Special report: Hunger for eating locally as independent Sheffield restaurants rise

Nicola Groom, Emma Middleton, and Emma Kirk have launched a new monthly pop up restaurant which will allow small traders from around the city to have their own restaurant for the night. Jack Norman from Pie Eyed is the first trader to have a night which will be held at Union Street.
Nicola Groom, Emma Middleton, and Emma Kirk have launched a new monthly pop up restaurant which will allow small traders from around the city to have their own restaurant for the night. Jack Norman from Pie Eyed is the first trader to have a night which will be held at Union Street.

“People want to be able to just walk somewhere and have a good drink or some food,” said Kane Yeardley.

And he should know. The boss of True North Co has just opened his 10th pub in Sheffield – the Waggon and Horses at Millhouses – and believes a trend of utilising the city suburbs, with a side order of hunger for the hyper-local, may lie behind a reported 8.5 per cent rise in the number of independent Sheffield restaurants over the last three years.

Food review at JORO in Krynkyl on Shalesmoor. The pork dish.  Picture: Chris Etchells

Food review at JORO in Krynkyl on Shalesmoor. The pork dish. Picture: Chris Etchells

Kane added: “That figure does seem high – but there are quite a few new places in the city centre. Look at Broomhill, Abbeydale Road and Kelham Island which have had new venues opening – it all adds up.

“I think there has been a substantial rise in the number of new artisan cafes – two years ago, there were hardly any, now you can go to them all over they city and they’ve all opened in the last two years.

“Start-up costs on some of these small businesses are not as substantial and then there are the food programmes on TV – look at the Great British Bake Off. It makes people want to give it a go or eat like that, and places like Forge Bakehouse which started off small have doubled in size, and there’s a queue of people waiting to get in at weekends now.

“People just want to be able to walk somewhere and get a good drink or food. Generally we’ve found people want a good pub in their suburb, and they appreciate it.”

The Cabin food review owners Linz and George Lonchar

The Cabin food review owners Linz and George Lonchar

The figures come from a study by hospitality trade show Northern Restaurant & Bar, which found Sheffield had 166 independent restaurants as of 2016 – the most recent statistics available – compared with 153 in 2014. Independent restaurants are classed as those with fewer than three sites – so some local multi-branch venues will not have been counted.

The total number of restaurants is fewer than in some rival cities – but Sheffield pipped Liverpool, Manchester and London to the post when it came to the overall increase in independents.

Chief executive Thom Hetherington said: “Despite high streets having a torrid time, the figures clearly show consumers are hungry to support smaller local restaurant operators, with Sheffield performing well, especially in comparison with the likes of London and Manchester.

“London still stands apart in terms of the scale and depth of its restaurant scene – but escalating costs mean the regions, and places like Sheffield in particular, now offer genuine opportunity for ambitious operators.”

Kane Yeardley at True North Brewery at the back of the Forum in Sheffield

Kane Yeardley at True North Brewery at the back of the Forum in Sheffield

One of Sheffield’s newest restaurants is The Cabin, an American-style restaurant serving waffles and pancakes on The Moor, where regeneration works are expected to finish soon.

Owners Linz and US-born George Lonchar spent 18 months looking for the right site to pursue their dream.

Linz said the study was ‘encouraging’.

She added: “The regeneration of The Moor was definitely a factor in us taking these premises because we wanted to be part of that while it was happening, rather than moving in when it was done.

Forge Bakehouse on Abbeydale Road

Forge Bakehouse on Abbeydale Road

“Every day we get people coming in saying they didn’t realise we were here and they are pleased we’re not a chain as they thought we might be – but we’re a family who mortgaged our house to do this.

“It does feel as though people really want to support independent places – they like that we use Our Cow Molly ice cream made in Dungworth. We do get feedback that people want to eat local, and lots of them use the Independent Sheffield card.”

Not all food businesses can survive of course, and the lifespan of a restaurant is often brief – so the figures need taking with a pinch of salt.

Indeed, in 2015 the number of independent Sheffield restaurants according to the study was 169, so there was a slight dip.

There are some sites which frequently change hands or branding, such as the former Rhubarb and Mustard on Ecclesall Road, still empty after several months.

Yankees, also on Ecclesall Road, also closed recently after more than three decades.

Many of the venues popping up in their place have originated from street food or market stalls, and use social media to build followings, as well as promoting their dishes.

And the list of new venues is long – ranging from Lavang, the Indian fine dining place in Fulwood, to seasonal JORO at Shalesmoor, already attracting attention from food critics across the country, and Vietnamese cafe Nam Song in Broomhill.

Temporary Restaurant was a new concept for Sheffield, and combines the variety of pop-ups with permanent restaurants by allowing smaller food outlets to serve their fare in a dining setting once a month.

Nicola Groom, one of the founders, said: “The rise does seem a high percentage which is good but when you look at what is going on in Sheffield at the moment, particularly with the street food scene, it makes sense.

“There now seem to be food events going on all the time whereas two years ago it felt like there wasn’t that much to do.

“It feels like food businesses are feeding off each other.

“I haven’t come across anybody who is treading on anybody’s toes – they all seem to be doing something slightly different which is great for the people of Sheffield.”

The Nether Edge Farmers market, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 19th March 2017. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

The Nether Edge Farmers market, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 19th March 2017. Photo by Glenn Ashley.