With a huge range of gins, a cater-for-all-tastes selection of beers and a whisky from every single operating distillery in Scotland, the first impression of the Broadfield, on Abbeydale Road, is that it takes its drinks seriously.
But they’re making a big play on food, too, and their website puts pies and sausages on level billing with over 150 whiskies from north of the border, America and, intriguingly, Japan.
Worth a venture, we reasoned. We weren’t wrong, either.
The history of the place hit us almost as soon as we walked through the door, with the cold January air biting at our backs.
The Broadfield dates back to 1896, and staff there are proud that it remains as big a part of the community now as it did 121 years ago.
Albert Twigg, who built the pub, is still remembered fondly and memorabilia of his life and death adorns the walls of our enclave, near the kitchen, alongside a proud Henderson’s Relish display and, more fascinatingly, a large, framed photo of Winston Churchill with drawn-on glasses and moustache.
It’s a common theme throughout; proud history, with quirky twists. This stretch of Abbeydale Road has grown from an area popular with workers on the nearby railway, to one which has attracted a ‘hipster’ reputation and, as assistant manager Leah Griffiths admits, it’s one that’s shaped the pub too.
“The Broadfield’s been open as it is for just over five years now,” says Leah, previously of The York in Broomhill, another of True North Brew Co.’s city establishments.
“And since then, we’ve made a real effort to restore the pub to its former glory. We were lucky to take over at a time when the area was really starting to regenerate, and we’ve been well accepted. Since then, the food has gone from strength to strength. We’re well known for our pies, but we like to do vegetarian and vegan stuff, too, to fit in the area. It’s grown with us, really.
“We started off with a lot of meat-heavy dishes and adapted as we go; answering to the demand that’s there, really.”
The influence is clear to see. The deliberately slimmed-down menu (“We have a specials menu, too, so try to keep the restaurant menu as compact as we can, while offering as much variety as possible,” says Leah) features a plethora of options free of lactose and gluten, and suitable for both veggies and vegans.
Being honest, the lack of a meat starter dissuaded us from bothering initially, before our excellent waitress enthusiastically recommended the arancini - but with puy lentils instead of the usual cheese, to cater for vegans.
Having never actually sampled the original, usually served with rice, I couldn’t compare but it would have to be damn good to be better than The Broadfield’s version, with its subtle peppery taste from the puy lentils and curried tomato sauce finishing it off well.
For a steady, midweek-in-January Tuesday night, there’s a sizeable crowd in for food, drink or a combination of both but service is commendably speedy. Leah herself brings our mains - a barely believably sized ham hock, with hand-cut chips and cider gravy (£11.95) and Natalie’s fish and chips, battered with the company’s own beer.
Portions, at first glance, are massive; the ham hock, back on the menu by popular demand after an apparent hiatus in recent years, comes with a knife stuck in triumphantly, resembling Excalibur in The Sword in the Stone, and the fish drew approval from my girlfriend as she approved of the moist and fluffy flesh, and the large side of mushy peas which accompanied it.
There’s no shame in admitting that the sheer size of the ham defeated me, but it was superb; cutting beautifully with no hint of the overbearing salty flavour that I find often blights dishes of this kind.
And desserts? They didn’t disappoint either. I plumped for an excellent passionfruit cheesecake, although the base of it did resemble the aforementioned stone as I struggled to get my fork through it, and the Sheffield Dry Gin and Tonic Cake - made with their own gin - went down very well with 10-year old Teaninich, a pairing recommended on the dessert menu.
“It’s important for our staff to have that knowledge to pass onto the customers,” Leah smiled.
“We try to encourage that, so the staff become passionate about it. It’s about being able to give our staff testing and training, and get them enthused about helping our customers.
“We’ve tried to stay on-trend with the area and what they want, but keep the character of the building too.
“Whisky is one of the things we excel in, with over 150 available, and we’re extending our gin offering too, so there’ll be about 30 to choose from.
“Our beer range is pretty big, too, and it’s incredibly diverse, from easy-drinking pale ales to match with food to lagers and craft beer.
“The craft beer scene is massive now, and we’ve been fortunate that the area has responded and demand has grown.
“So we believe that the food and drink sides of the pub can work together - Sheffield is the beer capital of the world, after all.”
l Our food, for two, came to £50.90, including desserts, beer and soft drinks, and the obligatory whisky.
l The Broadfield Ale House, 452 Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, South Yorks, S7 1FR
l Tel: 0114 255 0200