Gabbana, Villeroy & Boch – and now Fitzwilliam & West, the reincarnation of Sheffield cocktail bar and restaurant 23.
The venue, run by chef and co-owner Chris Hawkins, opened in 2006 and, seven years on, it was time for a change. So he has closed off the mezzanine restaurant during the week and reinvented the ground floor as a relaxed bistro.
The red granite bar, lined with dozens of bottles, has been cut in half, the red ceiling painted soft green and the look completed with antique tables, topped with fresh flowers, chunky candles and a new-look menu.
“Things have changed in Sheffield… and we want people to know we’re now no more expensive than anywhere else,” says Chris, whose pedigree includes Whitley Hall, Aston Hall and the Regency at Ecclesfield.
The new F&W menu starts at £2.50 for a fishfinger sandwich. There’s a good brunch selection and a range of sandwiches as well as more elaborate starters and main courses – including The Brendan, a 28oz sirloin named after a customer who has ordered the dish weekly for the last six years.
Best of all, everything is half price during food happy hour, from 4pm-7pm each weekday.
Time to put the new-look F&W to the test…
Front-of-house is now in the capable hands of general manager Micah Cowan. He’s juggling bar and waiting duties when we arrive – flying between cocktails, customers and the first-floor kitchen.
Service is slow, but it’s hardly surprising with so many plates to spin.
The old 23 was known for its cocktails, but F&W offers a whole lot more besides – including a decent wine list, starting at £16 for a deliciously fruity French merlot.
We settle down, with a bottle and two glasses, to soak up the ambiance. A silent movie is showing on one wall, with a backing track of classic rock. This is the life!
The formal restaurant may be for weekends only, but the standard of food is good as ever.
Potted rabbit is soft and warm, served in a mini casserole, mercifully without the melted butter topping. It’s nicely presented on a slate, with salad, pickled onions and a hunk of ciabatta .
Goat’s cheese tart comes as a crisp filo pastry parcel, stuffed with tangy cheese and nicely sharp-sweet caramelised onions. Always a winning combination.
On to mains: lamb shank, meltingly soft, with diced root veg in a thick, rich gravy. Simple, but tasty.
And sea bass – two generous, crisp-skinned fillets – comes on a bed of oriental veg and noodles, stir-fried with plenty of garlic and pepper. It’s great food and even better value, considering all this is just £6.25 during happy hour.
We finish with excellent americanos and a shared trio of lemon desserts: sharp posset, creamy cheesecake and a scoop of sorbet with beautifully crumbly shortbread.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks and service, is £22.25.
n Fitzwilliam & West, West One Plaza, Fitzwilliam Street, Sheffield (0114) 272 2323; website: Fitzwilliam and West