WELL the bankers may be crying into their beer but, in Sheffield at least, there’s been no shortage of venues for them to choose from.
Despite the downturn, there has been a constant stream of new pubs and restaurants throughout the year.
And the city’s burgeoning reputation as a foodie destination received a welcome boost in the new Good Food Guide, with a record four new entries – and the kudos of being flagged as a ‘culinary area to watch’.
The Sheffield Telegraph’s food team sampled a veritable cornucopia of delights through the seasons, putting restaurateurs to the test on behalf of readers.
There were a few obvious trends: a vogue for new Indian restaurants; the conversion of old pubs into restaurants; a plethora of bargains, tasting menus, special events and bistro nights.
We lost one or two old favourites, including Mish Mash and Trippet’s – and a couple of new ones too, such as Alibi, Grayson’s and Moo La La (which lasted only three months).
But there is a whole generation of newcomers to replace them, and the promise of more to come next year.
Here we each present our top ten of 2011, in no particular order, with Lesley Draper’s choices first…
Wig & Pen by the Milestone
In the wake of TV success as Ramsay’s Best British Restaurant, the Milestone gastro-pub spread its wings and took over the recently-vacated Paradise Square venue.
A more sophisticated version of the award-winning original, it quickly won fans among the local business community and a reputation for classy food that is both quirky and experimental.
It has taken time to bed in, with a series of head chefs, but now claims to be on course, with a new bigger-portions-better-value menu due in the new year.
lVerdict: another Milestone for the Kelham Island team. Recognition from the culinary guides must surely follow.
Wig & Pen by the Milestone, 44 Campo Lane, Shefﬁeld (0114) 272 2150 www.wigandpenshefﬁeld.com
Michelin-trained chef James Barrett gave up a successful job as a freelance restaurant consultant to open his own business.
His mantra is: “It’s about providing what the customers want.” The result is relaxed, top quality, good value dining with an option to bring your own wine – which means diners can enjoy a top notch meal, with all the trimmings, for no more than they’d pay in most chain restaurants.
From modest beginnings, Barrett’s now offers a full daily café service, Sunday lunch and bistro nights five evenings a week.
lVerdict: Top-notch food, skilfully cooked, at a price that becomes a bargain with BYO wine.
Barrett’s, 2 Hutcliffe Wood Road, Shefﬁeld (0114) 249 1055 www.barrettsbistro.co.uk
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, this restaurant has become something of a Sheffield institution since it was launched by Nirmal Gupta, daughter of a Delhi stockbroker.
She gave up running cookery classes to open Nirmal’s and her home-made pickles and signature dishes such as lamb masallam have become legendary – along with the owner’s enduring brand of charm.
The menu hasn’t changed much over the years but that’s not surprising because the chef has been there since day one. Now that is surprising in an industry that’s renowned for its quick turnover.
lVerdict: Traditional home-cooked North Indian food that’s still pulling in new custom 30 years on.
Nirmal’s, 189-193 Glossop Road, Shefﬁeld (0114) 272 4054
A makeover has given fresh appeal to this restaurant, a cornerstone of Sharrowvale Road for a quarter of a century.
Owner Otto Damahi has replaced the old paintwork with blue as bright as a Sicilian sky and walls that gleam like stucco in the sunshine.
The other key change is in the menu. Instead of expanding his offer, Otto has refined the selection to concentrate on quality.
Fish remains the principal focus, with seafood accounting for 90% of dishes, but there is more than a token option for meat eaters, Service is outstanding.
lVerdict: A new look has made this old favourite a real breath of fresh sea air.
The Mediterranean Restaurant, 271 Sharrowvale Road, Sheffield (0114) 266 1069
Matthew Rushton and Nic Parker cancelled their wedding and blew the proceeds on opening a restaurant.
Their chosen location is just off the end of the Dronfield bypass but Matt’s reputation is making up for any shortcomings – he worked with Gordon Ramsay, was head chef of the Peacock at Rowsley and later head-hunted by Chesterfield’s new Casa hotel until opening his own place.
By day Aubergine serves leisurely, city-style breakfasts, light meals and snacks. And three nights a week Matt opens in the evenings for dinner.
lVerdict: Fine food in a relaxed atmosphere at reasonable prices, whatever the time of day.
Aubergine coffee shop and restaurant, 413 Sheffield Road, Chesterfield (01246) 269631 www.auberginechesterfield.com
The Peacock, Rowsley
This 17th century manor house, owned by Lord Edward Manners of nearby Haddon Hall, is renowned for its classy surroundings, great food and celebrity customers – recent visitors have included film stars Dame Judi Dench, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley.
Head chef Dan Smith has an impressive pedigree and has recently been awarded a third AA rosette. But it’s not just for special occasions: a three-course lunch, with half-size main course, is available six days a week for just £14.95.
lVerdict:Perfect for a special occasion, but unmissable for a bargain lunch that’s truly out of this world.
The Peacock, Bakewell Road, Rowsley (01629) 733 518 www.thepeacock atrowsley.com
Local produce is the speciality of this farm shop-cum-café, created by Rachel Hague and John Woodhouse in a converted Victorian village schoolroom.
The couple have taken on a team of specialists that includes head chef Tom Bartle – who also grew up on a farm – and bistro evenings are a regular feature.
Classic style with a contemporary edge describes both cooking and surroundings, with almost all ingredients sourced in the local area.
lVerdict: Probably the best time that’s ever been had in this particular schoolroom. Quality food and quality cooking.
The Schoolrooms, Mill Lea Road, Low Bradﬁeld, Shefﬁeld (0114) 285 1920 www.theschoolrooms.co.uk.
Manager Marina Whitwam and chef Ryan Christian took over the Pasta Bar a year ago when their boss decided to sell up. Since then they have reunited many of the old team.
It continues to serve up freshly-made pasta with a choice of accompaniments. But Ryan has also expanded the menu to include pizzas, steaks, fresh fish and daily specials, with a particular focus on game.
lVerdict: Fresh, simple and in the best possible taste – with home-cooked food to match.
The Pasta Bar, 270 Sharrowvale Road, Sheffield (0114) 268 0505
The vogue for tasting menus is usually an invitation to broaden the palate – and empty the pockets. But this option is accessible to everyone; a six-course ‘soirée gastronomique’ that sets diners back a mere £22.50.
Bistrot Pierre is a small, regional group with a reputation for French-style food at reasonable prices. The Sheffield branch is the only new-build restaurant but it has recently undergone a refurb to soften the ambience and create a rustic French feel.
The new look makes the building a comfortable place for relaxed dinner. And the twice-monthly gourmet fest is its best offer yet.
lVerdict: A gastronomic feast that offers a little taste of France – six times over. Formidable!
Bistrot Pierre, 835b-837 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield (0114) 267 8687
Restaurateur Allam Shah Ullah decided at the age of 17 that the Cutlers Arms pub would make ‘a cracking restaurant’. Fifteen years on, that ambition has become a reality with the launch of Cutlers Spice.
He has transformed the building with white leather, neutral backgrounds, flashes of rich colour and opulent chandeliers. There are different areas for intimate dining, larger groups and private parties.
Chefs specialise in authentic Bangladeshi cooking.
lVerdict: Good food, skilfully spiced, in an atmosphere that’s comfortably luxurious.
Cutlers Spice, 1 Leighton Road, Gleadless, Sheffield (0114) 241 6868.
Fusion Organic Cafe
This place in Butcher’s Works near the city centre has deservedly won many plaudits for its fantastic food and it has even attracted famous faces, like actor Dominic West when he was in Othello at the Crucible. As well as food that ticks all the taste and ethical boxes, you are helping to raise money for the work of Freeman College, teaching young people on the autistic spectrum job skills.
It’s well worth calling for lunch (or breakfast) and trying out the daily-changing pasties, quiches and savouries with salad. Try to leave room for some of the cake temptingly arrayed on the counter, too. Look out for the promised regular bistro nights next year.
lVerdict: Tasty, good for you and great for the young people, too.
Fusion Organic Cafe, The Butcher Works, 74 Arundel Street, Sheffield S1 2NS. 0114 252 5974. www.fusioncafe.co.uk
Bishops Coffee House and Bistro
A win on TV show Deal or No Deal helped enterprising young chef Shaun Yarde launch his coffee house and bistro in Norton Lees.
His regular fixed price three-course bistro nights have become a favourite with the locals and he also opens during the day, for Sunday lunch, for Wednesday pie nights, Thursday burger and shake nights, Caribbean Fridays... The prices are very reasonable and it’s bring your own wine, too.
lVerdict: A good deal of effort goes into this place and you get a good deal, too.
Bishops Coffee House and Bistro, Lees Hall Avenue, Norton Lees, Sheffield, S8 9JE. 0114 258 1999. www.bishopscoffeehouse.co.uk
Harmony Hong Kong Cafe
ONCE housed in a tiny, basic cafe on Westfield Terrace off West Street, this cafe has moved to bigger premises with more of a restaurant feel further along the same road. Prices have stayed cheap – main courses mostly cost under a tenner – so it still attracts crowds of south-east Asian students who used to have to queue out of the door at busy times.
Chef John Liu says he specialises in the types of dishes that people eat back in their home villages. He takes a lot of care with preparation – for instance, the meat in his top seller, a braised beef clay pot, is marinaded and then cooks slowly for six hours.
lVerdict: Skip the starters, share dishes Chinese style and enjoy some perfect Harmony, including when you get the bill.
Harmony Hong Kong Cafe, Westfield Terrace, Sheffield. 0114 278 1199.
Bay of Bengal
This is one of the city pubs to be converted into a restaurant and used to be the Old Harrow. As the name indicates, it specialises in Bangladeshi dishes as well as all the usual favourites, and that includes some fish choices, although they don’t import the authentic fish that other restaurants go for. There’s plenty of choice on the menu, with some unusual touches and the spicing is pretty interesting.
The enterprising owner, Howard Ali, now runs Asian-accented Sunday lunches and has lots of special events, plus a deli alongside the takeaway service.
lVerdict: Try some of the less familiar dishes and be pleasantly surprised.
Bay of Bengal Restaurant, White Lane, S12 3GB. 0114 254 5502.
Waggon and Horses
If you’re a fan of a good pie, head for this pub next to Millhouses Park. The menu looks like standard pub grub fare but the level of cooking is far superior and the pie is the ultimate example, a proper pie prepared individually and the interesting option of ordering a bigger size to share.
They also do massive pies for parties of more than four but those have to be pre-ordered.
It’s a family-orientated place run by the Addy family that tries to be a hub of its community with lots of special events as well and also offers a choice of four guest cask ales.
lVerdict: Work up an appetite with a walk in the park and then go for the pie.
Waggon and Horses, 57 Abbeydale Road South, Millhouses, Sheffield. 0114 236 1451.
Patoo Thai Restaurant
Whoever said ‘the first bite is with the eye’ could have had Thai food in mind – think of all those ever so slightly camp carved vegetable decorations – and Patoo on Ecclesall Road follows that advice with beautifully crafted food served in elegant surroundings.
The waiting staff, who are all from a luxury hotel background, are adept at making you feel special and the food is prepared with equal care. For a special treat, try the seafood options on the ‘signature dishes’ menu.
lVerdict: A beguiling place that is as much an experience as a meal.
Patoo Thai Restaurant, 607-609 Ecclesall Road Sheffield. 01142 668196 or 671616. www.patoothai.com
Frog and Parrot
This city centre pub used to be famed as the place for students to try to drink a pint of the world’s strongest beer, Roger and Out, but now it has turned into a quirky Bohemian palace, resplendent with chandeliers and gothic flock wallpaper, that hosts loads of bands on a tiny stage.
The pub takes part in Tramlines and has its own live music event, Frogstock.
Nick Simmonite and his team serve real ales, including some from Kelham Island, and good standard pub grub at bargain prices. Lovers of a good Yorkshire pudding will enjoy the Yorkshire wrap, a flat version of the pud wrapped tortilla style around thick slices of roast beef.
lVerdict: Hop on over for a tasty bargain feed, good beer and sounds. The Frog and Parrot, 94 Division Street, Sheffield. 0114 272 1280.
You might want to do some online research before you visit the Mandar-inn on London Road as the menu runs to 30 pages… it’s a veritable cook’s tour around several Chinese regions and Hong Kong. They also have a separate menu aimed more at lovers of ‘British’ Chinese food but try something more authentic; there’s something for most tastes.
Next door to the popular Noodle Inn, it’s run by the same people and aims to be a more laid-back version of its neighbour, which tends to be a little more fast food in terms of getting customers through their meal with greater despatch.
lVerdict: Take the slow boat to China’s more interesting dishes.
Mandar-inn, 158 London Road, Sheffield. 0114 250 9133. www.mandarinn.co.uk
Ever wondered what curried rabbit might taste like? Seek out Jewel, which has taken over the old Pheasant Inn near Meadowhall Retail Park. The Nottingham consortium who run it go for some interesting ideas not often seen on Indian restaurant menus in Sheffield, such as salmon with dill and mustard or Gressingham duck in a peanut and sesame seed sauce.
lVerdict: An unusual gem to treasure but prices are a bit steep.
Jewel, 436 Attercliffe Common, Sheffield. 0114 243 0275/4469.
A favoured haunt of academics and students from the University of Sheffield nearby, this pub has regained the warmth and charm that it seemed to have lost for a few years, since Jacob Nickles and Stephanie Urquhart took it over.
The pub serves a range of cask ales that it keeps well (and you can get mulled wine or other warm concoctions in the winter) and the menu is solid pub grub with a few interesting twists.
For example, there’s a meats board laden with goodies like pigs in blankets, ham hock terrine and a veggie version including roasted vegetables and a baked-in-box mini camembert. Also, try a side order of sweet potato kumara fries with garlic mayonnaise.
lVerdict: Follow the university herd to the Red Deer. Beards optional.
The Red Deer, 18 Pitt Street, Sheffield. 0114 2722890. www.red-deer-sheffield.co.uk