Bar is sparkling again - Trippets Wine and Champagne Bar

CALL it snobbery, intuition or just plain prejudice but the idea of opening a champagne bar in a scruffy Sheffield back street just doesn't sound like a humdinger of a business idea to me.

However, the brains behind the revamped Trippets wine and champagne bar are two of the best-known names in the business.

"It might not seem like the obvious place but we're only 300 yards from the Town Hall, the Peace Gardens and All Bar One," says celebrated wine merchant John Mitchell, one half of the partnership. The other is his good friend Jonnie Higginbottom, who runs West 10 wine bar in salubrious Ranmoor.

"I think town's lacking a little bit in this way – you have to go further afield to get something more individual. We're filling the gap."

Trippets reopened five weeks ago and initial response suggests they could be right. Always a popular venue, the place is now pulling in the business types at lunchtime too.

It boasts a newly-acquired polish that has seen off the down-at-heel look. The bar is divided into three sections, designated for beer, wine and champagne, although any of them may be consumed in any part.

The wooden floor remains in the vaulted back room... er, 'champagne bar'. But brash psychedelic paintwork has given way to chic magnolia and warm brick red (although giveaway traces of purple remain behind the gleaming radiators).

Arty wrought iron chandeliers cast a bright glow across chunky farmhouse tables and burnished bar. There's a new wine cellar tucked away behind an ornate gate and the wall is lined with cabinets of old liqueur and spirit bottles, framed champagne ads and wooden crate ends.

They are the result, says John, of a lifetime in the wine trade: "I've been collecting stuff for years, so we decided to put it up on the walls." He got the inspiration from the memorabilia-lined backdrop of Gordon's, the oldest wine bar in London.

The wine and beer rooms each have their own nick-nacks, including a vast wine press disguised as a table.

The other focal point is a series of clever trompe l'oeil paintings: a cellar door, left enticingly ajar, a stone fireplace, a winding staircase and a hole in the wall, offering a glimpse of an Italian vineyard beyond. At least, I'm told it does but it's in the gents'...

The wine list, as you'd expect, is carefully selected and broad in appeal. Around 30 are available by the glass, thanks to an expensive vacuum sealing system which enables bottles to be kept overnight.

"That's the fun of a wine bar – to go in and try different glasses without having to buy the whole bottle," says John.

They also offer champagnes ranging from 5.50 per glass for house Moutard, up to 200 a bottle for Roederer Cristal 2000.

Beers are on draft and, unlike the usual choice of bottled lagers, are all brewed in their country of origin.

Both John and Jonnie take a hands-on approach to their venture, although day-to-day running is in the hands of manager Rich Howard and food is overseen by head chef Jonty Cork, both stalwarts of West 10.

The menu is short and simple – no pretensions to gastro-pubbery here – and it's available only at lunchtimes.

The house speciality is oysters, although cynics might suspect that has to do with boosting champagne sales.

Other options include snacks, salads, main courses and Yorkshire tapas – a quirky selection of cheese on toast, boiled eggs, whitebait, chips and mini Yorkshire puds with a variety of fillings.

We share a plate of warm ciabatta with herby oil and balsamic to dip it in, along with assorted mini Yorkshires. They're like micro-dinners: ham and spicy black pudding with caramelised onions and a dollop of creamy mustard dressing or slivers of rare roast beef with fiery horseradish sauce.

Main courses are undisguised comfort food. Cheddar-topped cottage pie comes in an oval dish with a topping of slightly gloopy potato and a side dish of sweet, cumin-scented red onion.

Spiced beef goulash, a West 10 favourite, lives up to its billing of 'medieval gruel at its best'. It's thick and peppery, packed with potato wedges and two hunks of bread on the side to ensure there's no chance of going hungry.

Desserts are said to be home-made but are evidently zapped to order. We share a Bakewell 'pudding' that is very definitely a tart, although a somewhat soggy one thanks to the microwave. But it's seriously good, despite the tinned custard: short pastry, buttery almond filling and plenty of nutty bite.

We finish our meal with filter coffee. Lunch for two, excluding drinks and service, is 28.

Verdict: A wine bar with an individual touch and hearty lunchtime food, although whether it's posh enough to attract the real champagne charlies remains to be seen.

lOpen: Mon-Sat, food served noon-3pm.

Trippets Wine and Champagne Bar, 89 Trippet Lane, Sheffield. (0114) 272 7928. See location, and other restaurants review by the Sheffield Telegraph, on Google Maps .