A toast to pub grub

Nick Simmonite at the Frog and Parrot
Nick Simmonite at the Frog and Parrot

WHEN I came to Sheffield in the 1980s, the Frog and Parrot was synonymous with one thing – the world’s strongest beer.

Students used to love to try to drink two third-of-a-pint glasses of Roger and Out at the city centre pub and get a certificate that they could stagger out with. They even had a parrot on the bar – was there ever a frog, too?

Sorry if this is all sounding a bit like the reminiscences on Sheffield Forum but it all came flooding back when I was looking for somewhere to try and noticed the food menu.

Things have changed quite a bit, something that started to dawn on me when I popped in with two friends last summer to hear a band in the bar on our Tramlines festival weekend music crawl.

No Roger and Out now but plenty of choice of real ale from this Greene King pub. As well as Greene King beers they have Morlands, Ruddles and two Sheffield beers, Kelham Island Best Bitter and the brewery’s Rider on the Storm.

I had the Kelham Island Best Bitter and it was pretty good, from a well-kept cellar.

The barrel tables have long gone, replaced by a look that landlord Nick Simmonite calls eclectic, with lots of dark colours, quirky chandeliers and a mix of funky print patterns on the walls and furniture.

There’s a tiny stage and Nick was happily DJ-ing just before we spoke, ahead of an appearance by guitar duo Dan Williams and Simon Peter Thompson, who also plays with Alvarez Kings.

The brother of Mark who runs Henry’s bar round the corner on Cambridge Street, Nick has been landlord for 10 years. He said: “It’s evolved from a pub famous for the world’s strongest beer to something a bit more eclectic.”

He says that the pub has a long association with music. When it was the Prince of Wales Joe Cocker signed his first record deal there 40 years ago.

As he says, musicians need to be fed and watered and a team of four chefs led by Amy Greyhurst run the busy kitchen.

The menu is about to be tweaked to bring a touch to spring and summer to it in March but Nick says that sausage and mash will stay on. Quite right, too.

It’s all pretty standard pub grub stuff and mostly cooked fresh with a few items like chilli bought in. Order at the bar and they’ll bring it to you.

You can start with light bites such as garlic, cheesy or peppered mushroom ciabatta, potato wedges or soup with prices ranging from £1.69 to £2.99, or go for sharers, which include nachos, mini burgers or the house sharer which gives you a taste of lots of snacks. Prices go from £3.99 to £6.49.

The main courses include pub favourites such as lasagne, gammon, hunter’s chicken, fish and chips or an all-day breakfast. There’s also a few choices of steak or gourmet burgers and you can’t find a main course over £6.99.

A daytime burger and a pint offer costs £5.49 and they do Sunday lunch for £4.99.

If you fancy something a bit lighter there are sandwiches, wraps and jacket potatoes.

We shared two starters between three and the nachos covered with melted cheese, salsa, jalapeno peppers and sour cream (£2.49) and tempura king prawns with a sweet chilli dip (£2.99) disappeared in short order. The prawn batter wasn’t strictly tempura as it was much thicker but we weren’t strictly in a Japanese restaurant, either.

After a pleasant wait one of the cheery and attentive bar staff arrived with our main courses. When she delivered our food she also asked us if we wanted another drink and then brought them to the table, which is always a nice touch.

Linda went for British beef and ale pie (£5.99), Harriet tried a vegetable moussaka (£3.99) and I had the intriguing-sounding roast beef Yorkshire wrap (£3.99).

Linda’s pie, which came with peas, a dinky little gravy boat and good mashed potato, was actually more like a Cornish pasty in appearance.

The pastry was crisp and the filling was tasty with moist chunks of beef in a good gravy made with Ruddles Ale. Pretty spot on.

Harriet’s oval-shaped oven dish of moussaka, which was accompanied by some good quality garlic bread, was a real taste of your Greek holiday. The spicing was authentic and the fluffy cheesy topping was gorgeous, nothing like the usual sad effort you find on a pub menu.

My Yorkshire wrap was a clever idea that Nick later told me was inspired by a turkey version which was intended to be a Christmas dinner in a wrap.

Some good thick slices of beef were encased in a big, flat Yorkshire pud that looked like a tortilla wrap and was rolled up like one. It was comfort food you could eat with your hands.

It came with peas, some very good chunky chips, horseradish sauce and a little gravy boat full of the good stuff, although the meat was moist and didn’t need much help.

The portions are generous and we regretfully had to decline the tempting-sounding offer of chocolate fudge cake.

We could have had Bramley apple pie, treacle pudding, raspberry mess or vanilla ice cream.

Anyone who can polish off the Yorkshire wrap and chips followed by treacle pud should get one of those little certificates.

All that food plus drinks cost an astonishing £23.60. I’ll drink to that…

lVerdict: good food, good pint, good atmosphere, great prices.

lFood serving times: seven days, 11am to 9pm.

lThe Frog and Parrot, 94 Division Street, Sheffield city centre: 0114 272 1280.