From uber-modern meals served in a shipping container to nostalgic comfort food like gran made – unLTD’s Jill Theobald takes a look at the city’s growing gastro scene.
‘Some dishes are merely extremely good … others are downright extraordinary’.
As the Guardian Tweet dropped in our timeline it wasn’t long before the unLTD team were – pretty much simultaneously – excitedly emailing each other the review of Jöro restaurant in Shalesmoor.
‘Housed in the most stylish shipping container I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours in.’
‘This blend of clever and confidently competent cooking sets the tone for the entire meal, and the service.’
‘The puddings are worth getting overexcited about, too.’
The review was stuffed full of soundbites and got us talking about the city’s growing reputation as a foodie hot spot.
After all, Yorkshire now boasts the largest number of Michelin Starred restaurants than any other county in England outside London.
Our closest venue remains Fischer’s Baslow Hall, in Derbyshire. But let’s not forget, Sheffield’s The Old Vicarage held the Star for more than a decade before it was ‘deleted’ in 2015, and the restaurant, in Ridgeway, is still listed in 2018’s Guide.
As recently as November the 1855 Restaurant, based at Copthorne Hotel Sheffield, was awarded the AA Rosette for displaying exceptionally high standards in culinary excellence thanks to the quality of the food and a menu devised using locally-sourced ingredients.
Executive head chef Mark Jones said: “This award means so much to me and the team. We’ve all worked so hard to bring top-class dishes and ingredients to our diners and we have been receiving some wonderful feedback.”
Boasting two AA Rosettes is Rafter’s, already Michelin-listed and described by the Guide 2018 as ‘a long-standing city institution’ where ‘the owners stamped their own identity … using Sheffield cutlery and Yorkshire tweed covered chairs.’
Manager Alistair Myers and Chef Tom Lawson – who studied at Sheffield College – took over the venue on Oakbrook Road in 2013 on a mission to ‘take diners on a culinary journey that encapsulates a nostalgic love of food’.
Take the Goosenargh Chicken Chasseur – the first dish Tom learned to cook at college – or the Cauliflower Cheese he picks as a ‘stand out dish’ because it transports him back to making it with his Gran. Plus her antique plates are on display in the restaurant, in homage to his earliest inspiration.
But Tom is just as at home looking abroad for new culinary techniques, too. Take the Chocolate, Yuzu, Miso and Banana dessert – and many have, with the modern fusion of sweet and savoury Japanese ingredients becoming a firm favourite with diners.
Meanwhile co-owner Alistair is the man to ask about food and wine pairings. He became the city’s first Certified Sommelier in 2016, after studying for the qualification which had previously been bestowed on only a handful of sommeliers in Yorkshire – and no one in Sheffield before him.
According to arts and travel site Creative Tourist: “Sheffield’s food scene might still be growing but Rafters is absolutely the finished article.”
Other city eateries listed in the 2018 Guide include Kelham Island’s The Milestone which inspectors dubbed a ‘spacious 18th Century former pub … in a regenerated area of the city,’ and Nonna’s on Ecclesall Road – a ‘long-standing Italian restaurant with a lively atmosphere’.
But Sheffield’s appeal is not limited to high-end, high-profile eateries.
Welcome to Yorkshire describes the region as ‘a contemporary destination which hasn’t neglected its roots’ and we like to think the same could be said of Sheffield when it comes to the city’s burgeoning foodie credentials.
Because while the reviews and Rosettes are making a name for Sheffield there are plenty of smaller venues channeling a strong steel city vibe to ensure the city retains – and sharpens – its individual, independent edge over other identikit places with the same names and chains.
Take for example PJ Taste as a venue that could never be accused of ‘neglecting its roots’. In fact, the local caterers took a thorough ‘root and branch approach’ to opening their 100-seat dining, event and meeting venue, Upstairs@PJtaste.
Based at their Staniforth Road premises, the refurbished former Take Two Club is now a stylish space with locally inspired features, not least of which – and speaking of ‘branches’ – the bespoke ash handrail on the new staircase.
Sourcing most of the wood from PJ Taste’s own plot, local lad Ollie Allen designed and installed the impressive feature which was also part of the portfolio which saw him win Jewson’s Young Tradesman of the Year Award 2017.
Sheffield makers Daniels Bros crafted the tables from reused pallets at Portland Works – and even the sound system was supplied by Cloud Electronics, based 200 yards from the PJ Taste premises.
Co-founder Peter Moulam said: “After many years providing creative locally sourced food at venues throughout the city, it’s great to be planning events in our own space.
“Having full control of the food, service and venue we can really push the boundaries to showcase our trademark locally sourced and increasingly own grown produce.”
Another venue keeping the local flavour is Edward’s Glossop Road, the new bar from the people who brought us Kelham Island’s Ship Inn.
Billed as a ‘creative innovation’, the team includes head chef Gary Pickles – who worked with and was trained by Gordon Ramsey – and the bar was named after the building’s main architect, Edward Gibbs a former student at Sheffield College of Art, (now Sheffield Hallam University).
Even some of the city’s mainstays are evolving. Bungalows and Bears on Division Street has recently re-opened its doors after a refurbishment featuring art installations by local artist Geo Law, while just down the road The Old House has become The Devonshire – but retains its reputation for rocking Sunday roasts and an extensive gin collection.
Our city’s combination of high-end names, smaller, indie venues, and local pride might well be our secret ingredient in enhancing its credentials as a dining out destination.
That glowing review of Jöro ended: ‘This little powerhouse of a place is turning out some highly polished … plates’.
The same could be said for Sheffield itself.