If there’s one thing Sheffield folk are famous for it is our friendly nature and community spirit, and the Blend Kitchen team is a shining example.
The new eatery on Sheffield’s busy Pinstone Street is the perfect blend of fresh food, fabulous views and friendly service that also serves the community.
As well as offering a tempting menu, the social enterprise trains and develops people so they can work in various hospitality roles across the city.
The idea was brought to life by Chris Hanson, manager and head chef, who started doing ‘pop up’ restaurants and hosting street food events until eventually crowd-funding enough money to move into their dream location.
In between The Moor and the High Street it is a quick two-minute walk away from any of the city’s theaters and main shops and just a few steps from the Peace Gardens.
Justin Rowntree, founder of Silversmiths restaurant who was once mentored by Gordon Ramsay, is now a consultant for Blend who promised the restaurant’s views are set to become even better when they open the upstairs room as a small-plate and cocktail bar in the next few months.
Blend has been open for only three weeks but the team have been busy training staff, and more unusually, visiting prisons.
Chris, who will soon be competing in the ‘ultimate local cooking competition’ Sheff’s Kitchen, said “there hasn’t been a normal week yet”.
He added: “We have got people from all kinds of backgrounds, people who are coming out of prison, people who have experienced homelessness in the past year, guys with learning disabilities and mental health conditions, so it’s a real mix but it’s about giving them a sense of worth and some skills and employing them as part of a team.”
Justin added: “What I am learning about me from the staff is something else and I never expected to have that experience.
“I came to teach but I’m actually learning so much about patience, about communication, on a level that I never would have thought.
“It’s the most rewarding experience I have ever had in terms of hospitality and it’s only just begun as well, we have got such a long way to go.”
As we opened the doors we were immediately welcomed by staff. The Scandinavian-styled interior and open plan kitchen created a wholesome atmosphere.
We chose a spot by the picture window and were thankful to have a jug of water waiting for us in the sweltering heat.
It was quiet when we arrived but gradually became busy.
Like their food, the menu is kept fresh by changing lunch specials every day and cevening choices weekly. Chris said it keeps it interesting for the kitchen and customers and means they can go to the market and see what is best for any given day.
But the inspiration is always the same. At the top of the menu you are reminded that it is “inspired by the communities, cultures, farmers, food producers and fisherman of Yorkshire.”
True to their tagline, nearly everything, from the fruit chosen by Chris at the Moor Market that morning to the beer, was closely tied to the region.
Saturday evening offered a limited choice between three starters, mains and desserts.
The mains offered a vegetarian, meat or fish option.
The hogget - from Whirlow Hall Farm Trust - caught my eye and came with ratatouille, sautéed potatoes and sauce vierge. My two guests chose the other options, warm roast courgette salad, confit tomatoes, olives, rocket with new potatoes and pan fired sea bass fillet, clams, chorizo, spinach, tomato, new potatoes and basil.
Each element of mine came presented in its own dish. The hogget was tender and flavoursome with a side of mint sauce, the potatoes were lightly crisped and well-seasoned and the ratatouille was soft and fresh.
The sea bass and courgette were, in the words of my friends, “surprisingly delicious”.
Staff were attentive, enthusiastic and friendly and the sense of team support shone in their service. This created a relaxed vibe that was welcoming and genuine.
Puddings arrived quickly.
I had the white chocolate cheesecake which was homemade and had a generous dollop of creamy filling on a thin layer of crumbly base, surrounded by sweet strawberries and blackberries which, although not the best cheesecake I have ever had, was a pleasant end to the evening.
My friend had peaches, raspberries and amoretto Eton mess which was equally enjoyed.
Nothing is perfect and there is a need to refurbish the single bathroom but for an eatery in its first three weeks it was very good with a lot of potential.
I’m really looking forward to trying out their breakfast and lunches.
What was on offer was good value for money and even greater value for the community.
The bill came to £54.30, not bad for three people, three drinks and six plates.
Blend Kitchen, 18 Pinstone Street