I’m having lunch with my former colleague and sparring partner Lesley Draper of the Sheffield Telegraph which we do two or three times a year. It’s a time to swap ideas, talk shop, trade gossip – who’s moving where and why, alert each other to restaurants opening – and telling a few stories which will never be written on page or screen.
Naturally we chose somewhere we like and today it’s Eten Cafe, a curious little eaterie which sprawls between the Cathedral and York Street, home of the Telegraph and the Star. Our meals arrive. She’s got a fat-free salad of samphire, shaved cooked beetroot and brie and I’ve got shoulder of lamb shredded and shaped into a tower, cauliflower cheese and squeaky green beans.
At the same moment we both reach for our pockets, pull out our cameras and take snaps of our respective dishes. I laugh. Not so long ago we would have had to scribble down a word picture in our notebooks.
Eten is run by chefs Lee Vintin and Paul Gill who come up with a medley of enterprising specials dishes. I was here a while back to review its plate pie and re-tell memories of those served up by long-gone Tuckwood’s and have also enjoyed the pulled pork. I’d have had it today but the last portion had just gone out. It is busy, people were queuing up to the door for a table earlier.
It’s great to see an independent café doing good business in the middle of a city dominated by chains. Lee, bearded like a pirate, a sort of culinary Captain Ahab, drops by our table. His right arm is wrapped in clingfilm after an argument with a pan of hot oil. He lost.
He points out that I’ve had the low-carbs special. I blink then realise that there were no spuds and I hadn’t missed them. I’d been so busy nattering I wasn’t paying proper attention to my dish although I can tell you that the lamb was so tender it nearly baa’d.
Lee is coeliac so gluten-free (and vegetarian) dishes are always on the menu, as are scones and afternoon tea. Mondays are meat free, there are bistro nights and this is the only café I know which hosts early morning yoga classes, a book group and a Shakespeare enthusiasts’ club.
Eten is allegedly Middle English for ‘to eat’ so I’ve eten at Eten. I’ll pass on the yoga, though.
East Parade, Sheffield S1 2ER. Tel: 0114 273 0658. Web: http://www.etensheffield.co.uk