While novelty has its place, consistency and quality are often what makes - or breaks – a food business over time.
When Upshot Espresso opened its second branch three months ago, it was welcome news for fans of the expert coffee house, which offers both values in abundance.
The new site on Gibraltar Street is situated close to both Kelham’s hipster population and the city centre, so workers like yours truly can visit to try to inject some enjoyment into a tedious conference call.
It possesses the same pared-back, casual chic styling as the original with rather more space to move around.
But from the start it was intended to be a break away from the first site on Glossop Road and its avocado-on-toast brunch goals.
Now that separation has become more ingrained, as the venue has been renamed Elm Sheffield .
“It’s not necessarily moving away from what we do but doing something else”, said owner Samuel Lane.
”Upshot does something really great and I didn’t want to confuse the customers or the business with what each do. So Upshot can now be its own thing, with its coffee and its brunch, and Elm can focus on a lot more lunch based food and evenings.
”Here we operate with a blackboard menu so the chefs have more to play around with and can work with what is available.”
Elm is open Friday and Saturday evenings, at first for natural wine – a new passion of Samuel’s – and bar snacks, but with the intention of adding hand made pizzas soon.
The pizzas were on offer when we visited last Saturday afternoon and sounded tempting, particularly a Korean chicken option, but we will have to return for wine when the car is left behind.
Samuel added: “There’s some great wine shops in Sheffield but I didn’t think there was anywhere I’d like to go and drink wine on an evening – so we thought we could do it here.
“Natural wine is a philosophy that a few wine producers use and it is just about not interfering with the wine making process.
”It’s basically about taking some grapes, putting them in a bottle and letting them do what they do – natural wines are quite fun, fresh and unconventional.”
Instead of wines, we started with a house blend and a cup of tea, taking our seat opposite the large open kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work.
The house coffee at Upshot is potent, and strong enough to bring on the shakes after a couple.
There are several menus differentiating between hot and cold drinks, pizzas and the other menu.
It’s not too overwhelming though as the choices are fairly limited.
There aren’t any starters, as such, so we added nduja toast as a side dish to our order.
Simple it may have been but the fiery chunks of oh-so-spicy sausage spread atop the nutty, fine bread, with oil from the meat permeating through, whet the appetite well.
Slicing into the poached egg balancing on the fishcake main dish was a joy, with hot orange yolk oozing out over the pretty plateful.
Underneath were two fishcakes packed with plenty of fresh, strong Cornish mackerel.
Each side was golden and crispy, while inside was soft without having an overload of stodge .
A touch of salt from the sea came with the tangles of vivid green samphire, and a fat dollop of anchovy ketchup proved to be the crowning glory.
Later we found out it had been made with a glut of leftover pizza sauce, reduced over time but very much keeping the flavours intact while contrasting beautifully with the fish. Samuel says there is a ‘waste not, want not’ mantra in place at Elm.
The only downside to the whole dish was a rather large bone tucked away in one of the fishcakes.
Rachel had gone for the courgette fritters, a beautiful dish at any time of year, but especially now when they are seasonal.
”We have so many courgettes it’s unbelievable”, laughed Samuel.
”Jack the chef has an allotment and it is overflowing with them.”
Rachel found the stack of fried fritters very satisfying, despite looking light, with fresh flavours and a perfectly runny egg.
It would have been rude not to have a dessert at the home of Sheffield’s finest cinnamon bun, and so we called for more with coffees to finish from the laid back staff.
A rye, rosemary and cranberry cookie was delightfully different. It had a similar taste to a scone, but with a wonderfully herbiness. The hard bit was not buying several more to take home.
Rachel’s chocolate brownie was vast enough to be shared, with the ideal chewy texture inside, and ‘little streams of caramel’ throughout.
Samuel and his team may have branched out into something new, but they haven’t branched away from what made them a success in the first place. Elm is a lunch spot to be rated among Sheffield’s finest. Our bill was £35.
167-169 Gibraltar Street