THESE are busy times for Mark Simmonite and his team at Henry’s in Sheffield.
The city centre bar, which holds a special place in the hearts of Sheffielders of a certain age, has been reopened for a year now and Mark and his kitchen team, led by brother Adam, are working on opening a 70-cover restaurant on the first floor in about a month’s time.
Mark is also organising the annual appearance of the big white tent that heralds the four-day city centre St Patrick’s Day party that kicked off today, Thursday.
The event has been going for about a decade now and, with the removal of the big wheel, it is returning to its home on Fargate. As some lampposts have also gone, the tent will be bigger.
Apparently the Lib Dem conference last weekend slightly delayed the arrival of the tent but the Guinness will be in full flow again as usual. There will be a barbecue but the only nod to Irish cuisine will be the caramelised onions to go with the burger that have been made using a touch of Guinness.
Mark says that sadly traditional Irish cuisine didn’t prove that tempting to the punters in earlier years.
The live music started today with Celtic Fling from Limerick, plus and an open mic session featuring Sheffield’s finest Irish musicians. The rest of the weekend sees a line-up of good local bands, plus sport on a big screen.
See Listings for details.
On the restaurant venture, Mark said that they decided to make better use of the first floor, which at present is an overflow for the bar on busy Saturday nights. The kitchen has been upgraded and a new chef will oversee the operation.
An experimental menu with a bistro feel that they have been testing out includes starter choices such as red pepper, tomato and lentil soup served with warm bread, a garlic mushroom medley or sauteed leeks with herby croutons and a duck’s egg or a grilled goat’s cheese, pear and walnut salad.
Main courses include lamb burger topped with feta and onion marmalade with chunky chips and salad, chicken stuffed with black pudding cooked in a Wensleydale sauce, rump steak with caramelised shallots and chunky chips or spinach, butternut squash, sweet potato and pine nut tart.
Dessert choices include chocolate orange bread and butter pudding with toffee sauce, baked brandy apple, cranachan with red wine-soaked pears or a cheeseboard.
A friend and I were invited back for a sneak preview and the food and service were both pretty good.
Expect to pay around £20 for three courses with a half-bottle of wine.
This seems a bargain and Mark said: “We don’t want four people sitting all alone eating a £90 meal, we want 50 to 60 people with an atmosphere of knives and forks clattering, tucking into a good meal and a feeling you’re being well fed.
“We don’t want people to go out for a few drinks afterwards and have to go for a kebab later on.”
That wouldn’t usually be a problem for those trying the bar menu.
Choices include the gargantuan Henry’s Club Stack, a sandwich featuring chicken breast, bacon, prawn, salad, mayonnaise and guacamole, stone baked ciabatta bread melts, burgers with toppings and a range of salads. Many choices come with chunky chips.
Main courses include a chicken stack, Lincolnshire sausages and mash, and a proper steak and ale pie with peas, mash and ale gravy and prices range from £4.45 to £7.95.
You can wash this down with one of the long list of mostly local real ales that is displayed behind the bar. One of the bar staff said that they are mainly guest beers that change all the time.
My friend Ann and I opted for wine instead, a pleasantly sharp Pinot Grigio at £2.75 for a small glass.
Ann doesn’t eat meat, so her only choices were salad, sandwich or ciabatta melt options or bubble and squeak, so as it weas teatime she opted for the latter (£5.95). If you’re a carnivore, you can add some black pudding for £1.
I went for a Mediterranean burger (£7.95).
You order at the bar and the food is delivered to the table.
When it arrived, my portion was gargantuan and Ann’s was more modest.
The 6oz burger, made with porterhouse steak, came on a bun with salad and gherkin and the burger was topped with two generous slices of chorizo, melted halloumi cheese and olives.
There was so much to it that it proved impossible to pick up and eat as a whole. The burger was very good and juicy and the flavour combinations worked well.
The chips were good too.
Ann nicked a few because she didn’t find her main course too filling and felt it didn’t represent great value at £5.95.
Having said that, she did enjoy it, although she would have preferred the fried egg that topped it to be softer. It was surrounded by roast vegetables.
Hungry veggies might want to go for a side order of chips (£2.50).
There’s no pudding options with the bar menu, despite the tempting-looking buns under glass at the bar.
lVerdict: The bar menu is mostly good hearty fare if you’re after one course and the new restaurant looks like being a great addition.
lFood serving times: 11am to 7pm.
Henry’s, Cambridge Street. Tel 0114 273 8742 or follow them on Facebook.