EATING OUT: The Sheffield bistro offering a unique and wonderful taste of the world

Laura Welch - Chef, Bessie Antcliffe - Owner, Patricia Bugembe - Front of House/Resident Artist
Laura Welch - Chef, Bessie Antcliffe - Owner, Patricia Bugembe - Front of House/Resident Artist

Two years ago Bessie Antcliffe took the bold step of opening her very own cafe.

After a short period of unemployment she decided to open up her own place on Abbeydale Road at Millhouses and she hasn’t looked back since.

Bessie's offers a selection of hot and cold food and drink during the day

Bessie's offers a selection of hot and cold food and drink during the day

The 30-year-old - who moved to Sheffield from Southampton as a teenager - is keen to stamp her own authority on Bessie’s.

“During the day we offer classic dishes but with our very own twist,” Bessie explains.

“For instance, our full English features spinach and it really works.

“We try to keep our food as modern as possible.”

Bessie's Cafe & Bistro is located on Abbeydale Road at Millhouses

Bessie's Cafe & Bistro is located on Abbeydale Road at Millhouses

Not long after opening back in April 2016 the cafe hosted its first bistro night, with a Sri Lankan theme.

The bistro night proved to be an instant hit, so much so that it is now a permanent fixture every Friday night.

Billed as ‘taste the world’ each month is dedicated to a a different cuisine from around the globe.

“I think our taste the world nights are so popular because they offer something that nowhere else in Sheffield does,” says Bessie.

Bessie's opened in April 2016

Bessie's opened in April 2016

“We have a really loyal customer base which is great.

“Some of our customers come to all our bistro nights.

“At the same time it is really nice whenever we see new faces. It’s super-lovely.”

Bessie adds that the bistro nights are the result of a lot of hard work and preparation.

“Myself and our chef Laura do loads of research for our bistro nights to make sure the food is really tasty and authentic.

“ As well as all the research we also do a lot of practicing with the dishes to get them just right.

“It is so important to us that we get it right.”

Not only have the bistro nights proved to be extremely popular but the cafe also does a roaring trade day-to-day.

Bessie puts this popularity down to the atmosphere she has created and nurtured at the cafe.

“I think that the secret of our success is that we are like a home from home.

“It is like going round to a friend’s house for a cup of tea.

“I am super-chatty so am able to make people feel really welcome.

“ People come here to chit-chat and socialise.

“There is a massive age range amongst our customers.

“The majority of our daytime customers are a mix of families and retired people.

“We also have a few vegan, hipster types who come here.

“It really is a broad range of people.”

This summer Bessie plans to launch a special new service for those hoping to get out and about and make the most of any nice weather.

“We are going to start doing picnic hampers.

“People will be able to ring up the day before, place an order for a hamper which will be full of lovely food and a bottle of prosecco and then they can go off for the day for a picnic in the park or the Peaks or whatever.”

We visited Bessie’s on the final Friday night in March and the menu was a celebration of the best of Polish cuisine.

The concept is relatively simple.

For £22.50 per head you are treated to a set menu with a starter, a sharing main course and a dessert.

The set menu is published on the cafe’s website so it is handy being able to see what you are going to be served up before you go.

Thanks to my family heritage I grew up on some fantastic home-cooked Polish food courtesy of my maternal grandmother.

It was for this reason that I made my trip to Bessie’s with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

Would the food take me back to the culinary joys of my childhood or would I find the experience unauthentic and disappointing?

The first item on the menu was borscht - a quintessential Eastern European starter.

Borscht is a beetroot soup and one of my favourite things in the whole wide world.

Did Bessie’s borscht pass the authenticity test?

Nailed it, absolutely nailed it and a very generous portion to boot.

The main course was a mix of five different dishes, many of which I grew up eating.

These included golabki (cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice), Bigos (a hearty, flavoursome stew with meat and sauerkraut) and gulasz (a beef goulash).

The other two dishes were kopytka (potato dumplings) and breaded cauliflower cooked in butter.

My partner Tracy and I were unanimous in our verdict that the whole lot was totally delicious.

Dessert came in the form of a typical baked Polish cheesecake served with a strawberry compot.It was just lovely.

In summary all three courses were wonderful and when you add in the friendly and welcoming service from Bessie and her team and homely ambience of the cafe it was clear that we were onto a winner.

For all the food plus a couple of glasses of wine and a couple of beers the bill came in at just over £60 which we thought was excellent value.

This month the bistro night has a Cuban theme and Sicilian and Levantine themed nights are coming up in the next couple of months.

Bessie’s bistro nights - a great way to try something new taste the world.

For more information visit www.bessiessheffield.com/