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: http://www.thesummerhousesheffield.com