Eating out: Real jewel in the crown of Woodseats
Richard Marin and Jose Rodriguez celebrated a year of business together last week, but celebration inside Dos Amigos was a little muted.
Instead, the pair prefer to look to the future of their excellent Mexican/Italian hybrid just off the main strip of activity in Woodseats, less than three miles outside the city centre of Sheffield.
“It’s been kind of a tough year,” smiles Jose, a little ruefully, “but we’re excited we’re still here, of course.
“It’s one thing at a time, I guess, and getting a restaurant going is always the toughest time.
“We’ve got this far without any advertising, to be fair, so it’s exclusively through word of mouth and people liking what we do, so coming back for more. So we’re not doing badly. Maybe we’ll do more to celebrate next year!”
But Dos Amigos is worth celebrating, so allow us to do it on their behalf; it is excellent. Tucked away on The Dale - just off Chesterfield Road, home of local landmarks like Viraaj curry house, the Chantry Arms and the paradoxically-named Wetherspoon’s, Woodseats Palace - this place deserves equal, if not top, billing. A jewel in the crown, if you like.
On our first visit - which was so good, we made a point of going back - our table of ten monopolised the space, but Dos Amigos isn’t as claustrophobic as some of this type sometimes can be.
With Richard and Jose squirreling away in the kitchen we’re met by Christophe Tilmant, a Frenchman I’ve obviously never met before. I like him instantly. It just feels like that kind of place.
The place is bright, airy, far from cramped. There are images of Mexican and Italian scenery on the windows, to complement the food, and a Mexican flag hangs on the ceiling.
The South American influence comes from the owners but Richard and Jose, they later tell me, are from Ecuador, not Mexico. Italian/Mexican combinations have worked well in their previous restaurants, Jose explains, so they stuck to what they knew here. A good move.
The menu is vast - pizza, pasta, steak, chicken, fajitas, fish, burritos, risotto and a specials menu in case that’s not enough - and service, even on a busy night, is rapid.
Thumbs up for the starters - gambas al aglio, prawns in garlic butter in white wine, described as flavoursome with tender and succulent prawns, while piquitos, essentially breaded jalapeños, weren’t too spicy with the welcome sour cream cooling things down.
On our second visit, Richard and Jose offered us - or the half of the party that can stomach seafood, anyway - a sneak peak of a future dish, king prawns wrapped in bacon with a sweet balsamic glaze. They didn’t last long.
Jose later explained that it was something of a signature dish from the duo’s homeland, and they plan to mix things up a little with slight Ecuadorian influences.
“It makes me happy when customers enjoy the food, because it’s my passion and I take a lot of pride in it,” Richard says.
He can be especially proud of the picante, pasta cooked in onions, bacon, mushrooms, garlic, fresh chilli and tomato sauce. The delicious, classic sauce gave the dish a solid starting point and the addition of chillies gave it a slight kick, with the bacon topping it off beautifully. The vegetable pasta was adapted to make it dairy free without a hint of fuss and was flavoursome, the chicken Gorgonzola beautiful; cheese sauce combining with an array of peppers.
Even the chips received the thumbs up and when the only downside of chicken and steak fajitas is the amount of tortillas it comes with, you know a place is special.
Before we move from sangria to coffees - the Baileys one faring particularly well - Jose tells us more about the past, and the future.
“We have worked in this type of restaurant before,” he says, “and people seemed to respond well to the Mexican and Italian theme.
“I’ve been in Sheffield since 1999, after moving here when my sister lived here. Then she left, and I was stuck here! Now I have kids and a family. It’s home.”
Why Woodseats, then?
“We checked out some areas and thought Woodseats was maybe missing something,” Jose says.
“We thought we’d give it a go. It has been tough, but we’ll keep going and trying different things.
“We’re not scared to mix it up; you have to have courage to try things, and see how people respond.
“In a way, I’m quite excited and confident. I think we’ll be okay. Fingers crossed.”
As aremine. Here’s to many more years.
n Dos Amigos, 96-98 The Dale, Sheffield, S8 0PS. Open seven days a week, 5-10pm.
Tel 0114 2215097.