When you can catch him in big David Baldwin will tell you that lunch at his celebrated Baldwin’s Omega banqueting suite is Sheffield’s best-kept secret. If so, someone had been blabbing the last time I tried and failed to book a table – but it was for Friday the 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day.
But he might be right because the Omega’s Rib Room was only half full on the Thursday we booked and at least two customers enjoyed the spectacle of roast sirloin of beef, gloriously pink, carved by a chef at their tables. It is £18 and worth it – I’ve had it.
Even greater Value For Money, in a city which likes its quidsworth, is the monthly Plat Du Jour for £14.50, which, incidentally, is the minimum you can spend on a visit to Baldwin’s.
For this, you not only get three courses but olives and an appetiser (a ham and cheese ‘slice’) with your pre-lunch drinks, crudités (red onion and tomato) with homemade Melba toast, a loaf of kitchen-baked bread you cut yourself, and which you are encouraged to take home, butter and a carafe of water. You could, hypothetically, stuff yourself with bread, water, toast, crudités and olives and then remember an important appointment or feign illness, skipping lunch and leaving full, but that wouldn’t be playing fair.
For the Omega plays fair by its customers. Plat Du Jour diners get the same service from the waiting staff and the same attention to detail from the kitchen, under head chef Stephen Roebuck, as do those who order from the carte.
The Omega is still chiefly regarded as a banqueting place dominated by its owner of 35 years, known as the Big ‘Un, who lends a certain Sheffield fruitiness to proceedings. But this overshadows some really delightful cooking.
We both had the £14.50 menu but I was going to anyway as breast of lamb was a main course. It’s such a cheap cut it’s rarely seen on menus but fills me with nostalgia. And my wife wanted the sea bass in a jacket of filo which presumably is the same fish served char-grilled with roasted eel for £16 on the mains.
But first we began with a well stocked cock-a-leekie soup with herbed dumpling and a sprightly, clean-tasting slice of ham hock terrine with a very good homemade piccalilli.
In the years when I was hard up I got knowing looks from the butcher for I only ever brought breast of lamb, hand of pork and bacon scraps “for a quiche” (but in reality for Sunday breakfast) and know the worth of these cuts.
I had two roundels of lamb in a really meaty gravy studded with root vegetables and another dumpling. Now you couldn’t mistake breast of lamb for leg or loin but you are rewarded with an intense lamb flavour and the taste and feel in your mouth of sweet fat and crisp skin. The waitress brought mint sauce (with fresh mint) and a fruity redcurrant.
On top of that I shared vegetables which included roast potatoes and cheesy cauliflower with my wife, more than happy with her emphatically flavoured sea bass inside crisp filo with spinach leeks on a creamy tarragon sauce.
Desserts are from the carte, homemade chocolate profiteroles, crisp and light and full of cream, and an airy treacle sponge. Not bad for £29 for two for food. That’s getting your quidsworth.
By accident we had the dull filter coffee (old hands go for the Nespresso) but that was the only duff note all afternoon. And not seeing the Big Un. We left before he arrived.
As they say in the trade, very well worth a detour.
Brincliffe Hill, off Psalter Lane, Sheffield S11 9DF. Tel: 0114 255 1818. Open for lunch Tues-Fri. Web: http://www.baldwinsomega.com