So here’s the puzzle that preoccupied us as we headed for Dore the other night: what’s the difference between trendy ‘retro’ and frumpy, fusty ‘old fashioned’?
It was the obvious question as we found ourselves in a time warp – amidst a vintage backdrop of floral wallpaper, chintz curtains, wood panelling and wheelback chairs.
The answer, of course, is that one is contrived and the other authentic. And Joe & Dolores @ The Grill is unashamedly old fashioned, right down to the carefully fanned napkins and Top of the Pops-style compilation of ‘70s hits.
The irony is that they have just reopened the old Dore Grill under this swanky new name – but nothing else has changed: “We know our customers,” said daughter Elizabeth, announcing the relaunch a few weeks back.
It’s the kind of place you either love or hate. And we can’t help but like it, as do the crowds who regularly pack out the 80-seater restaurant opposite Dore Church.
Joe (Jose) and Dolores Muino met in 1962 and left Spain for England the following year, after spotting an advertisement for a couple to run the Hathersage Inn.
They later moved on to the Dam House before taking over the Grill in 1990. And they’ve been here ever since.
Elizabeth runs the place these days, but Joe and Dolores are in charge on the night of our visit, with a charming waiter who takes our coats along with the drinks order and ushers us into the bar.
The menu is as authentic as everything else, featuring such delicacies as fan of melon, duck in orange sauce, beef stroganoff and a whole range of flambé specials – very much on trend right now.
A la carte prices are the one thing that’s unremittingly 21st century: meat dishes range from £16.50 to £20 or more.
But there’s also a set price menu, available Tuesday to Friday, and it’s superb value: where else can you get four courses for £16.50?
Once seated at our table, with a bottle of quaffable Spanish house wine (£14.75), we tuck into generous bowls of fresh bread and home-made melba toast, with butter curls.
Soup of the day, tomato, is underwhelmingly average, but smooth chicken liver pate is really good, even if the accompanying salad could do with some dressing.
Chef’s pie of the day sounds intriguing: “It’s meat pie,” declares our waiter. What kind of meat, we ask? “Assorted... pork, chicken and turkey,” he assures us.
Actually it tastes pretty much like beef, a touch heavy on the Henderson’s, with a shortcrust pastry lid.
Fish of the day is salmon, with a thickened sauce of onions, white wine and cream. The recipe might well have been around in Mrs Beeton’s day, but it’s surprisingly tasty.
Both are silver-served, along with the accompanying carrots, green beans and sauteed potatoes.
Now that’s something you don’t find much these days. And, as my companion points out, it solves the all-too-common problem of how to transfer a just-baked pie from dish to plate without risking third degree burns.
Desserts, naturally, are from the trolley. Yes, we could have had sherry trifle or chocolate gateau, but we go for a tangy lemon mousse and profiteroles.
Our trip down memory lane concludes with filter coffee and Twilight mints. Four-course dinner for two, excluding wine and service, is a top value £33.
* Joe & Dolores @ The Grill, 36 Church Lane, Dore, Sheffield (0114) 262 0035 Joe & Dolores @ The Grill