'A night out under one roof': Sheffield's first food hall coming to an old cutlery works

Right to left - Matt Bigland, Nina Patel-Bigland and Tim Bottrill at Rutland Cutlery. Picture: Andrew Roe
Right to left - Matt Bigland, Nina Patel-Bigland and Tim Bottrill at Rutland Cutlery. Picture: Andrew Roe

"We're building Sheffield's biggest kitchen," says Nina Patel-Bigland, standing inside a cavernous former blade grinding and polishing factory that will be turned into the city's first high-end food hall.

Cutlery Works - to open in October at the old Rutland Cutlery Co on Neepsend Lane, beside the River Don - promises to be a real destination. Vietnamese, Japanese and Indian cuisine, vegan meals, rotisserie chicken, homemade pies, 'bean to bar' chocolate and much more will be served alongside craft ales, cocktails and natural wines in a fashionable space that oozes industrial chic, all metal beams and exposed brickwork.

Rutland Cutlery on Neepsend Lane. Picture: Andrew Roe

Rutland Cutlery on Neepsend Lane. Picture: Andrew Roe

The venture is led by the Milestone Group, which started with the popular gastropub of the same name in nearby Kelham Island, and also owns the acclaimed, Nordic-inspired Jöro restaurant at Shalesmoor together with Luke French and Stacey Sherwood Company directors Nina and her husband, Matt Bigland, are touring the building armed with architects' drawings, as work is poised to begin.

"It's the biggest project we've done," Matt states. "We've done restaurant fit-outs at 4,000 sq ft, but this is just under 15,000 sq ft."

The time for a food hall in Sheffield is now, he thinks.

"It's the way people want to eat. They don't always want to go to a restaurant and be stuck to a certain cuisine. It's so much cheaper to travel and people have experienced more, they want to have European-style food courts where you can get a bit of everything. The whole family can come and have pizza, or Thai, or Chinese. You can almost make it a night out under one roof."

Upstairs at Rutland Cutlery - the food hall's second floor will have a 'sophisticated' atmosphere. Picture: Andrew Roe

Upstairs at Rutland Cutlery - the food hall's second floor will have a 'sophisticated' atmosphere. Picture: Andrew Roe

Enthusiasm is running high - the place is already fully occupied, months in advance, with a waiting list of occupiers on standby. Split over two levels, the hall will have contrasting atmospheres on each floor.

"It's a bit more hustle and bustle downstairs and the upstairs is more relaxed, sophisticated," says Matt.

Accordingly, when customers enter on the ground floor they will encounter 10 stalls serving food and a long bar, with a mix of seating catering for groups as well as couples. The chocolatier will have his own corner where people can watch him in action.

Names of operators are being kept under wraps for now but some should be familiar, Matt says. "A lot of them are young businesses. We've hand picked everyone. A lot of them have done street food around the country, and have done small pop-ups, but are ready to push into bricks and mortar. They're all motivated and driven, and really fresh brands. Everyone's hungry for it."

A new staircase will lead visitors to a cocktail bar with table service, an outlet offering freshly roasted coffee and the Oriental restaurants, where sushi and sashimi will be on the menu. A cheese bar and charcuterie is on the way, while one area - which benefits most from the light from the large windows facing the Don - is earmarked for a café-cum-workspace.

"We're trying to push that brunch/lunchtime/midweek feel for freelance workers," Matt explains. "We'll probably do a deal for them where they get super fast wi-fi, coffee and food for a day price."

Planning permission has been granted by the council, and Milestone is investing £250,000 in the enterprise, which will generate around 100 jobs. Rutland Cutlery went into receivership in 2009; the building has been handed over in a good condition by its landlord, and Nina says careful consideration was given to its heritage. "It is literally just putting the vendors and infrastructure in, keeping the natural aesthetics it's already got."

It was the last site they saw while hunting for suitable premises, Matt adds. "It's stunning."

Next spring, decking may be added outside so people can eat and drink by the river. Across the water, The Church - the dining and gaming venue at Osborn Works owned by Bring Me The Horizon's Oli Sykes - has already created a similar al fresco spot.

Kelham's resurgence, largely driven by the demand for modish flats aimed at young professionals, has been so successful there is little scope for further developments. Consequently entrepreneurs are scouring Neepsend for more characterful properties to transform.

"It'll be like Sheffield's Shoreditch or Northern Quarter," says Matt. "Cutlery Works is another pull for Kelham Island and the regeneration of Neepsend. It's one of the largest independent food halls in the North."

The council wants its own food hall at the Grade II*-listed Leah's Yard on Cambridge Street as part of the Heart of the City II scheme. Adviser Tim Bottrill, the founder of agency Colloco who helped Matt and Nina find Rutland Works, feels there is room for more.

"New York's got 23 or 24 food hall-type operations," says Tim. "The way people eat has totally changed over the last 10 years. People want the convenience, but they want very good food, quickly and easily."

And the benefits are felt more widely, he believes. "When people look to invest in cities, they want their staff to be happy. Having these types of things is fundamental. Sheffield's big sell is lifestyle."