After 15 years building an award-winning Peak District pub, most couples would be ready to opt for the quiet life. But not Carl and Debbie Shaw...
The third generation of their family to run the Bull’s Head at picturesque Ashford in the Water, they have handed the former coaching inn to cousins and turned to the city for their next challenge – joining daughter Hollie and son James to reopen the former Dada bar in Trippet Lane.
It’s a step change for the family, who are more accustomed to country sights than city lights, but they have big plans.
The first was to restore the bar’s identity – which opened last week as Trippets Lounge Bar, with the strapline ‘Fizz, gin… and all that jazz’.
They gutted the interior, put in a brand new kitchen, a sleek new bar and set about creating a fitting backdrop for the blend of relaxed music, dining and drinks that they had in mind.
The result is a dramatic monochrome interior: black and white stripes relieved by fresh flowers, flickering candles and quirky touches – ornate mirrors, mis-matched candelabra, wine bucket lampshades, and hat pegs complete with toppers and bowlers.
It’s something a bit different – eat as much or as little as you wantCarl Shaw, proprietor
“Our front room at home is bare!” admits Debbie. “We’ve brought over the grandfather clock, mirrors and trinkets, pots and pans… The 1930s cocktail shaker behind the bar was my grandmother’s.”
It creates a welcoming environment with a personal touch. Smooth, laid-back jazz plays in the background and the stresses of daily life just melt away.
The bar is stocked with beer, of course; including Japanese and Spanish brews. There’s wine: a selection of more than two dozen from £15 a bottle and, thanks to an advanced keeping system, 14 are available by the glass.
There’s also an impressive selection of gins – 33 and counting – from Bathtub to Xorigeur, including Sheffield’s own Sir Robin of Locksley and True North.
Food is the other speciality. Carl’s cooking earned a coveted two-star recommendation from Egon Ronay at the Bull’s Head: one of only 10 in the country. But he is sharing the responsibility at Trippets with Alex Dobson, former head chef with the Orient Express group.
A South Yorkshire lad, Alex trained at Barnsley College, where he was hand-picked for an elite French cookery course. He went on to work at the celebrated Chewton Glen hotel and Nico Central in Manchester, then spent a time in Australia before returning home to join the Orient Express’s Northern Belle.
“We’re talking about fine dining at 100mph; it was a challenge,” says Alex. “Every trip was like a wedding for 272 people.”
He lived life on the fast track for 10 years, then decided the time had come to return home. The kitchen of a Sheffield chain restaurant proved a soul-destroying experience – but it introduced him to customers Debbie and Carl, who were eager to give him a platform for his talents.
He’s enjoying Trippets, where he and Carl showcase local produce through their own range of ‘tasting plates’ (from £4).
Diners can pick one to savour over a pint; choose half-a-dozen to share with friends; order a series to enjoy as a multi-course meal; or start with one and add more if they’re peckish.
“It’s not tapas, it’s more like a tasting menu – fairly simple food, but things people wouldn’t bother doing at home,” says Carl.
“It’s about doing something a little bit different. People can eat as much or as little as they want.”
There’s pieces of artisan bread with oil and balsamic while we’re waiting. We wash it down with glasses of fruity French red and citrussy sauvignon blanc.
York ham and pea soup is good and thick, with plenty of meaty bits, garnished with apple crisps.
Thick slices of beetroot cured salmon are curled on a bed of rocket, the flesh delicately spiced with a marinade of juniper, cinnamon and cloves. But the masterstroke is a delicious beetroot and pear relish: crunchy and tangy with just enough sweetness to lift the flavour.
We follow those with Alex’s home-smoked pork fillet wrapped in Parma ham: a meaty feast of a dish, served with black pudding mash – “which is beautiful” – and slices of crispy belly, finished off with Calvados caramelised Chinese apples. They’re as good as they sound, cutting through the greasy pork.
My choice is smoked haddock scotch egg: a crisp-shelled ball which cuts open to reveal a layer of smoky fish and potato with a golden soft-yolked egg at its centre. The dish is completed with shards of crisp-fried pancetta, watercress and a lemon dressing.
We also share a house salad and a side dish of mixed veg.
Replete, but not over-full, we finish our meal with coffee a shared sweet plate of Italian chocolate and almond slice – a rich, marzipanesque confection served with fresh berries and a swirl of crème Anglaise spiked with locally-made O’Hara’s rum. Absolutely delicious!
Trippets Lounge is open midday until 11pm, food served until 9.30pm.
Live music is planned, starting in the summer. Special events will include Wine & Dine tasting evenings and a series of gin masterclasses.
l Trippets Lounge Bar, 89 Trippet Lane, Sheffield (0114) 276 2930 Trippets Lounge Bar