FOOD REVIEW: Lessons in good cooking and a passion for food - an organic café that has become a popular lunchtime haunt is also helping young people, reports Julia Armstrong...

Pictured is the Fusion Cafe at the Butcher Works Building on Arundel St,Sheffield
Pictured is the Fusion Cafe at the Butcher Works Building on Arundel St,Sheffield

The café is part of Freeman College, run by the Ruskin Mill Education Trust to bring together craftspeople with young people who benefit from learning their skills. Students can also go into the cafe for work experience.

Head chef and assistant manager Jonathan Cummings said: “There’s a great benefit to us of not only working in catering but also working with the students.”

He said that some of the young people find it difficult at first dealing with staff and customers in such a busy open kitchen and they gradually build up the amount of time that students spend in the cafe until they feel comfortable.

Some enjoy the experience so much that they to go on to take NVQ qualifications in catering.

Fusion’s emphasis is on using locally sourced products and suppliers, including from their own farm in Eyam, and on buying organic and biodynamic produce wherever possible. The coffee is directly traded from a Brazilian biodynamic farm, meaning the growers get the whole profit.

They are taking the message on to the streets by starting to appear at outdoor events, having appeared at the first Devonshire Green street market on the royal wedding day. Eventually Fusion will be opening more regularly in the evenings, following a successful Valentine’s Day bistro night.

On weekday lunchtimes, many using the café on Arundel Street work in the surrounding new city centre Hallam University buildings and Jonathan says the aim is to feed you within 15 minutes of receiving your order.

Inside, the grade two listed former Butcher Works, an old cutlery factory, has a lovely ambience with bricks exposed on the walls and ceilings and simple pine chairs and tables. Glass doors open on to a gallery which exhibits contemporary metalwork, including that made on site.

On the left as you walk in, the open kitchen area and service counter stretch towards large arched windows. A blackboard lists the soup and quiches of the day and that day’s specials.

The café is open for breakfast and choices include handmade Fusion croissants, bacon roll, house cured salmon and scrambled egg and a choice of omelettes. Prices range from £2.30 to £4.50.

For lunch, the choices include toasted sandwiches with homemade ciabatta, Spanish omelette, pasties and salads. Expect to pay £4 to £6 on average.

My workmate Tim went for a quiche and salad (£3.10 for quiche and one salad £1.70; two £2.80, three £3.60). I hit the specials board and tried the locally-reared lamb and Meditteranean vegetable ratatouille with rosemary roast new potatoes (£8.60).

I could have had salmon tartare with warm goat’s cheese, a toasted ciabatta and roast peppers (£7.50).

The team at Fusion have just won a barista challenge, so we went for the rather good coffee. Tim had an Americano (£1.90 regular, £2.20 large) and I tried the cappuccino (£2 or £2.60).

You order and pay at the counter and then take a seat and your food is delivered.

We were warned by workmates to arrive early as it gets very busy. At 12.30pm on a Thursday it was beginning to fill up but the rush started in earnest about 30 minutes later.

Queues do build at busy times but staff moved people on promptly.

The kitchen lived up to Jonathan’s efficiency pledge and our food arrived a few minutes after we sat down.

Tim earned a free lunch from the Telegraph by writing his part of the review: “My quiche was wholesome and tasty with decent pastry and a moreish filling of goat’s cheese, pak choi and red peppers, which made up for the initial disappointment at not getting the chorizo and fennel version that I had ordered.

“The bulgur wheat and aubergine salad was a great combination, enlivened by the addition of fresh mint. All washed down with decent coffee.

“Lemon drizzle cake was gorgeous with zingy bits of lemon zest every few bites.”

My large bowl of ratatouille generously dotted with tasty, tender lamb had a lovely soft texture but the flavour could have been a little more intense. No faulting the lovely tiny roast potatoes with the added kick from the rosemary.

We decided we were too full for cake there and then but they looked so lovely that we opted for a takeaway. I tried the plum and fresh vanilla clafoutis flan (£2.20) which was fabulous with crisp pastry and luscious plums surrounded by a perfect rich and creamy filling (it’s usually a batter but this was almost like crème patissiere).

Tim’s lemon drizzle cake cost £1.80.

lVerdict: a place that delivers well on all its passions, well worth a visit.

lOpening times: Monday to Friday 9am to 4.30pm, Saturday 10am to 3.30pm.

lFusion organic café, 74 Arundel Street, Sheffield S1 2NS. 0114 252 5974. www.fusioncafe.co.uk