Your table is ready . . . but is it the right one?



Getting the right table can turn out tricky

I suppose I’m pickier than most when it comes to a restaurant table. It goes back to when I was reviewing for a living. But, with a few exceptions, what I like goes for most people.

I prefer a table against a wall or in a window not an ‘island’ table in the middle of the room. When the time comes to get out my notebook (I still review, for this blog) there is a very real danger of exposure, even though my wife is keeping watch for approaching waiting staff. One glimpse of a notebook and there will be faces peering through the window in the kitchen door.

If the restaurant is quiet you should always be offered a window table so you ‘advertise’ the place is serving food to passers-by. I’m only too happy to help out. But not in other directions.

Waiters like to save their little legs and have been known to cluster dinners together at tables in one section of the room when a place is not so busy. That’s bad. People like space about them.

Once, in a quiet, large dining room, I was led to a table hugger-mugger with two other occupied ones and rejected it. I was offered an island table. Again, no. So perhaps they wanted to teach me a lesson as I was shown to a table by the kitchen door. I thought I couldn’t reject a third time so agreed.

Throughout the evening our waiter took great delight in loudly kicking open the door every time he went through. Little did he know he was writing my review for me. It was punctuated by paragraphs such as “Thwack! Thwack! There goes the kitchen door again.” Oddly, I enjoyed the food. And, equally oddly, they framed the review for their wall.

I don’t tell restaurants this but I like a table from which I can glimpse into the kitchen. This can reveal much, just in case my tastebuds are slacking, like that packet of Bisto gravy powder on the shelf. Or the microwave in the corner.

I don’t like being given a table which is obviously an afterthought, when I have booked well in advance. Our posh Sunday lunch in a very busy Derbyshire hotel was eaten at an island table with so little space for staff and customers to manoeuvre past that I was on intimate terms with numerous bums and crotches over my roast pork. You don’t pay £32 a head for that.

Tables next to the door can be risky especially on blowy nights. Some customers seem to have been born in a barn, as my mother would have said, and are incapable of closing doors after them.

If this sounds as if getting the right table is a nightmare it isn’t really but I haven’t yet got to the wobbly table problem. There is always one in every dining room and so often it is the one I get. I once knew a man who reckoned he’d solved the problem by inventing a self-righting table mechanism which you slipped on the offending leg. Trouble was, he couldn’t find a manufacturer to take it up.

I should have offered him money for the prototype and kept it in my pocket for when the need arose.



Jersey Royals on sale at the Moor Market

I once went to Jersey on a Press trip in the early spring and as I left they gave me a present: a small box of Jersey Royals early potatoes. That’s how much spuds mean to the island, which exports up to 40,000 tonnes a year to the UK.

In this country we have lost the thrill of seasonality. When you can buy asparagus all year round getting the first home-grown from Lincolnshire or Norfolk loses a little of its sparkle. It still tastes far better than the stalks which travel thousands of miles from Peru. And it’s the same with strawberries.

But so far no one has managed to equal the early crop Jersey new potatoes. Majorcan or Cornish run them close but there’s something about a Jersey that sets it apart. So much so that I’m prepared to pay sometimes ridiculous prices for the first of the first. It’s a treat. And then you see the prices tumble in succeeding weeks!

They are special because of the soil, enriched by fertiliser from the seaweed on the island’s beaches. I reckons I can taste the faint briny tang. And because some of the 7,300 acres of potato fields are on steep slopes, many are picked by hand.

They were £2.50 a pound on the only stall selling them in Sheffield’s Moor Market so I bought a pound, and ten minutes later was miffed to find them on sale at Sharp’s around the corner  at £1.99. The more expensive spuds were OK, the Sharp’s, which I bought a couple of days later, were  better.

Never scrape a Jersey. They just need a wash. And don’t worry about cooking too many, they make excellent potato salad or sauté potatoes.

It’s this same desire for seasonality which sends me out to the woods at this time of year to collect wild garlic. The taste from this year’s pesto (made with cashew nuts not pine nuts) was terrific. And I have also cooked the leaves like spinach with butter and salt but do take the stalks off first.

Pickled rhubarb


Rhubarb pickles very easily

When I was a kid we had a stick of rhubarb and a bowl of sugar for a treat. It was dab, bite, wince, smile as the sourness of the rhubarb invaded your mouth, relieved by the sweetness of the sugar. I’ve tried this on following generations and they’re not having it. Perhaps pleasures were simpler then. My parents might also have been ensuring we were ‘regular’ on our bulky Fifties diet as rhubarb is a laxative.

I can dimly remember fragments of a playground chant about being hitting on the head with a rhubarb stick while rhubarb and custard was a teatime staple.

Since then I’ve always had a love for rhubarb, for culinary and medical reasons. Not just in crumbles: I love it cold with yoghurt or with my granola. It can be a bugger to cook. Take your eye off the ball and it becomes a puree although that’s not a disaster. Stir it into your yoghurt. I find the best way is to do it gently on the stove in a single layer in a pan, sprinkled with sugar and a little orange juice and sliced fresh ginger, with a greaseproof paper ‘cap’ pressed down to help it steam.

It’s only lately that I’ve started pickling it. You can pickle almost everything, and I have done over the years, but had never thought of pickling rhubarb (although I once made a rhubarb chutney which took years to become edible) until I saw a picture on Twitter. It’s recommended to pair with oily fish but I’ve found it works equally well with cheese and meat.

What’s even better is that there is no ‘cooking’ involved, apart from heating up the pickling solution. It can be done in minutes.

The rhubarb is crisp while the chilli and ginger gives it zing. Strange as it may seem, the phrase ‘palate cleanser’ comes to mind when I eat it. My recipe promised results after two days but I reckon two to three weeks is needed to get the right amount of crunch and pickle. I expect it will soften over time but it’s the crunch you want.

I’ve nicked this recipe from Valeria ( found on the Daily Telegraph. Note: I did not have any dried chilli so used a bit of fresh. The quantity given might make the pickle too hot for some (and me) so cut it down if you like.

500g rhubarb (4 large stalks)
2 tsp peppercorns
½ tsp cloves
1 tbsp sliced fresh ginger
3 bay leaves
2 dry red chillies
250ml cider vinegar
250ml water
200g caster sugar
½ tsp fine grain salt

Sterilise two one pint jars. Rinse rhubarb and cut into 2cm long pieces. Pack them into the two jars. Divide the spices between the two jars.

In a saucepan, combine the cider vinegar, water, sugar and salt and bring to a boil to dissolve. As soon as the pickling liquid is boiling pour it into the jars until the liquid covers the rhubarb pieces. Close immediately with the sterilised lids. Cool.

The recipe advises storing in the fridge but we’re pickling so it’s not needed. Best to do so when you open the jar, though.

COOK’S TIP: Make sure your stalks are all of similar width.

20,000 hits and counting!

martin dawes

Doing what I like best – eating

The reader from America inquired, you might think a little unkindly, “Are you, perchance, a member of the esteemed Dull Men’s Club of Great Britain?” It was hardly the kind of reaction I’d hoped for to my interest in all matters related to local food and drink.

Some might call it being an anorak tracking down the last artisan maker of the once popular polony sausage, for which Sheffield was very nearly as famous as steel. Or to make my own fruity brown sauce rather than go to Waitrose and take a bottle of HP from the shelf.

Food geekery? I call it enthusiasm. The story of food is an important branch of social history and I am only walking in the footsteps, if parochially, of the late, great Dorothy Hartley, who roamed the country to record Britain’s foodie past. Is that dull? Not at all.

My favourite books on food don’t simply have recipes but come with good stories, a little bit of potted history and a seasoning of advice and that is what I have tried to do with this blog, which has just reached a memorable milestone – over 20,000 hits.

So 16 months ago after I gave up restaurant reviewing for a living and started this blog I thought I’d take stock of how things have gone so far. It has been a surprise. For a site that concentrates mainly on this less than glamorous gastronomic ‘beat’ of Sheffield, South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, it has had a lot of attention overseas. Much, I suspect, has come from ex-pats and exiles as well as Anglophones – there are visits from USA, Canada and Australia – but also France, Germany, South Korea* and hello to my solitary visitor from Somalia.

It got off to a good start with ‘plugs’ from the excellent Lesley Draper, restaurant reviewer and food writer for the Sheffield Telegraph, and Rony Robinson on his BBC Radio Sheffield programme

I keep a close eye on the site and can tell what posts are popular and where. So I was curious when, a month or so back, I got a spike of interest in a post about the Sheffield fishcake written at least six months before. They were all coming from the town of Gloucester, just outside Boston, Massachusetts.

A town website was bemoaning the disappearance of a canned (tinned) fishcake and a visitor posted a link to this site’s post on the Sheffield fishcake. After a gratifying 200-plus views I thought I’d try my luck by posting a link on the site, GoodMorningGloucester to my post and recipe for mushy peas. After all, what goes better with a fishcake? Sadly, Massachusetts is not ready for mushy peas. It got no hits. I did get a polite acknowledgement and the ‘dull men’ jibe. I hope it was tongue-in-cheek.

Despite my own fascination for turkey scratchings, elderberry sauce, Portuguese egg tarts, potting meat, making bacon or a Thai video chef called Poo, it is the posts which are restaurant reviews which get the most visits. But some things have surprised me. I would never have guessed my hymn to toast and dripping or the joy (and despair) at finding a cuppa abroad would create as much interest as they have.
.P1010431 dripping on toast

Some readers prefer the more esoteric posts. “I like the origins and manufacture of food if not more than the reviews,” said Robcmar. “It’s the geeky stories I love the most,” agreed Niki.

So I shall carry on being geeky about food. I know there are others out there who feel as I do. As my reader from Gloucester, Massachusetts, added: “The Dull Men’s Club of Great Britain has set a high standard that we can only hope to live up to.”

*South Koreans are hooked on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares TV series which featured Sheffield’s Runaway Girl restaurant, transformed into Silversmiths. With Korean sub-titles, it can be seen on YouTube. Head chef Richie Russell has become a cult figure over there and people have been following his progress. When I reviewed a meal at Remo’s, where Richie is now working, someone put a link on YouTube to Richie posts on this blog. They have received around 1,000 views so I’m not sure who is the bigger hit, me or Richie!

Having a nobble on The Moor


Ben Mills gives it some wellie

(Sadly, this business has now closed)


IT’S not quite Potty Edwards but walk down Sheffield’s Moor most days and if you’re not sure what to have for tea then Ben Mills could help you make your mind up. Standing outside Crawshaws butchers shop in his striped pinny, he fills his lungs with air and bellows: “Barbecue packs, five for a tenner.”

He takes another deep breath and roars out a different option. “Come on now! Cooked chicken and a roast joint for a fiver. Grab yourself an easy tea!”

Those of us who are old enough can remember market traders shouting their wares. It still happens from time to time on Sheffield’s new Moor Market when a greengrocer wants to advertise a bargain but it’s pretty sedate. Over in Scunthorpe four years ago the local council actually banned a market trader for doing just that.

It seems a far cry from the days of Potty Edwards, not one bloke but an entire South Yorkshire family selling crockery on the city’s old Rag n Tag Market (and Barnsley and elsewhere), who would turn selling into a performance, spinning plates and cracking jokes. They called it ‘having a nobble with the customers.’*

Right now Ben, if not juggling with joints and chicken legs (although that might be an attraction!), is having a nobble with passers-by. “Big pack of chicken fillets – as you like it.”

Then, from three doors up comes an answering cry. A young man in an orange pinny is outside the Pound Bakery yelling to shoppers ideas for afters. “Try our carrot cake today. Two slices, only a pound.” Ben sniffs dismissively. “He’s not as good as me,” then he dives back into his shop for a minute to help out on cooked meats.

He is one of three employed at the shop as shouters or sellers. What I didn’t realise is that Crawshaws do this at most of their 40 or so outlets, with men – their voices carry further – bellowing from the doorway. It seems to work.

“If you are not shouting you can lose up to £400 a day. When you have two chickens for a fiver and they are sitting in the shop people are not going to buy them unless you tell them,” says Ben.

Weekends are hectic. Ben and his mates are forever bellowing out the prices and nipping back inside to serve when there’s a rush. And shouting down that bloke from the Pound Bakery.

*For more (and a book) about Potty Edwards visit


Ben Mills has some ideas for tea

Hola! It takes two to tapas


Carving the Iberico ham at Tapas Revolution

“Hola!” said a waiter with a smile as bright as the Costa Bravan sun. You get a lot of holas at Tapas Revolution, the new eaterie which sells tapas not on some Mediterranean shoreline but in the Meadowhall shopping centre’s Oasis food hall.

So what’s new? After all, we’ve had places which serve tapas like La Tasca and there’s Made in Sheffield El Toro in Broomhill while we in this city are not entirely wet behind the ears in the chorizo department (some of us can even pronounce it correctly) since Michael Morgan was pioneering them at the old Mediterranean restaurant back in the Nineties.

“Hola!” said sexy Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy, who opened it recently as the latest of his mini-chain. What’s new is that his is the Spanish take on Spanish tapas and is as authentico as it gets. It’s not some Anglo-Saxon culinary grab with a ‘never mind the pimientos what about the profits?’ attitude. He didn’t quite say it that way but you knew what he meant.

A month or so he ran a one-night-only tapas place on Chesterfield Road to give local foodies a taste of things to come and I was there. He must have liked what I wrote because I got invited to Meadowhall to review it with a free meal ticket. So this review comes from a man who got two glasses of wine, eight tapas, two coffees and a packet of churros on the house. Now you can take the following with a pinch of paprika if you wish.

But even if I’d paid £5.75 for the Torreznos con mojo dulce, or crispy pork belly in a sweet and spicy sauce I’d be raving about it. The pork has been cooked long and low and slow then cubed so it looks like a version of that stripy Bassett’s Liquorice Allsort, in different shades of brown. So you get the soft and slithery fat followed by a slight resistance on the tongue of sweet, juicy meat. The Chinese do a similar dish, named after Chairman Mao, with different spices, but they don’t do the same sauce. For a minute I think someone has poured on the chocolate sauce which goes with the churros. This is sweet and really good. It’s made from honey, paprika and a few other spices and, I guess, the cooking juices. And isn’t there a hint of cinnamon? There is. That’s the Arab influence in Spanish cooking.

But you don’t want a bite by bite account of my meal so let’s say “Hola!” to the lovely Claudia, as Spanish as they get (with an American accent), who is the branch manager. In fact, all her staff are Spanish or Spanish-speaking (including a local student who is using the job to improve her language skills). That’s important. The chefs have not had to learn Spanish cooking, they were born to it.

So, I ask Claudia, how are we British taking to tapas? She gives me the kind of look a Spaniard gives when the Galacticos miss an open goal. “English people struggle with (the concept of) tapas. They say ‘This is mine, that is yours.’ They don’t really share. And they struggle to order octopus . . .”

If it’s any help this writer is only too happy to share his abondigas (meatballs) and had already sampled the octopus on pop-up night. Believe me, it’s no struggle. And we already knew it takes two to tapas (or more).

What they do like at Meadowhall is the patatas bravas (£3.95), not overloaded with tomato sauce, by the way, which come with a fierce kick and the pan con tomate (£2.95), tomatoey garlic bread. Omar had been at pains to point out the bread was the only thing they didn’t make themselves and his cheffy concern over a point a big corporation might have glossed over made me believe him when he says everything else is cooked on site.

The restaurant is built around a bar and is open to the Oasis roof so if you get the right table you can watch the action and the chefs carving the hams.

The Great Sheffield Shopping Public also love the calamari fritos (£5.50), light, tender and crispy with a good sprinkling of paprika and as good as any I’ve tasted. There was paella (£4.95), perhaps not quite as exciting as that cooked by Omar himself the other week in a Sheffield back yard in the rain but then I ate it just as it had been made with added atmosphere. I reminded myself how good are the ham croquettes (£4.75), oozing Bechamel sauce from their interiors, enjoyed a special of cod loin on sweet peppers (£6.25) and had a plate of hams and chorizo (£7.50). The chorizo is terrific.

Not all cooking in big shopping centres has to be burgers or second rate. So would I go back if I had to open my wallet? Certainly: there are plenty of tempting offers like a £20 set menu for two.

We left content, munching some churros from Omar’s churroseria opposite, as some more people were arriving. “Hola!” said a waiter.

The Oasis, Meadowhall. No booking, just walk in. Web:


Tapas Revolution at Meadowhall’s Oasis

Why the Clanger isn’t claggy any more


The Bedfordshire Clanger is a two course meal in a pastry pocket

I’ve dropped many a clanger in my time but never eaten one – until now. If you’ve never heard of the Bedfordshire Clanger think of a Cornish pasty shaped more like a sausage roll with a bit of fruit or jam at one end for dessert. That’s the clanger, not to be confused with a similar speciality from the neighbouring county, the Buckinghamshire Bacon Badger.

I came across it in the café at Wrest Park, in Beds, run by English Heritage, which charged £4.95 for something not that much bigger than a sausage roll and twice the price it is available at Gunns’ the bakers of Sandy who made it.

My version was a suet crust filled mostly with minced lamb and potatoes and, at one end, a spoonful of plum jam. There didn’t appear to be a pastry ‘bulkhead’ between meat and fruit although the pudding end was marked by two or three striations on the pastry. It was fun to eat although a little bland.

That great recorder of English regional food, Dorothy Hartley, had nothing to say on the clanger but there is quite a bit in Traditional Foods of Britain (Prospect Books 2004). It seems the clanger has had a culinary journey. It was originally boiled, not baked, and was rather like a meat roly poly with no separate compartment containing fruit. Instead dried fruit would be studded in the pastry. A clanger meant wives could concentrate on work, particularly straw hat making, while supper was bubbling away throughout the day. There were similar dishes like the Buckinghamshire bacon badger or Leicester Quorn bacon roll.

The meat which went into the clanger depended on how poor you were and what you could get. I have seen references to the leftovers of the Sunday roast and to bits of bacon as well as beef skirt or steak. At some point it became a two course meal.

I suspect the clanger I ate at Wrest Park was pretty effete compared to the original. A source from Maulden in Bedfordshire talks of a photograph “of four farm labourers sitting outside the Half Moon pub in Pepperstock sitting on a bench holding clangers over their shoulders like rifles.”

Gunns’ has been largely responsible for reviving the clanger, now available in a medley of flavours, after taking the decision to switch from boiling to baking. Bakery boss David Gunns says the boiled version was sticky and this might be a clue to the origin of the name clanger. It could possibly derive from the dialect word ‘claggy,’ the perfect description of the texture of any roly poly or plum duff.

Bedfordshire clanger before eating

Bedfordshire clanger before eatin

Cuppa? Mine’s a Full Monty


Little brown jug, a mug and Full Monty

 We’ve had The Full Monty the film, about stripping redundant steelworkers, and I don’t mind telling you I made a bit of brass out of it a few years ago. Then there was the musical and the play. And I’ve had a fair few Full Monty breakfasts. Now here’s the Full Monty – the tea. Someone’s given me a sample in a goodie bag. Now that’s a bit of luck so I’ll put it on to brew while I give you the full monty on the Full Monty.

 I ran the Diary column at The Star when we heard the film was being shot in Sheffield back in 1996 so we asked to come down. They said no because the star, Robert Carlyle, insisted on a closed set. Perhaps he was worried we’d point out his non-Sheffield accent.

 So we did what journalists always do when people say no. We wrote about it anyway. I pointed out the BBC had shown something very similar as a TV play quite recently. so it was unlikely to do well! And we plugged Brassed Off, to my mind a better film. Excuse me while I warm the pot.

 The sample is from blenders the Birdhouse Tea Company, just round the corner from me. They say it’s “a blend of classic black teas. Strong, northern and proud, ‘a proper Yorkshire brew.’” Best drunk in your birthday suit. No, I made that last bit up.

 When the Oscars came round, as luck would have it, there was a Sheffield girl in the Academy Awards press office so that meant stories about her translating the local idiom for the Yanks, ie kecks mean trousers.

 Water’s boiled. Birdhouse recommend one to two teaspoons per person, brewed for between three and five minutes. Like its namesake it has also won a gong: a Great Taste Award 2015.

After the Oscars the world’s press wanted to find a real troupe of Sheffield stripping ex-steelmen but, of course, there never were any. But you’ve heard of supply and demand? A couple of local enterprising local people set them up to cash in. That made me more stories and I had their telephone numbers which I sold to Fleet Street reporters for a small fee.

 Tea’s ready! Now will I be able to taste the smoke and the grit of a steelworks or the sweat and the greasepaint from a group of half naked fellas? I’ll be drinking it from a manly mug.

 It’s a dark, rusty coloured brew with plenty of tannin from the medium-cut leaves. It’s certainly not dust. Better than builders’ tea, definitely, with more body. That’s the tea not the builders. This would wake you up at breakfast but might be a little too strong to pair with a scone or a French fancy.

 Birdhouse is run by mother and daughter Julie and Rebecca English who founded the company in their kitchen. They stock over 60 varieties so you could say when it comes to tea they’ve got the full English.

 Full Monty retails at £3.95 for 75g.

 Address: 7b Nether Edge Rd, Sheffield S7 1RU. Tel: 0114 453 5589. Web:








A toast to Dame Nellie


Melba toast – easy to make and eat if you are an opera singer

You don’t see Melba toast much in restaurants these days and if you do, people make catty remarks. “Oh how very retro, very Seventies. Is there any egg mayonnaise?” But just because fashions have changed as the decades have rolled on doesn’t mean it isn’t any good. Besides, I have a sneaky little liking for it.

 When I want the crispest crunch to go with my pate I’ll reach for the old coffee tin labelled ‘Melba Toast.’ I like to dunk it in my soup the same way as you would a biscuit in tea. The art is holding it in long enough so it becomes infused with soup but still have a slight resistance on tongue and teeth. But not too long that it gloops into your bowl.

 I can recall only two occasions I’ve seen Melba toast in restaurants in recent years. The first was at that haven of Retroland, the Dore Grill, and the second when star chef Gordon Ramsay transformed Sheffield’s Runaway Girl into Silversmiths and revamped the menu. There was something with Melba toast for starters (in fact, versions of toast appeared on the menu three times but I think nobody noticed but me).

 Everybody knows the story of how Melba toast came to be. You don’t? Well in 1897 the famous Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba was staying at London’s Savoy Hotel. Feeling a little out of sorts, she ordered some dry toast. She sent it back, poor thing, saying it was too thick. The boss of the kitchen was the legendary Georges Auguste Escoffier who took the toast, cut it in half laterally, re-grilled the cut side and sent it up to her. He named it Melba toast in her honour. He had a track record in naming dishes after her, having created the peach Melba (peach with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce) four years before.

 Some say the name was coined by his great friend Cesar Ritz, the hotel manager, who had a flair for publicity. It came not a moment too soon to be listed among the dishes created at the Savoy. The following year the two were sacked for fiddling the books and stores and went on to found the Paris Ritz and London Carlton.

 I was disappointed to see that both the Dore Grill and Silversmiths bought their toast in when it is so easy to make. If ever the oven is on and there is spare bread around I slice it very thin and bake it, gently, at around 160C until it goes golden brown. The toast you see here is from a rather good baguette bought at Perfectionery on Sharrowvale Road. It keeps for ages in an airtight tin.

 And if you are ever short of breadcrumbs to coat a fishcake or whatever you can crumble up a few slices. Waste not, want not, eh? Thanks Nellie (and Escoffier).

PS: I also like egg mayonnaise.


And here’s Dame Nellie herself


Tale of water and w(h)ine!


The Summer House pork

When I was at school twice £4.25 was £8.50 but not on the wine list at Summer House, the newish restaurant on Abbeydale Road South. I double-check my maths. We fancy a 350ml carafe of Pinot Grigio with our lunch at £8.95. But a 175ml glass is £4.25. Double that and it’s equivalent to a carafe so what’s the extra 45p for?

Our waitress says I’m not the first to point it out (it’s all the way down the list and the same error is repeated online). How about a carafe at the two glass price? She goes to ask. We’re on. Oh and some tap water please.

I nip to the loo and on my return the carafe is on the table but no water. We taste the wine. Ugh! It’s been oxidised. Is this going to be one of those days? We debate whether to complain but it’s a justified whine about the wine.

The manager sweetly promises to open another bottle. Our starters arrive and we have begun eating when she returns with a small glass for me to try. “We think it does taste different” she says which I guess is code for you were right. Do I want to taste it first? I do but I am halfway through my first arrancini and there is no water to flush my taste buds. Even through the tang of smoked haddock I detect a vast improvement. We’ll have the carafe and oh, that tap water please. The carafe arrives but not the H2O.

I have three crispy little balls on buttered leeks. Nice. My wife has three ‘shooters,’ shot glasses with riffs on prawn cocktail, crab and salmon. Head chef Paul Crossland used to work with Cary Brown, pioneer of the fishy shot glass slammer. These are not as exciting but decent enough. Both dishes are £6.95.

When the plates are cleared I ask our third waitress for some water, telling her I’m hoping it will be third time lucky. I joke that if all three requests finally get answered we’ll have three jugs of water. She returns with what I can only suggest is an ‘I’ll show him attitude’ with two pint glasses of water AND a full jug.

My braised pork belly (£16.95) is one of the most expensive dishes on the menu. There’s a slab of soft, juicy pork with the skin off, which is now a long crispy shard, a portion of glazed ribs, a section of barbecued sweetcorn, fat chips and a fingerbowl. With the ribs and the sweetcorn it’s a guzzling, use-your-fingers kind of meal which I like the more I get into it

It did leave my fingers mucky (hence the need for the fingerbowl) and I left my scrunched up napkin meaningfully on the plate. The waitress didn’t take the hint and replace it.

My wife, for £10.95, has an over-expensive but immaculately made asparagus and courgette tart. We remark on the quality of the pastry, the delicacy of the filling. There is the ubiquitous rocket and a salsa verde on the side but it could do with a couple of new potatoes to round it off. She was reluctant to pay another £2.95 for veg and, in any case, they are not on the menu, while chips, sweet potato chips and crispy potatoes are.

Waterlogged, we press on to dessert. Sweets are £5.95 and are very well done: a rectangle of properly wobbly pannacotta with upright pillars of ginger-infused rhubarb and a mildly sensational brownie.

As I pay the bill for £66.35 (with coffees) I reflect that the food was better than the service. I nod to sous chef Gavin Milligan, seen through a ‘letterbox’ slot to the kitchen, compliment him on the pork and ask who did the pastrywork. He gives the credit to Mike Bevan, whom you might remember from the Walnut Club.

289a Abbeydale Road South, Sheffield S17 3LB. Tel: 0114 236 1679. Web:


Do the maths