REVIEW: Indian inspired cafe still full of charm

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield. Pictured are Matt and Melissa Holdsworth.
Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield. Pictured are Matt and Melissa Holdsworth.
0
Have your say

There’s nothing worse than someone who insisted they didn’t want a dessert stealing yours.

‘Just a spoonful’, he said, while leaning over the table at the new Bhaji Shop Thali Cafe in Kelham Island, and swiping away half of the plate with a fork.

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield. Bombay Potatoe Wedges.

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield. Bombay Potatoe Wedges.

And this was no bog standard dessert.

This was a gooey, decadent slab of crunchy honeycomb, rich chocolate and - unusually - apricot. Imagine a Picnic chocolate bar, only better.

It was quirky, but refreshing, as a whole it really worked, and that’s a theory that can be applied to the restaurant.

Many people will know the former venue on Chesterfield Road, a tiny converted home that chef Matthew Holdsworth and co-owner, his sister Melissa, say happened ‘by accident’ as they followed in the footsteps of father John, who used to run MasterChef in Attercliffe, famed for its bhajis.

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield. Chickpea curry.

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield. Chickpea curry.

And that was one of the reasons for moving their Indian inspired outfit down to Ball Street opposite the roaring weir.

Matt said: “It got to the point where it was a bit frustrating because we were booked up all the time - if anything went wrong with the table plans it was chaos because there was no room to put anybody.

“Eight people at the old venue was half full, but eight people at the new restaurant could be just one table.

“We were really aware that we had to fill the new venue up with just as much charm.”

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield.

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield.

When the former curry house in Kelham Island became free the siblings spoke to their staff and moved everything, down to the cutlery, across town.

They have done well to keep hold of the homely, happy, vibe despite the growth in space.

Mismatched light shades, bright pops of colour and fairy lights outside mix with modern touches to give it a cosmpolitan feel.

Staff, as well as the regulars, haven’t changed and Matt’s mum is even making all the desserts.

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield.

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield.

“It’s like a little bit of a family here”, said Matt.

“It is a slightly different clientele, it feels more working professional while Meersbrook was a mix of working professional and young families.

“It definitely feels a bit more city like down here - and there are events like Peddlar Market as well.”

The choices on the cafe menu remain limited, there are three thalis on offer each day, although the selection changes at least once a week.

There’s always a vegetarian option, which can be made vegan too.

It is certainly a change from 25-page long Indian restaurant menus.

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield. Chilli and ginger wings.

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield. Chilli and ginger wings.

What is new is the bar - gone is the bring your own and in is an array of beers, wines and even a tempting alcoholic mango lassi cocktail.

We opted for a decent pinot grigio and poppodoms to start.

They arrived promptly with four unexplained chutneys - the best of which I think was a sharp pineapple, great with the light and crunchy shards of poppodom.

Starters were taken from the ‘street delights’ section of tapas-style dishes - although there is also a shared platter available, and the famous bhajis. They arrived on the same long dish and were presented beautifully - chunks of fresh watermelon, chilli dip and salad sandwiched between the two options, both £4.

My strips of soft, salty paneer had dark golden edges and had been marinated in a slightly sweet, smoky sauce.

They went, quickly.

He had ordered fish skewers, but what arrived was essentially a bowl of salmon pieces with a vivid green dip.

They were well cooked and tasty, if not what was promised.

Presentation had been thought about just as much with the main courses.

Thalis are made up of several dishes, and you could really have these as a starter and a main together for £12.95.

A pot of tarka dhal was a chunky, hearty curry laced with cardomom flavour. There was neatly folded, and patterned naan bread, as well as yellow pilau rice to accompany the Thai fishcakes with coconut curry.

It didn’t look or smell spicy but my mouth was soon buzzing thanks to the lashings of green chilli, hidden among peas, potatoes and plenty of vegetables.

Those fishcakes were larger, less smooth and moist than traditional Thai versions.

There was plenty of bits to pick at on the plate too - from chutneys and coleslaw to, oddly, black olives.

Unexpectedly there was a touch of the Vietnamese to his hot and sour pork steak thali, with vermicelli too.

And then on to the divine dessert, the best of the evening, drizzled in chocolate sauce and cream, with decent flat whites.

This is accessible, rather than challenging cooking, with excellent presentation, ambience and value. Service is swift - three courses in under 90 minutes - and conscientious, with staff passing back feedback to counterparts in the open kitchen.

We paid £55.70.

Bhaji Shop Thali Cafe, 2 Ball Street, Kelham Island, Sheffield, S3 8DB.

Tel: 0114 275 5511

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield.

Food review at The Bhaji Shop, Thali Cafe on Ball Street in Sheffield.