THE tea rooms at Sheffield’s showpiece Botanical Gardens should be back in business next week after a seven-month absence.
New tenant Jane Purdy is busy refurbishing the Curator’s House, off Clarkehouse Road, and hopes it will be ready to reopen by the middle of next week.
Her arrival marks the end of a deadlock which had kept the café closed since the departure of former tenant Malcolm Donaldson, who ran it for ten years.
Now the way is clear for a fresh start after Jane secured the tenancy from the council.
“It’s been frustrating but I’m just looking forward now,” she says. “Ever since I’ve been in here working, people are constantly coming to the door. They all seem really keen to have it up and running again.”
The venture will be a new challenge for Jane, a chartered accountant by profession, who was financial director of elderly people’s care service SheffCare until the end of last year.
“Food has always been my first passion,” she says. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do and when I saw the Curator’s House up for tender I decided to go for it.”
During 15 years with SheffCare, Jane also oversaw the organisation’s catering services and has undertaken a number of qualifications. But this will be her first experience of operating a food business and she’s determined to make a success of it.
Staff have been hired – including an experienced chef – and she is eager to get started.
“I’m a hands-on person, so not only will I be running it, I’m also planning to help out in the kitchen and front-of-house,” she says.
Her personal speciality is risotto, having been taught by Raymond Blanc himself: “I was on a course at Le Manoir last year when he came round to see how things were going – and ended up giving me a one-to-one lesson!”
The tea rooms will open seven days a week, initially between 8am and 6pm, but an evening restaurant service is due to be added later in the year.
“Once we’ve got established we’ll be opening as a bistro: less formal than what was here before but serving good, home-cooked food.”
The immediate offer will include café classics – a seasonal menu of hot and cold food and daily-changing specials – as well as tea, coffee and home-made cakes.
Meanwhile, Jane, who lives in Ecclesall with her partner and 11-year-old son, is keen to ensure that the new café meets community needs. She is asking local people to call in and let her know what they want in the way of events, meetings and clubs.
Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for environment, said: “I’m really pleased to hear that the Curator’s House is reopening. We wish Mrs Purdy all the best with her business and I am sure its unique location in such a beautiful setting will help it become a great success for her.”