Great taste in store

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WhEN you work during the week your chances to go out for lunch are limited but occasionally I get together with friends at the weekend for a debriefing on the week’s dramas.

If you’re going to do it you need to do it properly, so one of our choices is the Meeting Point café at Ponsfords.

The furniture store on London Road, Heeley, is an institution in the city and a lot of Sheffielders like to go and have a browse around the high-end interior decor ideas.

My wages don’t stretch as far as to contemplate any purchases – although clearly some Sheffielders do, as the place appears to be thriving – but it’s fun to have a look round anyway.

A colleague told me that he used to pop in on a reasonably regular basis and try out a particularly comfy style of recliner chair while his partner browsed around.

The poor salesman dutifully explained its advantages and features every time and my colleague always said he’d go away and think about it. Eventually his other half banned him, saying she was worried that the salesman feared he was stalking him. He still hasn’t bought one.

The extension that straddles the side road with its overhead bridge that looks like a vintage railway carriage splits the style of furniture between the more traditional looks in the old part of the shop and the contemporary furniture more suited to modern apartments in the new part. I was amazed to learn that it has been in place for about nine years now.

The café is in the newer part on the second floor and it has a suitably light, airy and contemporary feel.

It looks out over the sales floor and there’s a display of furniture at one end featuring a very eye-catching red leather sofa. I wondered if anyone ever sat on it to have their coffee. Would they have to be tactfully moved on?

There’s a short menu with a choice of sandwiches, savoury pastries and cakes and tarts and you order from a counter which has a tempting-looking display of the sweet goodies on display under glass.

If you’re trying to lose weight after Christmas, look away now.

They give you a little metal number and the polite staff in their smart black uniforms deliver your order to the table.

Company director Angus Ponsford explained that the sandwiches are made fresh in the kitchen but the little quiches, cakes and pastries are all bought in.

He added: “We’re a furniture shop with a café attached, after all.

“It’s what we do best. It’s nice and easy and what people tend to want. We’re never going to serve up bacon and eggs or Sunday lunches.”

That seems to be a successful formula.

The place was fairly busy when we arrived on Saturday lunchtime, with a mixture of mostly couples and some young family groups, but we still managed to bag a table.

My friend Linda loves the coffee, so we started off with a cappuccino each and I ordered a tuna and black olive and salad baguette and she went for the quiche and salad.

Our coffee order arrived a few minutes later and the food was not far behind.

My baguette was lovely and fresh with a generous serving of tasty and moist tuna mayo and a mixed green salad. There was a little bowl of olives on the plate.

Linda’s vegetable quiche, one of those pretty little individual ones with a fluted edge, was excellent.

I swapped half my baguette for half the quiche and it was a good move for me.

The pastry was buttery and crisp and the filling was soft, fragrant and tasty with the vegetables adding a bit of contrast and crunch.

After a little rest we decided to go the whole hog and try the cakes.

Yeah, right, like we weren’t going to bother in the first place.

More of the very good and strong Italian Bel and Nannini coffee was called for at this point, we decided. I tell you, it’s life on the edge for us.

Linda did the pastry double and ordered the lemon tart and I tried the carrot cake. There was also a dark chocolate tart, flapjack and some other cakes to go for.

Linda was very pleased with her French patisserie-style lemon tart, which she had with a little jug of cream. I was half-heartedly offered a piece but I was nice and let her scoff the lot. She said it was lovely, with a great tangy lemon filling.

My carrot cake was to die for, one of the best I’ve eaten in a long time. It perfectly balanced taste and moistness and was not too sweet. The buttercream icing went through the middle and the outside and the edge was studded with chopped nuts.

Our bill for everything came to £22.30, surely the best bargain in the shop.

Verdict: you’re sitting pretty, especially if you like coffee and cake.

Café opening hours: 9am to 4pm Monday to Saturday, 11am to 4pm Sundays.

Ponsford’s Meeting Point café, 577-609 London Road. Tel 255 0075.