John’s sweet taste of innovation

DEEP-fried Ferrero Rocher with venison, or peanut butter ice cream with crispy pancetta – just two of the inspired combinations dished up by John Lyons, the innovative new head chef at Sheffield’s Copthorne Hotel.

Born just up the road in Wakefield, John is returning to his Yorkshire roots to spice up the menu at the award-winning 18Fifty5 restaurant in Bramall Lane.

With more than 15 years’ experience, including a spell at the Savoy in London and a year at Michelin-starred restaurants in France, he is well qualified to lead the kitchen team.

“I’m delighted to be back,” says John. “Sheffield’s a really cool city – in fact I think it’s more foodie than Leeds.

“I relish pushing the boundaries, while maintaining a simplistic approach in combining the many flavours of my classically based dishes.”

His food has been described by inspectors as “cutting edge rustic” but anyone expecting cottage pie will be in for a surprise.

John’s new menu is a gastronomic inspiration that takes traditional dishes and recreates them on an altogether higher plane. It’s a no-holds-barred approach to cooking that owes as much to the Blumenthal school of thought as it does to regular Cordon Bleu.

So there are plenty of unusual features – sweet and savoury combinations are a big favourite, whether it be chocolates with the main course or bacon with dessert.

There’s a fair bit of innovation – think liquid sausages and DIY noodles – and a lot of fun, too. Like the Elvis: a quirky dessert based on the King’s predilection for grilled sandwiches of peanut butter, banana, bacon and strawberry jam. “Our competition is the iPod,” declares John. “A night out should be fun – and it keeps the boys in the kitchen motivated.”