unLTD sits down in the beautiful surrounds of the award-winning Neespend venue, The Mowbray, for a lunchtime feast with the building’s co-owner Sally Hubbard and head of house Lucy Hughes. Over some stunning food provided by their kitchen team, the duo discussed what goes into creating vibrant event spaces in Sheffield’s industrial heartland.

Let’s start at the start. How long has The Mowbray been open for?
SH: We opened in 2018, so we’re now coming up to our sixth anniversary. Time flies!

You have a sister venue, The Chimney House, which was the first building of yours to host events. How did that pave the way for The Mowbray?
SH: It laid the foundation really. The Chimney House grew quite organically. The building was bought during the financial crash in 2010 and housed the design agency 93ft, who are now based upstairs at The Mowbray. We could see that the main room had potential as an events space, so it started by hosting corporate events, meetings, training, away days, etc. We then introduced catering, started hosting a variety of gatherings, and things grew from there. Before too long we began looking for a second building to branch out into.

The Mowbray

What was it about this building that made it stand out?
SH: Even though it was a derelict building at the time, which eventually took three years to restore, we looked at the huge factory doors, beautiful big arch windows at the front and back, the open ground floor space too, and we were sold – you knew there was huge potential. The first few weddings we hosted after opening are amongst some of my favourite memories, and we’ve had many couples that have been married here that have continued to use The Mowbray – for christenings, parties, corporate events, or to come along to our Supper Clubs. I think that sort of relationship quite unique for a wedding venue and something that we’re really proud of.

LH: People want to come and experience it all again – especially the food! We’ve recently finalised our upcoming events list up until the end of March and there’s plenty in the pipeline. We like to keep busy!

On that note, you mentioned the Supper Clubs, which have become a real social highlight on the city’s culinary scene. Could you tell us a bit about the ethos behind those?
SH: We do all sorts of Supper Clubs and regular house events, such as our very popular Italian Canteen and summer social BBQs on the terrace. It gives the kitchen a good creative flex and helps them to explore different menus and styles. In terms of ethos, the main thing is the food is seasonal and provenance-led, so we know the story behind its origins, how it was produced, and the journey it has taken to get to us. That’s non-negotiable.

What is it about the space that lends itself so well to these types of social occasions?
SH: I think a big thing for our Supper Clubs, and all of our food events, is that we serve feasts rather than individual plates. From the long dining tables to the way the food is laid out, we’re creating a communal setting to enjoy food socially. It’s all about passing and sharing, savouring and discussing the food with those around you. That’s one of the most commented-on subjects in the feedback we get from weddings or any other dining event: the way in which the food brings people together and blows them away.

Did it begin as a wedding events venue and then diversify? Or was the idea to always host a wide range of events?
SH: I think we’ve always had a bit of an open house policy on the business, so whatever people want to use the space for, we’ll try and accommodate.

” From the long dining tables to the way the food is laid out, we’re creating a communal setting to enjoy food socially. It’s all about passing and sharing, savouring and discussing the food with those around you. That’s one of the most commented-on subjects in the feedback we get from weddings or any other dining event: the way in which the food brings people together and blows them away.”

LH: Chimney House was sort of the basis for that, and then opening The Mowbray has allowed us to scale up in that respect. We use The Chimney House for shoots, photography, filming, corporate events, and of course weddings. The Mowbray has hosted all manner of events – everything from car launches to yoga retreats. Working with local suppliers is a key aspect of what we do, so we also host independent markets showcasing local makers.

Excitingly, we have a third venue on the way! What can you tell us about The Victoria?
SH: Yes, hugely exciting! The Victoria, formerly Victoria Works, is based just around the back of The Mowbray. Part of it was used as a church, which will give us a bigger space for hosting wedding ceremonies on a larger scale, and it’s currently being renovated with the hope of being open at some point this year. It’s another big space with plenty of character, boasting a large outdoor area too, and we’ll have our flagship kitchen space there. It’s already receiving plenty of interest, but it’s a big job and we want to get the fundamentals in place before opening for viewings and bookings.

There’s a distinct aesthetic and feel to all of the venues. In terms of buildings themselves, what sort of things are you looking to be in place before you take on a renovation project?
LH: It’s about bringing the life back to buildings that have fallen out of use, and you’ll see at The Mowbray that it’s bustling away 24/7.

SH: Yes, it’s all about the building. How does it make us feel? How does it look? What’s the story? We like to take on buildings in a dilapidated state because we believe in rebuilding and reclaiming these unused spaces, bringing people back into these places and making them feel great. Everything we bring into these buildings has a story, from the chairs reclaimed from a town hall in the 1940s to the chandelier using bricks from an old bus depot. The future potential of the spaces has to be evident, and that’s where my husband Tim comes in. He’s the founder and creative director of 93ft design agency and he’s able to see the potential of these spaces and convert them into something we can work with. Being able to take something that has fallen in wrack and ruin and turning into something that drives people through the doors all year round gives us a huge sense of purpose.

What we ate:

The Mowbray

The Mowbray impressed the judges enough to win Best Micro Business at last year’s unLTD Business Awards – and judging on the standard of the food we sampled during this interview, they were more than worthy of the accolade.

While we got settled into our chat, we were furnished with fragrant, crunchy sea salt and rosemary focaccia, freshly baked on-site that day in the Mowbray kitchen, paired with oil and vinegar for dipping.

The main course featured a succulent roast chicken finished with butter, served atop a bed of lemon-scented orzo pasta. The chicken, cooked to tender perfection, was rich and plentiful, accompanied by the slightly zesty orzo providing a refreshing and satisfying complement.

Alongside the centre-piece were two sides that brought plenty of vibrancy to the ensemble. The radicchio with orange, chili, olive oil and Parmesan was a delightful medley of sweet, spicy and savoury. The second side consisting of grilled cabbage, hazelnuts, lemon, and chives offered another of winning blend of textures and flavours, ranging from smoky and nutty to bright and citrusy.

In keeping with the venue’s ethos, our meal was a communal dining experience. The food was placed on gorgeous vintage ceramics and we were encouraged to dig in, filling our plates and taking it in turns to pass dishes amongst each other. Even on a small-scale setting such as a business lunch, it’s an incredibly wholesome way of enjoying a meal. It instantly promotes a convivial atmosphere and a deeper mutual appreciation for the food being shared.

As if our mini-feast couldn’t get any better, slices of warm custard tart and rhubarb were brought to the table for pudding. The unbeatable unison of velvety richness and tantalising tartness brought the animated chatter to a rare pause, as we all took some quiet time to appreciate surely one of the finest gastronomic duets ever committed to a dessert menu. They took the final bow on a culinary symphony that hit all the right notes.

Our first business lunch of the year complete, we were left wondering if we might’ve already peaked! We cannot wait to see what The Mowbray team have up their sleeves for the remainder of 2024.

For booking enquiries and upcoming events, head to www.themowbray.co.uk.

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