Haggling over a little lunch

Sarah Ingolfsdottir at the Haggler's Corner cafe, Queen's Road, Sheffield.
Sarah Ingolfsdottir at the Haggler's Corner cafe, Queen's Road, Sheffield.

Can I be candid? I never really believed this would happen.

Three years ago David Knott and Sarah Ingolfsdottir invited me to look round an abandoned coal dealers in the Queens Road which they planned to convert into an arts and creative business complex. It would be a hub, they said, of carpenters and framers, seamstresses and sewers, designers and writers. Upstairs there’d be a yoga space, and downstairs a cafe. In the basement, whispered David, he might set up a micro-brewery.

And they said it all while walking round rooms where walls were falling down and floors weren’t always much better. And so I nodded and smiled, and thought: ‘never gonna happen’.

Haven’t we heard it all before? Grand plans that never pan out. Whatever did happen to Rotherham’s Chinese theme park, anyway?

Rarely is it so pleasant to be proven so wrong. In 2014, that abandoned coal dealers - now painted vibrant yellow and rechristened Haggler’s Corner - is indeed a thriving hub of makers and doers.

Tattooists, floralist and crochet artists are among 16 businesses dotted around a central courtyard. The yoga space is here, although the brewery never quite came off.

It all means that, now, just visiting the cafe, Haggler’s Kaffihus, feels like a triumph.

It’s a lovely, boho place too; all slouch-y couches, mismatched furniture, and guitars on walls. There’s bunting hanging from the ceiling, and Chinese lanterns in the courtyard. A painting of Jimi Hendrix sort of sums up the East Village vibe.

It’s friendly as well. The one staff member on duty today takes orders, makes coffees, cooks and keeps getting stuck into the pots - and he does it with a smile. The coffee he brings us are superb.

All of which makes it a shame when the food doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

It’s all home-made and the menu, therefore, is necessarily short, but, even so, three sandwiches, one soup, and two snacks seems a limited choice. Especially when we’re told one of those snacks - the local samosa - isn’t on.

The New York sandwich is a reasonable thing - smoked ham, cheese and gherkin on a baked ciabatta. But it comes with no garnish, no salad, no attempt to decorate. At a not inexpensive £3.80, you get a small sandwich on a small plate. Similarly the Hagglers Rarebit has punch - mustard and red onion marmalade kick nicely - but, when paying £3.90, one might hope for more than two small slices.

It feels minimal, which is at odds with the gregarious atmosphere.

The cakes soothe things. Scones (£2.60) with fresh cream and jam are a treat, and the brownie (£2.50) delicious.

There’s some good news too: plans are afoot to refresh the menu, Sarah later says. Excellent. Because this is a terrific place - it has the potential to be even better.