A sunny Sunday lunchtime and what better time to head for a pub beer garden and relax over food in the sunshine.
Now, you could drive out to the Peak District but instead my friend Janet and I headed to a pub tucked behind a petrol station and a Chinese restaurant near the bottom of London Road.
Because of its location, the Beer Engine on Cemetery Road is a bit of a hidden gem considering its nearness to one of the city’s food and drink hubs.
It’s a laidback place that was welcomingly cool and airy when we walked into the main bar, which is all clean lines, fresh paintwork, simple wooden furniture and walls with part of the original brickwork on display.
The bar at the far end of the room sells a range of hand-pulled and keg craft beers and the pub website says breweries that have featured include Bad Seed, Buxton, Marble, Siren, Harviestoun, Tiny Rebel, Darkstar, Whitstable Bay, Raw, Exit 33, The Hop Studio, Animal Brewing Co, Brick Brewery, Magic Rock and Hand Drawn Monkey.
They also have lagers and ciders and a range of bottled beers.
I had a refreshing pint of the excellent Sheffield-brewed Exit 33 Blonde and persuaded Janet to sample the draft Lilley’s mango cider.
She liked the sweetness but would have preferred something cold and sparkling (ie bottled cider) on a hot day.
The pub is the brainchild of Sheffielder Tom Harrington, who has been involved with the Sheaf View and the Hillsborough Hotel, as well as Thornbridge Brewery’s pub operation.
On a sunny day the beer garden beckons from the door next to the bar.
The proliferation of pots in the garden is beautiful and the walls have been enlivened with some street art, all of which clearly makes a troupe of skateboard-carrying millenials who arrive just after us feel right at home.
The place isn’t too busy, so perhaps everyone else has gone to the Peak, but we’re happy to relax in this sunny haven.
It doesn’t take long to look at the Sunday lunchtime menu: our choices were a chicken Sunday roast, a vegetarian nut roast wellington or a vegan version of the same dish. All cost £12.
The pub does a tapas menu on other nights and has just started serving it on Sunday evenings up to 8pm as well, after the roast dinners finish at 4pm (or when they run out).
The pub’s website boasts that everything is made on the premises, even the ketchup, in the little kitchen tucked away in a separate outhouse in the beer garden.
On the evidence of the beautifully-prepared Sunday lunch, I’ll have to go back and try the tapas, perhaps taking advantage of the Monday two-for-one offer. Dishes are £4 or £5.
The current menu shown on Instagram features 10 dishes, including the intriguing-sounding grilled halloumi with grapefruit, macadamia nuts and coriander, and baked chorizo, cauliflower and olives.
But back to Sunday lunch.
We didn’t have to wait that long until two large plates arrived , accompanied by two little white jugs of gravy.
I’d ordered the chicken roast dinner and was pleasantly surprised to find half a breast of tasty, well-cooked meat, not slices, on my plate.
It came with broccoli, glazed carrots that just zinged with almost citrusy sweetness, lovely fruity braised red cabbage, good cauliflower cheese, tasty little cubes of roast potato and a big, well-risen Yorkshire pudding.
The gravy was great too but the undoubted star didn’t look too prepossessing.
The little brown mound turned out to be a lush celeriac mash, bursting with flavour and beautifully, silkily soft.
I could have happily eaten a plate of that just on its own.
Janet, a part-time vegetarian, very much enjoyed her veggie nut roast, a tasty mixture encased in filo pastry with grilled goat’s cheese melted on top.
Omit the cheese, swap the cauliflower dish for a field mushroom one, and hey presto! you have the vegan option.
A clever decision by the kitchen to stick to doing a few things very well, rather than a long menu done averagely well.
And that’s all, folks, on the Sunday lunch front.
There are no starters and no pudding on offer, which is fair enough if they’re not wanted by customers, and the main course is a more than generous portion.
We asked about the puds and one of the friendly bar staff said that they’d offered them in the past but no-one ordered them, so they stopped doing them.
Inevitably, when they’re not on offer, people like us inquire after puds, so you can’t win sometimes.
They do, however, make a very nice coffee, so we enjoyed an Americano and a cappuccino to finish off.
Our bill for food, drinks and coffee came to £33.20.
Food is served 5pm to 9pm Monday to Thursday, and noon to 9pm Friday and Saturday.