Eating out: Adding some fizz and sparkle to Ecclesall Road
It's an idea that really, you think would have come to life in Sheffield's restaurant row long before now.
Ecclesall Road seems like the natural habitat for a prosecco and wine specialist, but until a few weeks ago that wasn’t the case.
Bocelli 1831 aims to fill that gap - and was joined shortly afterwards by a second prosecco bar further up the same street.
Only Bocelli isn’t just about prosecco. And you might recognise the name.
Long before classical tenor Andrea Bocelli was famous for music, his family have been making wines in Tuscany: for more than 130 years in fact.
This isn’t a one hit wonder, and the wine is internationally recognised, too.
Number 359 Ecclesall Road is now the UK’s only Bocelli 1831 bar after it was transformed from the former Craft and Dough pizza joint.
“Craft and Dough was doing alright and ticking along but we thought we can do something a bit special there”, said Matt Bigland.
That’s another name you might recognise, as the man behind The Milestone in Kelham Island. He had a connection with a partner in the Bocelli brand, and the rest is history.
Matt added: “They had the wine and the prosecco, we had the site and thought the wine was amazing so let’s look at doing something different. It was a side project that became a full on restaurant.”
It’s worth saying that Ecclesall Road has been on something of a downward spiral recently.
Various shops and restaurants have closed - and in some cases, national chains slotted in.
It’s a relief that the former beer and pizza restaurant hasn’t become another faceless takeaway.
The unit looks smarter and more chic, without having had a too drastic transformation: everything remains in a similar place.
Food-wise, the focus is on small plates and sharing, which brings to mind Spain rather than Italy.
There’s no sign of any cliched Italian dishes either.
Matt adds: “The food isn’t pasta and pizza, we’ve got lovely meats and cheeses, and it is a casual dining experience.
“You don’t have to be dressed up to come here, you can just pop in for a glass of wine and some food.”
It struck us as a fine place for a date night when we walked in on a busy Friday.
It’s intimate and buzzing without being ostentatious.
The staff all went through two weeks of training, and you can tell, from the warm welcome to the painstaking level of knowledge they have about each wine on offer.
It’s rare to have a waiter or waitress offering information on provenance and taste profiles without being prompted.
We started with a Chianti (£24.50) - not our usual bag, and there are finer options available, but we do have a review price limit.
It was quite spicy, as well as fruity, and complimented well our most eagerly anticipated small dish, the lamb panko.
We fought over the three tender, juicy cubes of lamb, packed with flavour and enrobed in crispy breadcrumbs.
There was a good punch from the saffron yoghurt underneath, with a burst of citric flavour from the pomegranate seeds, and the tang of sumac.
Head chef James Kohanzad, formerly of Losehill House Hotel, apparently spent weeks developing this one: it was worth every minute. You can see the Losehill approach in beautiful presentation too.
Both of us wanted to order a second plate of the lamb immediately but there were other things to attend to.
Crispy pig cheeks were hearty, hale discs of meat packed with seasoning and topped with triangular shards of sweet apple.
A mustard mayonnaise also cut through the heaviness of the pork, which worked much better than a plate heaving with the stuff.
Separately, the cod was nothing remarkable, but with a crisp slice of prosciutto it took on just the right balance of salt and clear, creamy fish.
The ever adaptable cauliflower was used to good effect here in a flavoursome puree and as a roasted side garnish.
Slices of moreish, slow roasted pork belly were the star in the final plate, topped with a light-as-air Quaver type pork crackling, a smidgen of black pudding and some Granny Smith puree.
We only differed over the parmesan fries - I loved their pungent, seriously cheesy topping, he was not a fan.
Desserts seemed to be fairly limited on the night, and could perhaps be expanded.
My not one, two, but three raspberry macarons were beautiful to look at, had a crisp, crunchy shell and a gooey inside. Both they and his chocolate brownie were scattered with vivid freeze dried raspberry powder.
The brownie was more of a cake in consistency, being large, soft and airy rather than squidgy in the middle, but was pleasant enough.
There are some interesting brunch dishes available too - and we will be back to try them with a glass of something sparkling soon. Our bill came to £63.75.
Bocelli 1831, 359 Ecclesall Road.
Tel: 01142 266 3311