A venue named The Summer House might not immediately appear as a perfect February destination but it turns out there is far more to this sparkling restaurant than the name.
This was the first time I had ventured inside the Abbeydale Road South venue and as soon as I did, I was captivated.
Presentation is everything here and that creative design cascades from the interior design to the menu and, of course, the look of every dish and drink.
It is beautiful. Pretty lights, floral arrangements, carefully selected furniture and layout … owner Kate Cavan clearly had a very striking vision when she dreamt up the idea and she has definitely pulled it off.
We had picked the Summer House for a girlie lunch without realising many quite what a good fit it would prove. We treated ourselves to a Summerhouse Strawberry Bellini (£7) while we pondered over the menu. Well, in such lovely surroundings it would be rude not to relax into the atmosphere wouldn’t it.
I have to admit it took us quite a while to decide what we fancied because everything sounded so good. Watching what other diners were being served didn’t help either because it also looked amazing. Nibbling on warm bread served with pesto and olives may also have slowed us down.
After much deliberation, sprinkled with a fair share of catch-up and gossip, we went for a shared starter of slammers.
This consists of six shot glasses filled with meatballs, prawn cocktail, tempura prawn, tempura squid, ham hock bon bon, lemon and thyme risotto (£9.95). My friend’s favourite was the ham hock, mine was the risotto. The fact that not a scrap was left showed the quality of all six.
For mains, we tried a halloumi burger (£10.95) and gambas pil pil (£17.95).
The grilled crispy halloumi cheese was served with sour cream, sweet chilli, rocket, tomato, french fries, onion rings and pickle. A treat for any vegetarian – and indeed, like my friend, those who aren’t but couldn’t resist such a combination.
The jumbo king prawns are shelled and served in a very hot dish, nestling in a chilli, garlic, smoked paprika and olive oil sauce. It was served with salad, fries and warm bread. I’m not sure it need both the bread and the fries but, actually, both dipped into the sauce to delicious effect.
The servings are large and you might struggle to finish everything, no matter how tasty.
This is a venue which clearly slips between treat lunches and decadent dinners quite easily. There are a few dishes which are only available in the evening but most of offerings remain the same.
That means prices are quite high for a lunchtime sandwich but then the creations are stacked even higher. Take for example, the chicken club sandwich. This is one of the few occasions in which the very attractive promotional photos of the food still didn’t do it justice. It was a delicious tower for £8.95 - and such was the size, half it was taken home for tea.
This was my first visit to The Summer House but, even on a Wednesday lunchtime, it was clearly not a well kept secret as it was bustling right through lunchtime.
There were young families, business meetings, old friends, extended families and all kinds of interactions in the restaurant.
Everyone in Sheffield has driven past here at some point and I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to give it a try. One thing worth keeping in mind is that parking is never easy during the day time around that area due to the numbers of commuters who park their cars before jumping on the train.
I’m told it is much easier in evenings. There is lots of parking around – it is just very busy during the day.
Rumours have been rife of an expansion for The Summer House ever since neighbouring Peppercorn closed down. I have no doubt a restaurant of this calibre and personal touch could easily fill twice over. I also love to see independent businesses booming, so bravo.
We wrapped up the perfect laid-back lunchtime with fruit crumble and Eton mess (both £4.95).
The berry and Bramley apple compote crumble was by far the winner. Custard and a scoop of ice cream, seductively melting into the fruit – go on then. We were warned that it took a few minutes to bake in the oven. It was worth every second. In fact, if you need the ultimate treat this pudding is worth the visit all on its own.
There is something about a really good lunch in great company that makes everything else in the world seem less attractive.
We stretched ours, including coffees, over almost three hours but still didn’t want to leave such was the comfort and welcome. Oh, how much better life would be if there were less missed or grabbed office lunches and more time to enjoy.
Other people came and went while we feasted in our own little world of fairy lights and fun. Our only regret was that we couldn’t have sampled more of the cocktail menu – or stayed any longer.
You’ll find The Summer House at 289A Abbeydale Road South, S17 3LB. Call 0114 2361679.