THIS is, quite simply, the best pie we’ve ever eaten.
The fact that it’s served up in a cosy pub, where the welcome is warm and the beer is good, probably goes a long way towards explaining why the place is fairly buzzing – even though it’s a Tuesday night, we’re all in austerity mode and outside it’s lashing down like the climax of a scene from The Tempest.
When Kane Yeardley announced just before Christmas that his bar group was taking on the Broadfield in Abbeydale Road, sceptics predicted disaster. But he’s already well on the way to proving them wrong.
This is the latest in a group that includes Devonshire Quarter mainstays the Forum and Old House, and the award-winning York at Broomhill – on which the newcomer is clearly modelled.
The Broadfield has reverted to its original ‘ale house’ tag, setting the scene for the kind of local hostelry that Yeardley is convinced the area needs.
Inside, the space in now open plan, split only by the bar and some slightly wonky stained glass panels which create a series of ‘snugs’ in the old tap room.
Different areas each have their own subtly different characters and we’re drawn towards the back of the pub, where chunky church candles beckon.
Here, the walls are mellow ochre, unlike the deep red of the bar, adorned with old photos and china jugs of dried lavender.
We settle next to an open fireplace, surmounted by a glass-fronted display case lined with gleaming ranks of Colmans mustard and Henderson’s Relish bottles.
On one wall is a signed photo of Albert Twigg, the licensed victualler who built the ale house in 1896. On the other is his death certificate (he fell victim to cirrhosis of the liver, so let this be a warning).
The mementoes were donated by his grandson, who came over from Florida for the official opening three weeks ago.
The other key area of the pub is the Victorian garden, or ‘all seasons area’, which is intended to serve as an alternative bar for smokers.
No doubt it will do by the end of the week, when a 50-foot ship’s sail is due to be installed to provide shelter.
Meanwhile it is an outdoor space, landscaped with tubs of aromatic plants and lashed by the worst rain we’ve had in months.
We settle gratefully into our corner where manager Mike ‘Slim’ Simcox brings our drinks. So much to choose from!
Local ale is a speciality – a choice of five tonight – as is whisky, with more than 90 on offer. There are also connoisseur ranges of gins, cocktails and wines.
My companion eagerly agrees to sample the Farmer’s Blonde (Bradfield Brewery)… and the new Blue Bee IPA. It being January, I’m on fizzy water.
And so to the food. The menu has been created by executive chef Andy Burns, a Glaswegian who developed a skill for curing and smoking while running his own restaurant in the Swiss Alps – expertise he now uses to create the group’s own range of hand-made sausages and pies.
These form the backbone of the Broadfield menu: a mouth-watering selection that changes by the day. Tonight’s sausages include pork, cider and black pudding; beef, stout and blue cheese; and vegetarian chestnut and onion.
All come with mash, greens and gravy for a very reasonable £6.50.
Kane’s aim, when opening the Broadfield, was to offer “home-made, good quality, classic British pub food and a pint of real ale for under a tenner”.
Nothing on the menu costs more than £9.95 and there’s plenty for less. Job done.
But it’s the raised pies that have taken our eye. Andy has perfected the art and his magnificent creations are shaped like traditional pork pies, but made with the crumbliest of short pastry.
Fillings are limited only by the kitchen team’s imagination, so today’s selection ranges from beef, mushroom and ale to curried squash, okra and cashew nut.
But first there are starters.
Momentarily setting aside my self-imposed January strictures, I can’t resist Thai salmon goujons.
These beautifully moist nuggets of fish are fried in crisp batter and served with a Thai-style hot-sweet green papaya and chilli dip.
My companion goes for the rarebit: two slices of rustic bread topped with a tangy Moonshine ale and cheese mixture, curls of grilled bacon and a pickled onion – almost a meal in itself.
Then on to the main event. He has won the Pie Wars debate, it being January and I having already indulged in fried fish.
It’s a monster, piping hot and made of exquisitely short pastry, packed full of his chosen filling – pork, spicy chorizo and cannellini beans.
This already gargantuan meal comes with jenga-style chips, a mound of proper mushy peas and a sea of thick ale gravy; all for £6.95.
My roasted winter vegetable hot-pot was always going to pale in comparison, but it’s surprisingly tasty. Chunks of sweet roasted parsnip and carrot mingle with broad beans in a well-seasoned gravy beneath a topping of finely-sliced potato.
It’s nicely presented on a wooden board, with a mound of salad leaves – incongruous but healthy.
By that time we’re both full, which is a shame because I was hoping for at least a taste of the sticky fruit whisky pudding with Drambuie cream.
“Service is good but they could really do with porter service to wheel you to the car,” groans my companion.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks and service, is £21.95.
lVerdict: Top food, top value. Home-made, good quality, classic British pub food – and a pint – for under a tenner.
lOpen: Food served daily noon-10pm
lBroadfield Ale House, 452 Abbeydale Road, Sheffield (0114) 255 0200