It’s hard to recall a time when Scandi chic was not a common part of Sheffield’s dining out scene.
Hygge, open sandwiches and tasting plates can now be found at a smorgasbord of Sheffield restaurants and cafes.
But it is fair to say that when Brocco boutique hotel and kitchen opened next to Endcliffe Park almost four years ago, that was not quite the case.
Half-Finnish owner Tiina Carr created Brocco using inspiration from her childhood holidays in Finland and time running a design company – without realising a cultural boom in all things Nordic was looming on the horizon.
“It was part of my childhood”, she said.
“I knew that we were different to my friends. They couldn’t believe that we had so many candles in the house!”
Since opening in 2014 the venue has scooped more awards than you can shake a herring at, and locals as well as tourists are stopping by more often.
Head chef Leslie Buddington has been there since the beginning, and last year Brocco replaced its entire lunch menu with Scandinavian tapas, claimed to be a Sheffield first at the time.
Tiina added: “It’s very rare (for a head chef to stay in post for four years).
“I think that’s always been one of the keys to our success.
“There’s probably been a perception from residents of ‘can you go in?’ because you can’t see inside the windows of Brocco from the road – I think word has spread now and winning a Westside award for best restaurant helped.
“People tend to come for one service, so they will come for brunch, then they start to see that we do other things as well such as Sunday lunch. “It’s moving people on to different parts of our service.”
Food-wise, the focus at Brocco is very much on lighter dishes.
Not tiny morsels lost in a giant plate, but food that will satisfy without leaving diners struggling to move afterwards, with plenty of fish and vegetables rather than just meat.
There’s also a focus on allergens or dietary needs, and dishes are clearly marked as suitable for gluten-free, wheat-free, meat-free and dairy-free diets.
Surprisingly, it’s not because Tiina has an intolerance herself.
“It’s something that in Sheffield wasn’t – at the point we opened – well done, I think”, said Tiina.
“People are developing a more health-conscious way of eating and we weren’t that well catered in Sheffield.
“The food here is probably the way I like to eat – we’ve gone down the route of focusing on quality, not quantity.”
We live close by but have only visited for brunch, and a friend’s wedding, previously, so it was time to put that right with lunch on a Saturday.
Inside is light, with clean lines and beautiful decor.
We chose to sit outside on the terrace which is equally attractive and creates the ambience of a (albeit very upmarket) picnic in the park.
The staff are swift and well trained, recommending the roasted garlic hummus with olives and seeded crispbread (£6) for an immediate starter as appetites were past ravenous.
The large slabs of satisfyingly crunchy bread lasted through the meal.
I’ve never tasted better hummus either : creamy without being runny, garlic-infused but not overpowering. There are three sections to the lunch menu of small plates, from The Gardener, to The Hunter and The Fisher.
For mains, each of us chose two of the small plates, and tried to go as Scandi as possible, with our waitress matching a wine to them.
My king prawn Skagen (£9) – a classic Scandinavian dish – had nutty rye bread as the base, with plump prawns teetering on top.
The lemon mayonnaise and smoked herring roe added aesthetic and flavour appeal.
There had been a marital tussle over who could order the crispy squid (£7.50).
It was well cooked with lovely Aioli, but he found there to be too much oil and not enough crunch to the batter.
A piece of crispy chicken skin almost in the shape of a shark’s fin adorned the impressive seared scallops.
There were four lightly golden scallops, a small pile of salty samphire and fresh watermelon, all contrasting beautifully. Summer on a plate for £13.
Seared sardines were another triumph. They came as the reel (sorry) deal, with their heads on.
Strong meaty flavours mixed well with sour pickled red onions, crispy potatoes and a lively dill sour cream.
There had been fresh dill as well in my Nordic Mist cocktail, as well as cloudberry liqueur and aquavit.
Desserts were slightly less themed, but fantastic still.
A Granny Smith ice cream sandwich combined small scoops of super – sweet apple, a biscuit crumb and brandy snap-style biscuit folded around the ice cream.
His strawberry and white chocolate cheesecake was demure and delicious, with tangled berries and micro greens adding interest to the plate.
Drinks are at hotel prices, but the three courses of food cost under £50 for two.
Not bad for a trip to Scandinavia...
Brocco Kitchen, 92 Brocco Bank
Tel: 01142 661233