Review: Making a name for modern British fare
It's the irony that thousands of small restaurant owners can only dream of.
No Name is making quite the name for itself on the Sheffield food scene since opening earlier in the year.
Tales of guests booking their next table as they leave the first, and of elegant, contemporary dishes, executed perfectly, have been circulating for some time.
A friend enthusiastically gushed that the experience had been ‘life-changing’ - quite something, for a 20 or so seater at the top end of the main road in Crookes.
“As a family restaurant we had that doubt it might not take off“, said head chef and owner Thomas Samworth, formerly of Rowley’s, and The Devonshire Arms, among others.
“As soon as we’ve opened the doors we’ve been bombarded - and it’s been quite humbling.”
When the doors had yet to open at No Name, I’d thought it might be a Thai place, given the famous fritter type South Eat Asian starter which has the very same title.
But instead the focus is on modern British cooking.
The weekly menu - available to view on the restaurant Facebook page - steers clear of exotic ingredients.
There isn’t a single dish made with liquid nitrogen or any mysterious, unpronouncable additions.
Thomas added: “I’m not reinventing the wheel, we’re just doing simple food in a nice environment.
“There’s not much to it.
“I was fed up of seeing chain restaurants in Sheffield so it’s nice to be part of the independent food scene.
“In Crookes there are plenty of Indians and Italians, there’s nothing wrong with that but we do offer something a little bit different.”
We’d booked a month in advance for the first sitting of a Wednesday evening - diners have the table for two hours, and bring their own wine.
It’s a cheerful looking place shining out from Crookes and inside feels like a cosy living room, all little details such as intimate lighting, quirky prints, plus wild flowers and Sheffield steel cutlery on tables.
It was somewhat chilly next to the door, perhaps as we were the only customers for an hour or so, but Tom said after that they have purchased a new heater as they get used to the seasons.
Two pieces of warm, incredibly light foccaciahad a crust containing just the right amount of tiny salt crystals, and rosemary, pulling apart easily.
The menu is adapted every week to reflect seasonality and available ingredients (fruit and vegetables come from Just Natural just a few doors down).
“If the fruit’s right there in front of you, you can tell if its ripe”, said Thomas.
The lovely waitress said I was the first to sample the beef fillet carpaccio (£8) as the new menu debuted that evening.
Slim circles of pink fillet made for a extraordinary base - succulent, juicy and moreish.
Interesting toppings really brought the dish alive.
Delicate, wispy, wreaths of onion (the word onion ring seems wrong, for this pretty-as-a-picture dish) added crunch, then there was the Henderson’s Relish gel for tang, and daubs of green/white sauces hidden under it all.
Corned beef as I’ve never had before - smooth, creamy and formed into cubes - was tossed in an unami coating that really woke up the tastebuds.
It was a dish I’d eat over and over again.
His mussels (£7) came shelled, avoiding that awkward fork tussle, and were cooked beautifully in a well balanced white wine sauce, with bacon and spring onions adding plenty of salty tange.
More of the delicious bread was used to mop up the sauce, with plentiful butter.
Cod was replacing the pan fried salmon listed on the menu that night, a good thing, as it meant a fat, golden topped chunk of the fish arrived on my main plate.
Inside was soft , pearly flesh: executed brilliantly.
Underneath was aswirl of dark hued tagliatelle, in a crab and chilli sauce.
You could see the slivers of crab and chilli in the rich, silky broth, with a subtle lemon zing to it.
Chilli fans won’t get a blast of heat from this but the dish (£16) was very enjoyable all the same.
Envy is such an ugly emotion, however, it was hard not to be jealous over his heavenly lamb rump (£17).
The colour - aubergine on the outside, lightening to ruby pink - and smell were so inviting.
A potato terrine was sublime, crunchy then soft, well seasoned. He’d have liked less of the rich spiced gremolata and yoghurt dressing.
I strode on alone to the finish line - which turned out to be simply the best vanilla meringue.
Almost cloud-like in cinsistency , it was chewy in all the right places, with pockets of refreshing passion fruit curd and mango sorbet bursting out with each delve of the fork. Coffee topped off the evening, and our total bill came to £62 - it is cash only, at the moment.
Life-changing is a bold claim but the people of Crookes are lucky indeed to have this gem on the doorstep.
No Name, 253 Crookes, Sheffield
Tel: 0114 266 1520