Change is not a popular word in the English vocabulary. We like familiarity. So when popular Dore restaurant Moran’s closed, there was a collective gasp of dismay.
However, we can report that the place is in safe hands – and may be destined for even greater acclaim under the leadership of award-winning chef Charlie Curran.
He and partner Kelly Ware launched their new venture, Peppercorn, last week and have already put their own stamp on the place. The drab walls are now a fresh turquoise, splashed with daisies, while wooden screens display a collection of pepper grinders.
The restaurant, just up from Dore Station, is fairly buzzing when we arrive at 7.30pm on Wednesday. The locals have clearly taken it to heart.
Kelly is at home in her role as hostess and Charlie is in his element – the first time celebrity Brian Turner’s former head chef has truly been master of his own kitchen.
The couple’s first joint post was as managers of the Samuel Fox Country Inn at Bradwell. Then they spent a year at The Beauchief, winning fine dining honours in last year’s Eat Sheffield Awards.
But every good chef longs for a chance to demonstrate his skill and flair in his own restaurant. And that’s what Charlie’s doing now.
At first glance the menu, dare I admit, is a bit disappointing. After a year or so of producing dishes tarted up with jellies, foams and flower garnishes, this sounds positively plain: three meat, two fish, one chicken and a veggie option, at around £18, side dishes extra.
But there’s also a midweek 5-10-5 menu and that lifts it, adding breadth of choice as well as price.
Service is good and we’re swiftly settled, with a complimentary bottle of chilled water, a basket of doughy bread rolls and a choice of butters – salted or Henderson’s Relish. (Readers who follow our website #cookbook feature will know that Charlie claims a hand in popularising the Sheffield sauce.)
The wine list is good, with more than 20 bottles (from £13.95), half of them also available by the glass (£3.35) and the carafe (£7).
Starter of leek and potato soup is silky smooth, with a swirl of truffle oil – and more bread when we ask for it.
Smoky goat’s cheese mousse complements a salad of chargrilled seasonal vegetables: mini courgette, carrot, bok choi and slivers of beetroot.
Main course pork hash from the midweek menu is a deep, savoury patty of shredded meat and potato, topped with a fried egg: tasty and filling.
My sole is wrapped sushi-style around soft crab mousse, a delicate combination, spiced up with creamy sag aloo potatoes and tempura cauliflower florets.
I follow that with textures of chocolate: gloriously rich mousse, crumbs, a slick of solid and ice cream.
But top prize goes to a Curran classic: liquorice parfait rolled in frozen berries, with blackcurrant sorbet: quirky, intense, a perfect partnership – pretty much like Charlie and Kelly.
We finish our meal with americanos and homemade truffles. Dinner for two, excluding drinks and service, is £51.
Peppercorn, 289 Abbeydale Road South, Dore, Sheffield (0114) 235 0101