It really is the end of an era. The auction recently of the contents of Sheffield’s Beauchief Hotel, the once fashionable city watering hole which had as many comebacks as Frank Sinatra, left no one in doubt that its days were finally over.
Already a planning application has gone into the city council from owners Sheafbank Investments to turn the building into apartments and build more homes on the car park. An ageing building and changing times have put paid to a once thriving business.
In the Eighties and Nineties the Beauchief on Abbeydale Road South was one of the places to eat, drink and be seen: either in the restaurant or the bar. This was a time when there really wasn’t as much choice in Sheffield as there is now. But part of the glamour came from the French family Limon who spent 17 years at the helm: general manager Michel and his wife Edwige.
These were what I like to call the Tournedos Rossini years. The classic dish was on the menu. The head chef was Adrian Machin, who inspired a number of lads who became head chefs in their own right. And in summer the Limons added a Gallic touch by installing a Petanque terrain in the grounds.
The family arrived in 1979 and left in 1997 when Michel was asked to become general manager of owners Whitbread’s London conference and banqueting centre, a prestigious job.
The Beauchief was originally the Abbeydale Station Hotel, serving the LMS station of the same name which opened in 1870, closing in 1961.
Whitbread never got anyone as charismatic as Michel in the following years. I recall visiting the place several times to report on a new boss promising great times ahead. The hotel’s fortunes waned and the place was sold on.
In 2010 Christian Kent, who had worked in the kitchens as a 16-year-old commis before going on Claridges, the Savoy and returning to Sheffield to open the Blue Room, took over, promising some London glitz. It was not to be. It folded.
Nothing daunted, Sheffield-based Brewkitchen, a joint enterprise by local restaurateur Richard Smith and Jim Harrison of Thornbridge Brewery, moved in on All Fools Day 2012. Charlie Curran was the first head chef (later to run Peppercorn, now sold, just down the road), followed by Jack Baker. The place was rebranded under his name but the axe fell last year.
With hindsight, the bid to restore the hotel’s fortunes may have always been a losing battle. Fashions and passions chop and change in the hospitality industry and so it was with the Beauchief. It was of its time and place and shone for a decade or two through a particular set of circumstances. And one of the answers was a Limon.