Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin at Couch. It’s a new coffee place with the declared intention of making coffee shops “loads better”.
So you don’t have to grapple with all that grande or tall terminology when ordering a coffee but you can order a beer or a wine from an extensive bar menu as well.
They also do food from breakfast onwards and the idea seems to be that the cool people will use the place as a hangout where they can pass a pleasant hour or two. Sounds like someone’s been watching Friends reruns.
The first one has just opened at the edge of the city centre in Campo Lane behind the cathedral. Another is due to open soon on Ecclesall Road, having overcome planning objections.
The exterior at Campo Lane is very eye-catching, with the word Couch boldly emblazoned across the front.
Inside, they have gone for the post-industrial look that should really have had its time by now, with metal air ducting dominating the ceiling and big panels of chipboard on the walls here and there. Colours are mostly dark and muted.
Seating is a mixture of inviting-looking couches, small round tables with dining chairs, the odd refectory table and higher tables with bar stools.
The menu said to order at the bar but they had table service when we visited on Saturday evening.
I had a glass of the unremarkable Paso Caberrnet Sauvignon 2010, which at £3.50 was the cheapest red wine by the glass. Bottles cost around £14 to £18.
I asked for a glass of water and was got a bottle of tap water, a nice touch.
The menu consists of sandwiches and flatbreads, salads and different types of ‘urban ploughman’s’, which come in cheese and meat versions. Prices range from £4.95 to £8.95.
Full marks for a children’s menu offering free range roast chicken, sausages and two types of pasta.
My eye had been caught by the tapas menu, which has 10 dishes. Order one bowl for £3, three for £7.95 and five for £12.
As there weren’t any starters (the advertised soup was off), we decided what the heck, let’s try them all. My friend Janet doesn’t eat meat but three were marked as vegetarian and two more looked like they might be and another was a prawn dish, which she eats.
Our waitress was slightly taken aback at this and dissuaded me from having a salmon salad as well.
She said that the tapas portions were reasonably generous, which turned out to be sound advice.
Janet did order a caesar salad, though (£5). She could have added lemon and lime chicken, cajun salmon or grilled halloumi cheese for £3.
Our food arrived in good time and all at once, which was an impressive effort by the kitchen but it did highlight just how small the round tables are.
No matter, the staff dispensed with the wooden platters and managed to squeeze on the little bowls.
I felt like a Spanish Henry VIII as we tucked in.
The meatballs in spicy chipotle sauce had a nice, soft texture and the tomatoey sauce wasn’t spicy but it was rich, suggesting that the meatballs had been cooked in it.
The couch potato and chorizo was potato wedges with nice, thick slices of good chorizo, the potatoes benefiting from the chorizo oil.
The sun blush tomato bruschetta was a real favourite, with a fresh-tasting topping boasting both notes of fresh basil and a mild chilli hit.
The hummus and garlic crostini were pleasant enough and the hummus tasted like it had been made on the premises.
Prawns with an avocado and lime dressing were served in a kilner jar (well, something had to be). The delicate dressing was a little under-seasoned.
Chorizo, peppers and garlic was similar to the couch potatoes but pleasant.
The feta, peas and mint dish was a favourite for both of us, a lovely fresh-tasting dish made with creamy feta.
The pulled pork in soy and spring onion was my personal favourite. The tasty meat was mixed with noodles, carrots and white cabbage in a zingy lime dressing, giving it an east-west fusion feel.
The baby Peppadew-style peppers stuffed with goat’s cheese on a bed of rocket were pretty good.
Moroccan couscous with smoked paprika yoghurt was moist and the dressing worked well.
We demolished quite a lot of it as most of the dishes invited repeated tasting.
The staff are friendly and engaging but they took Couch’s laidback ethos a little too much to heart at times and didn’t keep a watch on the tables once the food was ordered and delivered.
It needed some gentle prodding from Janet before our table was cleared, admittedly a monster task.
Mind you, we were glad of the rest as there was pudding still to tackle.
There are traybakes, cakes and tarts on the counter, which are apparently all supplied locally.
We were spoiled for choice and eventually opted to split a Snickerlicious traybake and a pecan tart.
Both were delicious. The Snickers-based bake was amazingly rich and the pecan tart had crisp pastry and a praline-type filling.
The coffee we had with it was excellent and rounded off a very pleasant visit.
Our bill came to £46.05.
Couch, 29-31 Campo Lane. 0114 275 6361. wwww.couchstuff.co.uk