Strange brew in the kitchen

I AM a great fan of tepache, that mildly alcoholic Mexican drink made from pineapple skins, water, sugar and any spices you care to add.

You don’t know it? Well wash a pineapple, trim off the peel and pop it in a large clean jar.

Add a tablespoon of sugar, brown is best but white will do (or honey), a sweet spice or two if you like, any pineapple juices, fill up with tepid water, give it a shake and cover loosely to keep the flies off (still some about), put somewhere warm and forget it for a few days. You can have the pineapple slices for tea.

Airborne yeasts and those on the pineapple will work their magic. You might find some scum on the top but scoop it off, strain and drink. I tend to leave it longer than a couple of days for a stronger brew. It keeps working in the fridge.

Sometimes I’ve had a little tepache left over in the fridge and I have added fresh apple juice to it. The mixture fizzes like mad after a couple of days.

This time, when I cut up my pineapple for tea I added some leftover homemade cider to the brew, the bit at the bottom of the bottle with the yeasty dregs in. Then a handful of crushed cranberries not used in the cranberry sauce at Christmas. A spoonful of sugar, some boiled water and that’s it.

Basically you can use any fruit for this mildly alcoholic beverage but pineapple does seem to be a good base.

I kept the fruit submerged with a large jar lid covered in clingfilm and tied down the muslin after taking the picture.

I like the idea of all this. There’s absolutely no waste as you get an almost free drink, your compost heap gets a feed and you might even finish up with a free plant.

Peel the lower leaves off the pineapple crown to reveal a lot of little nodules and stick it in a pot of plant compost or a jar of water to develop a root system.

It doesn’t work every time but you might strike lucky.

Let’s drink to that.

Apples are the only fruit

IT’S BEEN a good year for apples with me. I may only have had four on the scrawny little half-starved tree in a tub but I’ve made litres of apple juice, cider, cider vinegar, and bottled brown sauce and chutneys while finding time to make the occasional apple pie.

They were not my apples but those from half a dozen trees in my neighbours’ gardens, pickedbeither directly from the tree, as windfalls or scooped from buckets left out on the pavement for all to take.

And I’m writing this now with the aid of a glass of ice cold still cider straight from the cellar.

It’s been fun: every week or so a new bucketful of Bramleys and varieties no one is quite sure of piled up on the table in my back yard.

I wouldn’t have done any juicing or cider making without the help of a juicer in full working order given to me by a neighbour. She had failed to sell it in the street’s yard sale so simply left it on her wall. It made a big change from grating the apples and squeezing the juice through muslin!

The fruit, of course, plays a vital role in my favourite recipes but this year I have been apple juice mad.

I filled up bottles and put them in the fridge for my breakfast drink. It didn’t take long for them to start to ferment so I thought: Cider! I filled several one gallon demijohns, fitted with airlocks, and waited for the magic to start.

I didn’t use a yeast, just let them work naturally, and didn’t add any sugar, which is why the resultant cider is not that strong. It’s more or less scrumpy ( I was used to deadly versions of this brew while working in Devon ) and not particularly fierce but that’s fine.

Of course, none of the apples I used were cider apples but next year I will add lots of crab apples as well.

All that cider ( there are a couple more gallons still in demijohns waiting to be bottled) meant I could play around with the surplus, turning some into vinegar with the help of Willy’s live organic cider vinegar which contains the ‘mother’ which converts it into vinegar.

It’s been fun. And thanks for the apples to Tom, Brian and Wendy and Roy and Jean, and especially to Sian for the juicer. Roll on autumn 2021.

Apples in my backyard waiting to be juiced

Medlars make marvellous chutney

YOU struggle to find a recipe for medlar chutney on the Internet and it’s not hard to see why. The pulp may taste sweet and lovely when you squeeze  it into your mouth but the pips!

Since every fruit contains at least five sizeable pips it’s going to be a faff to sieve them out. And it is!

Making jelly is a cinch, you just turf the fruit in the pot, boil it up and the juice strains through the jelly bag later.

It has crossed my mind to sieve the boiled pulp later for a chutney but I reckoned most of the flavour had gone into those little golden jars of jelly.

But this year I collected so many medlars, about a couple of kilos, that I had a go. And once bletted and, without boiling them first into a solid, sticky mess, I could sieve out the pips without too much of a struggle.

You might find a little powdery blue mould on some of the fruit so either discard or nip off and, at any rate, give them a good rinse.

Mind you, it took about 30 minutes hard work with a metal sieve and large spoon. You’ll find it doesn’t easily fall through but has to be scraped off the underside.

I got an aching wrist but I had about 600 grams of brown, sweet, sticky pulp to play with.

For me, a ripe medlar ( the fruit is only edible when it has rotted or ‘bletted’) is a cross in flavour and texture between a date and fig. I have heard it compared to stewed apples. It’s the pips, which you spit out, which are the nuisance.

But without cooking the fruit up first removing them was not that much to a struggle.

Now dates and figs make very good chutneys and I had high hopes with this. I more or less made up the recipe as I went along, cutting back slightly on the sugar because there is so much in the pulp.

I had

600g medlar pulp
600g apples
One medium onion, chopped finely
700mls malt vinegar
100g sultanas
2 tbs crushed coriander
1 tbs crushed mustard seeds
‘Thumb’ of fresh ginger
2 tbs garam masala
1 top chilli powder

900g sugar (see below)

All but the sugar was boiled up until mushy, adding a little extra vinegar from time to time if the mixture looked too thick (just simmer, don’t  boil fast). Then I added 900g of white granulated sugar, although brown would be even better.

Cook on in the usual way until there is no surface liquid and you can see the bottom of the pan when stirring a spoon. Allow to cool slightly then put into warm, sterilised jars (I boil mine). I had eniugh to fill half a dozen variously sized jars.

I am delighted with the result, worth the extra effort. It’s a sweet, rich, subtly spiced chutney which goes spectacularly well with cheese, especially blue.

Rafters’ team dip more than a toe in the Riverside

Alistair (L) and Tom: new boys at Ashford

ALISTAIR Myers was mixing negroni cocktails at Rafters when he got a call from a free-spending customer. It wasn’t to book a table but a new chapter in his career.

How would he like to upsticks and run another restaurant? asked care home boss John Hill of Hassop Hall.

“I said there was no way we could do it,” recalls Alistair, who runs the high class guidebook-listed Sheffield restaurant with chef Tom Lawson.

Flash foward some time later and he and Tom are being shown around the Grade II listed Riverside hotel and restaurant on the banks of the River Wye at picturesque Ashford-in-the-Water.

“By then it was no way we could NOT do it,” enthuses Alistair, aged 36.

And so on from November, Covid-permitting, the pait will reopen the building as Rafters at the Riverside, a restaurant with rooms. There are 14 bedrooms, a restaurant seating around 30-36, a smaller Range Room for 14 (featuring an old cooking range) and a private dining room for a dozen guests.

The old Riverside, owned by Penelope Thornton and once a feature of the food guides, had closed in March and was on the market for £1.6 million.

Ironically neither John Hill nor his wife Alex had visted Riverside before deciding to buy it, unlike Hassop Hall, which they have converted back from a hotel to a swanky private residence. “We celebrated our wedding anniversary there,” says Alex.

The Riverside: On the market at £1.6 million

She will be heading up the renovation and I caught her knee deep in paint charts. With a background in design, she’s already done a similar job at Hassop. The paint was Farrow and Ball, of course.

With her youngest child now at school, she was looking around for a project. “I like to keep myself busy,” she says.

The couple are regular diners at Rafters in Oakbrook Road. “We have been a few times and it is a little gem. We absolutely love the food,” adds Alex, who recommends the place to their friends.

Now she and John will have another recommendation up their sleeves, Rafters at Riverside. But expect the menu to be a little different. Rafters has long run a set tasting menu. Alistair and Tom, aged 29, think their North Derbyshire customers will prefer a three course menu.

“Tom’s putting together the new menu and there will be a bloody good Sunday lunch,” says Alistair. Fingers are being crossed about Covid-19 but bookings are already being taken.

Oernight guests can expect to pay £350-£390 for dinner, bed and breakfast.

The biggest pitfall in catering is when a successful restaurant expands: how to keep those elements which have made it a hit in the first place. So will Alistair and Tom be stretching themselves too far?

They think they’ve left a strong team in charge in Sheffield. “Ben Ward will be front of house at Rafters. He’s spent five years with us, rising from pot washer to manager. And sous chef Dan Conlon, who came from Sheffield College, has been promoted to head chef,” adds Alistair.

Riverside looks romantic at night

For the Hills this is another big venture. And just as when they bought Hassop, there were also rumours locally that Riverside was to be another care home. The gossips were wrong again.

Meanwhile, back at Hassop, the family are not shy of showing the world how they are getting on, as can be seen on the Instagram site Hassop Interiors. “Our kitchen is now finished” (the couple had been using the Butler’s Pantry, as you do)” but everything else has come to a standstill, says Alex.

However they do wish people would stop driving through the gates to have a gawp as their children play on the driveway. There’s a plea to this effect on Instagram.

Meanwhile Tom and Alistair have a big task on their hands. And Alistair may well be reflecting what might have happened if he had taken the advice of that teacher who, hearing of his interest in hospitality, advised him to get a proper job!

John and Alex Hill

http://www.riversidehousehotel.co.uk

Well worth a detour

Liver and bacon

THEY don’t care much for fashion and foodie fol de rols at the Omega at Abbeydale, I’m thinking as I glance down its two short menus. In fact I could have eaten most of this any time in the last 40 or so years.

The carte has roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding, fish and chips (dressed up as cod goujons) and, gloriously, calves liver and bacon. Sixties’ school dinners have failed to dampen my appetite for this. The TDH offers roast rump of lamb or fillet of plaice with a herb crust.

The monkfish with a cauliflower and gently curried lentil puree might not have been seen pre-Fanny Cradock (for it was she who made the fish popular) so this is perhaps the only nod to modernity.

There is a leek and potato soup, with no temptation here to fancy it up as Vichyoisse, but then up pops herrings Bismarck which in my book is rollmops.

Before our visit last month I’d been faffing about, unable to find a menu either on the restaurant’s website or Facebook page but it turns out it’s the same as the lunchtime one. What is different is that the Omega now does evening meals and we wanted to show foodie chums Craig and Marie Harris just what we’ve been raving about as they both work over lunch.

When I take restaurant manager and co-owner Jamie Christian gently to task over a lack of published menu he explains they did until hake was posted as a dish but decent supplies failed to come ashore so it was beached. A customer had made a special journey for it and blew up a gale when her hopes were sunk.

Jamie Christian

So chef and co-owner Steve Roebuck scrapped it to avoid the aggro. He may be wrong on this in my book but if you ask nicely they can send you one.

New diners should really start here. The Omega at Abbeydale is the son of the fantabulous Baldwin’s Omega banqueting suite off Psalter Lane run by David Baldwin, who sadly died earlier this year. So great was the esteem in which he was held that crowds of former customers lined the streets, with chefs in their whites, as the cortege passed.

Baldwin’s never opened for dinner – the evenings were devoted to private and public banquets, apart from the odd ‘pop up.’ While Jamie and Steve are continuing in the Baldwin’s tradition they can now do dinners as well as lunches.

The food was marvellous. I’ll not dwell on every course but let’s consider the calves liver. Ideally it should be of the highestest quality and cooked just briefly, barely kissing the pan to seal and stiffen but not by much. And there should be crispy smoked bacon to offset the liver’s sweet succulance. With it should be the silkiest, creamiest mashed potato you could wish for and caramelised onions, soft and sweet.


Reader, it was delivered. It was magnificent. It was memorable. It matched up to the Italian version of liver and onions I had a couple of years ago in a Venetian restaurant. I’d have given Craig a mouthful but he has spent a wasted lifetime hating liver. Instead, he was on the roast beef with Yorkshire pudding.


Just look at the picture. Wouldn’t you want to eat that? In the Good Old Days of Baldwin’s Omega it would have come theatrically on a trolley with the chef carving it from the joint at your table. But no trolley could manage the present kitchen steps.

In the pink – roast beef


We ate contentedly through three courses, remarking that it wasn’t always best to follow the latest food fashion and if the old ways worked, why change them?

I enjoyed the wispiest of tempura batter on my prawns, dunked in a gutsy tomato aioli (which you certainly wouldn’t have seen in the Eighties). And I finished with a lemony creme brulee with the crispiest of toffeed topping.

Now the Omega appeals to a certain kind of customer, monied and probably getting on in years who likes his or her food expertly cooked. The Omega might not even occur to the younger set (unless they attend Abbeydale Sports Club where it now resides).

But give it a try. It’s well worth the proverbial detour.

The Omega is at Abbeydale Sports Club on Abbeydale Road South, Sheffield. Web http://www.omegaatabbeydale.co.uk

Part of the menu

A dustbin full of spuds

THIS autumn I won’t be grumbling too much when I sweep up the fallen leaves in the garden. For I know I can turn them into potatoes.

I’ve found you can grow spuds successfully in a mix of rotting leaves, a shovelful or two of compost, spent tea leaves and coffee grounds and the contents of old flower pots.

Last autumn I must have filled up at least half a dozen bin bags of leaves and too busy (or lazy) to go to the tip I left them around the garden, mostly under a hedge.

I started a tidy-up this spring then remembered I’d seen or read a piece on growing spuds in seaweed. Would it work in semi-rotted leaves? There was only one way to find out.

I filled two old dustbins and four binbags with a mix of rotting leaves and homemade compost and planted them with some seed potatoes but mostly spouting spuds from the vegetable basket.

As they developed foliage I kept them topped up with whatever I could find – more leaves, spent plant pots, coffee grounds and tea bags. And worms.

The first two bags had disappointingly few potatoes although oddly these were the ones which received the most attention as they were nearest the back door. Probably too many coffee grounds!

The two dustbins yielded better results, as did two more black plastic bags. Nothing spectacular but a decent amount. They tasted ok (nothing more!) and did tend to break up when cooking.

It was an interesting experiment. I found a home for all those leaves, got some free spuds and the compost was rotted further into soil.

I have another bag of half composted leaves, some sprouting spuds and I am giving those dustbins another go. Should be ready for Christmas!

 

Not just your average Italian

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Slow cooked Ox cheek

 

WE HAD gathered for pre-dinner bottles of Peroni, just to get us in the mood for our Italian evening, and scrolled a little apprehensively through VeroGusto’s menu. I don’t know what the Italian for big spondulicks is but you do need a lot of them to eat here.

Dry-aged fillet of beef £31.80 and that’s without the chips. Mmmm. Pan-fried Gressingham duck breast . . . tempting but £25.50 and no spuds mentioned.

Across the table there was a passable imitation of Mount Etna erupting. “Rocket leaves with Parmesan shavings £6.50 . . . I am not paying that.”

I nodded. “We shall have to pick our way very carefully through the menu,” I said. My companion added: “I don’t mind paying high prices but I want to be blown away for it.”

As it happens we dodged the salad and the duck and we were both gastronomically blown away by some long-cooked, slow-cooked, low-cooked ox cheek.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. We haven’t even got through the door of this swish little family-run Italian on Norfolk Row. It looks classy from the outside and the sight of the black waistcoated waiters within confirms it.

Expensive bottles of wine line the back of a long narrow room which once housed the town’s tourist information office but which goes back to Georgian times. This is not your average Italian ristorante.

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Delicious octopus

I’ve known this restaurant across two locations and three changes of name ever since Esterina Celva and partner Bruno Saverio opened on Church Street as Gusto-Italiano.

“You should be charging more,” I told Ester back then after a lunch eating her cheerful, happy food. She and Saverio, everyone seems to call him by his surname, did just that when they moved across town, first as Gusto, then as VeroGusto, and went spectacularly upmarket.

The food is exactly like that you would hope to discover away from the tourist traps down one of the smarter streets of an Italian city. You’d come back bursting to tell your friends of your little find. Somehow finding it a few yards from a Sheffield bus stop doesn’t have quite the same glamour but it will save you the price of a plane ticket.

VeroGusto is for most people without big wallets a special occasions type of place which is why, for us, we haven’t been there for a couple of years. But tonight is my wife’s birthday and we are celebrating with friends Craig and Marie Harris, fellow foodies, Italophiles and bloggers.

I fancy portion sizes have crept up a little since our last visit. You longed for more on the plate and deep down all Sheffielders, even the swankiest, treasure Value For Money. We got it here.

Enjoying food comes on so many levels: presentation, smell, texture, flavour and afterthought – reflecting with satisfaction on what you have experienced.

My starter of polipo (£11.95), octopus, would have been the price of a main in many cases. It looked good. The firm meaty flesh was cooked to perfection with a tang of the sea and, as Craig remarked, with just a touch of the grill.

It came with chicory, the biggest pine nuts I have seen, olives and sultanas and a sort of pretzel, a tarollo Napoletano, which I had not previously encountered, rather like a hard biscuit.

Birthday Girl’s fritto misto (£13.85) was squid, prawns and courgette flowers in the wispiest of batter, more negligee than Winceyette pyjamas.

Saverio, now sporting a lockdown beard, had read out some specials including one I liked the sound of, ox cheek with creamed potatoes. Now that’s what caught my attention because at that point I was going for the duck but was mentally grumbling I’d have to pay extra for spuds.

I asked the price. Why don’t restaurants give it automatically when they’re reading out specials? People don’t like to ask but what else do you buy without knowing the cost? I don’t have the bill now but it was cheaper than the duck so I ordered it. Craig must have had the same thought processes and did, too.

VeroGusto4

Plenty of monkfish here

It was wonderful. The meat had held together but the texture was so soft and tender you could have sucked it up through a straw. And the sauce, a reduction of wine and the bed of vegetables the meat had sat upon, finished with just a hint of sweetness.

It’s a dish you’ll find on many a Modern British menu but you’ll have to look hard to find better. And the mash? Silky, smooth, luxurious. It came with a Parmesan tuille which always scores an extra point with me.

P1000997Marie was clucking happily over her house lasagne (£15.95) “So many layers,” while my wife enjoyed her taglierini pasta with monkfish (£17.50). I hoped neither of them noticed we men had the more expensive dishes.

As you might expect, wines are pricy here but we managed to find a bouncy bottle of Primitivo for about the price of the ox cheek.

We left happy if lighter of wallet. Ester, who has managed to bring up two delightful children while cooking so brilliantly in the kitchen, and front of house Saverio give the city centre restaurant scene a much needed touch of class.

And to think, when at Church Street they were thinking of packing it in until a rave restaurant review turned their fortunes around.

Web: http://www.verogusto.com

VeroGusto1

Fritto Misto

And the band played on . . . the wall

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Music and sound projected on the wall

OUR table is ready. There’s oil, vinegar, salt, pepper . . . and sanitiser. I must remember not to pour this last on my food as I did the contents of an oil lamp in a gloomy restaurant while not having my glasses.

The cutlery arrives on a linen napkin with the waiter handing it out for us to take without him touching it (although I did wonder how he’d put it on in the first place).

And instead of putting our plates on the table we have to take them from a tray.

It’s a funny old world eating out in the Covid-19 pandemic.

They give it the works at Trippets lounge bar on Trippet Lane, Sheffield. Hand sanitiser at the door, plastic screens over the bar, single use menus, one in-one out for the toilets,  sterilising the tables, lots and lots of handwashing although thankfully owners Debbie and Carl Shaw have been told they don’t need masks or gloves.

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Salt, pepper . . . and sanitiser

There’s even a screen on the hatch between kitchen and bar.

You get the feeling they would hose you down with disinfectant if that was what Health & Safety required.

I’ve been itching to write a review since Lockdown was eased but the first restaurant I visited didn’t do any of this: tables already laid, menus re-used, the only sanitiser was in the loos. So while the food was lovely I didn’t write a word, secretly hoping environmental health would give them a talking to.

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Debbie and Carl and a plastic screen

As it happens the council’s health police checked out Trippets on the buzzing first day it reopened and gave them the all clear.

“It’s cost us a fortune,” sighed chef Carl.

Now a health warning of my own. No reviewer with a heart, and certainly not this one, is going to give any restaurant a thumping for the next few months. Businesses which have struggled through the Hell and High Water of Lockdown don’t want any sniping from the sidelines the moment they reopen. Hence my silence over restaurant #1.

Not that Trippets would ever get a thumping. More of a thumbs up and a sigh of relief. It’s still a pleasure to eat here, particularly after owners and customers thought Lockdown spelt The End. Beer was given away, wine returned to the suppliers . . . and there were tears.

But they’re back as before. Almost. Aside from its food, Trippets is known for its gin and jazz. Debbie is Sheffield’s number one ginslinger, forever the Woman in Black, with a spectacular array of bottles on offer. But there is no live music, banned by the authorities just in case a musician blows a treble clef full of coronavirus across the room.

It means the loss of a vital attraction for the restaurant and no work for the musicians. But after a splendid crowdfunding effort by customers Carl and Debbie have rigged up a system which plays and projects specially recorded performances at Trippets on a wall. The musicians (and singer) got paid, the restaurant got its music.

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Chocolate and almond slice

Ironically, the loss of the performance space means extra tables, to make up for those lost in the restaurant proper.

In common with so many other restaurants, everything rides on people’s reaction to eating out in the next few months. Will the Great British Public follow Boris Johnson’s call to Eat Out To Help Out? For the Shaws, who opened on Valentines Day 2015 after 15 years at the highly-rated Black Bull in Ashford-in-the-Water, it could be make or break time.

No one should have anything to fear on the health and safety aspect. As to the food, it’s a succession of ‘small plates’ which included excellent boquerones and Gordal olives, spinach, mint and feta parcels with taztziki, rump steak with red pepper salsa and a risotto with crispy prawns – its Indian spices making it seem fresh from a naughty night out with a kedgeree.

Trippets, understandably, is open on a restricted basis at the moment, from Friday to Sunday, including brunch. And plenty of gin.

*89 Trippet Lane, Sheffield S1 4EL. Tel 0114 276 2930. Web  http://www.trippetsloungebar.co.uk

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There are now outside tables

Raising a glass to Mr B

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The hearse on Abbeydale Road South

THERE won’t be another Sheffield funeral like it. The rain was teeming down but people lined the pavements, regardless of the spray from passing cars.

A big cheer went up as the hearse drove slowly past my vantage point. People clapped and hollered. Some, clutching bottles of wines or cans, raised a glass. Cars in the funeral cortege following the hearse hooted in reply. Through steamy windows I could see glasses waved in salute.

If there was a lack of the usual reverence normally seen at funerals it was exactly what David Baldwin, much-loved boss of the Omega Banqueting Suite, would have wanted.

Covid-19 had restricted the number of mourners to 10 at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium. In normal times the chapel would have been packed like sardines. But these are not normal times.

So his widow Pauline and family had asked his friends and customers to line the route as the hearse set off from his family home in Dore and bring a bottle in lieu of a wake.

But what to wear at a roadside funeral? Half a dozen chefs, all of whom had been helped in their careers one way another by the man they called the Big ‘Un or Mr B, had no doubts. Despite the rain they took off their coats and stood in their whites. Some of the male mourners wore black ties.

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Mourners had been asked to bring a drink

We all cheered: former staff – Mr B inspired loyalty – customers and people from across the hospitality industry.

After the hearse passed we broke away, sheltering under the arch at Abbeydale Sports Club, which houses the successor to Baldwin’s Omega, the Omega at Abbeydale. People swapped stories, remembering his acts of generosity, always willing to give a word of advice or lend a helping hand.

Over at Hutcliffe the funeral service was beginning. “Thank you for the days, those endless days, those sacred days you gave me,” sang the Kinks. There were plenty of days – and nights – to remember at the Omega: works Christmas parties, salmon and strawberry evenings, Sixties and Seventies nights, society shindigs, limbo dancing at Caribbean Nights and midday lunches.

The music faded. Elder son David and daughter Polly gave their tributes. Son Ben read the words of My Way. Things were always done Mr B’s way at the Omega because it was the right way.

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Passing the Omega at Abbeydale

There was a psalm, The Lord is My Shepherd. Prayers. A Blessing. And then music from Les Miserables, Master of the House. The lyrics could have been written with David Baldwin in mind.

“Wecome, Monsieur, sit yourself down

And meet the best innkeeper in town . . .

Master of the house, doling out the charm

Ready with a handshake and an open palm

Tells a saucy tale, makes a little stir

Customers appreciate a bon-viveur . . .”

That’s exactly what he was, a bon-viveur. And he made sure his customers were that, too, while they were in his company. Although the lyrics forget the swearing . . .

“Everybody raise a glass to the Master of the House.”

RIP David Baldwin 1939-2010.

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Order of Service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s goodbye to the Big ‘Un

 

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David Baldwin and wife Pauline

DAVID Baldwin, founder of Baldwin’s Omega banqueting rooms and the Grand Old Man of Sheffield’s hospitality industry, has died in his sleep at home in Dore. He was 80.

“He passed away peacefully at 3am, about the last kicking out time that would have been at the Omega,” said his son David Junior.

While he had retired through ill health after selling off the Omega on Psalter Lane two years ago, his passing marks the end of an era for the city’s restaurant trade. He put his stamp on it in more ways than one.

“He was most proud of the number of chefs he had trained who had gone on to bigger and better things,” added David. They include Ray Booker, now head chef at the Chester Grosvenor, chef turned fishmonger Christian Szurko, and Sam Lindsay, head chef at Owlerton.

Yet, at the same time, he inspired a terrific loyalty and many staff (as well as customers) stayed with him for years.

Among them were head chef Steve Roebuck, who worked for him for 30 years,  and operations manager Jamie Christian, for 25, who have continued his legacy at the Omega at Abbeydale Sports Club.

He was committed to high standards of food and service, was known for providing value for money, and half the city must at one time have attended an office party or a works dinner, or perhaps been to a salmon and strawberries evening, at the Omega.

Bluff, gruff and wickedly funny, with a personality the size of Yorkshire, he was a great raconteur. A former chairman of the Restaurants Association of Great Britain,  he actively promoted young talent through Young Chef and Young Waiters competitions, and had an unrivalled network of contacts throughout the industry, from Brian Turner to Rick Stein, using them to send his own brightest staff on placements.

He was known for very colourful language. Jamie Christian remembers calling his boss from the kitchen one Christmas after a woman diner found lead shot in her pheasant. He roared back: “What do you think it died of? A f*cking heart attack?”

Known affectionately as Mr B or The Big ‘Un, he and his wife Pauline took over the white-painted hacienda-style building in 1980, after it had been dark for two years.

With a catering background that included running the Angler’s Rest at Bamford and the Hillsborough Suite at Sheffield Wednesday, they acted on a hunch that Sheffield needed at top class banqueting venue. They were right and in its heyday the Omega was constantly busy but times change and they were hit by the decline in office parties as businesses tightened their belts.

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The Rib Room at Baldwin’s

It was offset to some degree by the popularity of lunches in the Rib Room for an elder clientele and people who wanted to give customers and friends a taste of Sheffield. When present and not on holiday abroad, he was a legend in many people’s lunchtimes.

David was born into the hospitality industry as a publican’s son. He was a former communist and a ship’s steward, no doubt accounting for his expletive-laden language. Customers often liked it gently directed at them.

Very much a family man, he had three children, David, in construction; Benny, a TV producer and presenter; and Polly, a photographer. He had four grandchildren.

Many spoke of his generosity. John Janiszewski, a former lecturer in hospitality at Sheffield College, said he had held a fund-raising dinner in aid of its restaurant equipment.

“On a personal note he was a mentor, almost a father figure and a hell of a laugh. We need to think about a proper memorial after Corvid-19.”

The Omega had a certain style, from its massive car park, big enough to house a squadron of tanks, through its entrance hallway with ‘flaming torches’ to the ballroom, scene of so many dinner-dances, with its sprung floor.

The menu might not have kept up with trendier places – roast beef sliced from the trolly by the chef at your table was a highlight – but it was always exceptionally well done. If you couldn’t manage that there was always the Yorkshire Pudding and gravy starter on the plat du jour menu.

Whatever the occasion, lunch or dinner dance, it was always enhanced by the appearance of Mr B himself.

David Baldwin was something of a rarity in the catering trade, equally at home in the kitchen as front of house, a born Maitre D. He will be very sadly missed.

The private funera is on Thursday at Hutcliffe Wood crematorium at 3pm. Friends and colleagues will line the streets as the cottage passes. Donations for the Alzheimer’s Society can be made online at http://www.johnheath.co.uk

TRIBUTES

Some comments from those who knew David

Jamie Bosworth, chef: “He was a true gentleman and very generous. He lent us plenty of catering equipment when we started Rafters (with his brother Wayne) and always provided an ear to listen. Jayne and I  got married at Baldwin’s and we had Wayne’s wake there.”

Cary Brown, chef: “He was the Godfather of so many chefs.”

John Mitchell, wine merchant: “It’s a sad day the Big Un leaving us. There was nobody like him.”

P1050950 Pauline and David Baldwin 21-02-2017 17-41-32

Taken on the announcing of their retirement