Top of the pop-ups

Jamie Bosworth & Michelle Elliott at Brooks Bistro
Jamie Bosworth & Michelle Elliott at Brooks Bistro

AS legends go, he’s up there alongside Jamie Oliver and Delia herself – at least so far as Sheffield’s restaurant scene is concerned.

Jamie Bosworth, aged 40, has more than 20 years’ experience tucked under his apron and his reputation was established while many of today’s head chefs were still in short trousers.

With brother Wayne, he made his name at Bosworths’ Bistro and Rafters, then went on to set up Bosworth’s at Bramall Lane and Taste in his own right.

For the last four years he has been a development chef at Gunstones in Dronfield, creating new products for Marks & Spencer, specialising in sushi and take-away snacks, and enjoying research trips that took him from London and Paris to San Francisco and New York.

But now Bosworth is back – with a business that will give diners the length and breadth of Sheffield a chance to experience his cooking.

Circuit Chef is a pop-up restaurant with a difference: it’s the chef who pops up, in venues from private homes and corporate offices to pubs and cafés across the city.

Current hosts include the Castle Inn at Bradway and Brooks Bistro in Hathersage (formerly Elliotts Coffee Shop), where we caught up with him last week.

Michelle Elliott opened the café three years ago and was eager to extend her service with monthly bistro nights. Enter Jamie – who, coincidentally, lived within doors of her in Sharrowvale Road when they were children but had never met her before.

Michelle, something of a coffee connoisseur, claims she lured him with a perfect cappuccino. It’s probably true: after an intensive training course, she splashed out £8,000 on a coffee machine, stocked up on supplies from Sheffield-based Cafeology and is now a dab hand at latte art. She has also persuaded Sheffield barista Antony Smith to man the coffee station on Sundays.

But I digress.

Michelle is an engaging hostess. A former dancer who rode elephants in a circus, she has sold everything from time shares to double glazing, but has found her niche since arriving in Hathersage.

Brooks Bistro, set in a waterside garden, is a pleasant, airy space with neutral decor, blond wood floor and comfy leather chairs. By night the bare tables are lit by candles, flickering in smoked crackle-glass lanterns.

Jamie does his prep at home and arrives on site ready to go, complete with pots, pans and, on this occasion, wife Jayne to help out.

He’s clearly relishing being back at the sharp end. “I was privileged to work for M&S but it’s great working for myself again,” he says.

“Mind you, it’s a challenge – I have to cope with only three gas rings here, instead of eight!”

Jamie’s menu offers a choice of three dishes per course, ordered in advance to keep prices down. Tonight’s selection is by special request: a table of a dozen local regulars.

Michelle greets us as we arrive and brings a bottle of tap water and home-baked bread along with the wine list.

It’s not cheap – prices vary according to what Sheffield specialist John Mitchell provides. We settle for the cheapest red, a Mazets de Saint Victor Côtes du Rhône at £18.

My companion starts with chicken liver pâté: a little pot of velvety umami, topped with melted butter and beautifully balanced with melba toast, dressed rocket and a dollop of sweet and tangy red onion chutney.

My trio of salmon combines a piece of poached fillet, a quenelle of smoky mousse and the highlight, ceviche: tiny pieces of raw fish marinated in lime and coriander with just a hint of chilli.

Main course lamb is exquisite: blushing pink, carved on to a bed of buttery sliced Pommes Anna and served with braised fennel, mushrooms and rosemary gravy.

Fillet of sole comes with paysanne (sliced) vegetables – courgette, pepper and mushrooms – with al dente asparagus spears and a creamy fine herb sauce.

Is the fish just a touch overcooked? Well, if it is, the rest makes up for it. And there’s a big bowl of crisp vegetables to share too: beans, broccoli, cauliflower, stick carrots and new potatoes.

On to desserts. Pear poached in cinnamon-spiced red wine is sprinkled with sugary almond brittle dust and served with vanilla ice cream.

But the prize undoubtedly goes to my companion who picks Bosworth’s legendary apple bread and butter pudding with sublime salted caramel sauce.

We finish our meal with Michelle’s excellent coffee. Bistro nights are £25 for three courses or £21 for two.

lVerdict: A top combination – Jamie’s food, Michelle’s welcome and an attractive Peak District venue.

lOpen: Daily from 10am-4pm; monthly bistro night.

lBrooks Coffee Shop & Bistro, Station Road, Hathersage (01433) 659911

lJamie Bosworth, Circuit Chef