Still a chew with a view

Prawn cocktail at The Maynard

Prawn cocktail on a slate

I can remember when The Maynard finally laid down its Arms after almost a century in 2007. For all that time it had been quite content to be the Maynard Arms, Grindleford, a hotel and pub alongside the old turnpike which is now the B2651.

Then owner Paul Downing dropped the ‘Arms,’ refurbished the building as well as the name and turned it into a boutique hotel and wedding venue known simply as The Maynard (with the definite article, if you don’t mind).

Some things don’t change, I think, nibbling on a bread roll as I gaze through the dining room’s open French doors over the fields towards Grindleford village. The Maynard, arms or no, was a regular on the ‘Chews with a View’ list I regularly trotted out when restaurant reviewing for the Sheffield Star.

Turn your head and there’s another view. The back wall of the restaurant is still dominated by a painting of the vista over to Hathersage. In this case art is actually superior to real life for the artist has removed the trees blocking your line of sight.

It is decades since I first came to the old Maynard Arms for Sunday lunch and was so thrilled by the rosy hue of the tender beef that I identified myself to the manager to congratulate the kitchen. He couldn’t believe his luck and whisked me away, gave me a drink and drilled me full of PR stuff, to be on the safe side.

When the glowing review appeared the hotel phone rang hot with bookings but perhaps the staff were not so prepared. I had reports that gravy was spilled, service was slow and, from people who liked their meat grey and had not properly read the report, that the beef was undercooked. “They had to finish  it at my table,” spluttered one man, unconvinced by my saying that they had given him special treatment by cooking it on in a flambe pan.

The Maynard's pork

Rather a lot of gravy with my pork!

Once again we are here for Sunday lunch and I have high hopes for The Maynard has two AA rosettes. It is a family day and most people are casually dressed. My wife whispers: “Don’t look now but there’s a man eating his lunch in his flat cap.” I turn, discreetly, and, under that painting of Hathersage, so he is.

A little later he walks by to the lawn with a small child. “He’s wearing Wellington boots,” I splutter. “Are they green?” “Yes.” “That’s all right then.”

Before lunch there was no room in the lounge so we had been asked to sit in the bar for a while. The Maynard is ‘dog friendly’ and for £10 a night your hound can stay with you. There were at least four in the bar and a great deal of yapping (some under the tables while their owners ate).

Prawn cocktail here comes not in a glass (that would be too obvious) but on a slate. It lacks eye appeal. My teriyaki salmon fishcake is a bit on the small side but otherwise OK. And that’s how our lunch goes: just OK.

For some reason I do not have the beef but plump for pork. It is a little underflavoured and the roast potatoes hard and leathery, as if they’d been around the oven too long. It is swimming in gravy but not in a good way: the gravy lacks meatiness. My wife’s roast chicken is better and so is her gravy. “It’ll be the same,” she says, but it isn’t. For a start it is seasoned. And her potato cake has flavour.

Two courses cost £20, three are £25 but we can’t summon up the enthusiasm to go on so call it a day after coffee. Service is pleasant, far outshining the kitchen on our visit. It is still, though, a chew with a view.

Main Road, Grindleford, S32 2HE. Tel: 01433 630 321.Web: www.themaynard.co.uk

Over the hedge and far away - the view from The Maynard

The view from The Maynard’s restaurant

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Hungry? The Buddha will see you right

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The Hungry Buddha’s chicken curry thali

At the risk of sounding like a page straight out of Mills & Boon it must have been fate when Jan from Rotherham, a young backpacker on a round-the-world trip, fell sick while trekking through the remote Himalayan country of Nepal.

But handsome trek leader Dev Gurung took special care of her and helped nurse her back to health. We can all guess what happened next. Cue hearts and flowers: reader, she married him.

Which is a slightly involved why of explaining how the Hungry Buddha, the city’s very first Nepalese café and takeaway, opened a couple of months ago in Sheffield’s Moor Market.

“We tried living together in Nepal but it’s a hard lifestyle. So I came over here,” says Dev, who after eight years leading treks set about retraining as a chef at Rotherham College as chef. Some people might say living in Rotherham is a hard lifestyle! Actually his first job was at a local call centre but his accent – Dev’s English is excellent ­– made people think he was talking to them from India. His catering skills have taken him from PJ Taste in Sheffield to the Bombay Bicycle Club in London.

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Prayer flags bring colour to the Hungry Buddha’s stall

The Hungry Buddha sells simple thalis – tin trays with compartments for meat or vegetable curry, rice, dal, pickles or chutneys – for between £4 and £4.50. It’s one of 11 food outlets in a row, next to Sallie’s tea and roast pork sarnie stall. Sallie’s boss Andrew Stein wickedly introduces me to Dev as a public health inspector. The poor chap doesn’t flinch before Andrew puts him right. As a self-appointed taste inspector I can attest the food is good.

Prayer flags bring a blaze of colour to the stall where curries change daily. Dev comes in early to prep and cook before nipping off to his other job with a marketing company, leaving the stall, on the day we visited, in the hands of a charming Nepalese girl, Abha, studying at Sheffield Hallam University.

My wife and I have chicken and potato and cauliflower curries. The chicken is mildly spiced in a tasty sauce with a lemony kick. Surprisingly, the vegetable curry is spicier. The rice is a generous portion, eaten with a pleasantly soupy dal. There’s a mixed vegetable pickle, flavoured with lemon and sesame, a fiery mango pickle and Abha lets me try some carrot pickle which the Hungry Buddha sells in jars.

Dev quickly learned he had to adapt to British tastes and is keen to get feedback on the degree and range of spiciness people want. Fenugreek seeds, when fried, give a nutty crunchiness which brings different reactions.

“Nepal is a poor country and the spices produced are limited. What is grown is used or preserved. Nepalese food is influenced by Tibet in the north and India in the south. It’s based on what we call dal-bhat, lentils and rice, to which is added curry, mainly vegetable but from time to time meat, chicken or buffalo . . . The spices are ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and chilli and food is cooked in mustard oil which gives food a different taste to that cooked in vegetable oil,” he explains.

A distinctive flavour comes from tempering, frying whole spices in oil and incorporating it into the dish before serving, in much the same way as the Indian tarka dal is treated.

Hungry Buddha is still in the foothills of catering. Momos, steamed stuffed dumplings, have been offered experimentally. Other dishes will be tried. Dev hopes to expand into offering tiffin deliveries (lunchtime dishes) to local offices and outside catering.

“People may think we are similar to Indian food but our aim is to bring that authenticity which makes it special,” says Dev. He’s made a good start.

#Hungry Buddha is in the Moor Market. Twitter: @Hungrybuddha1. Facebook: Hungry BuddhaDev Gurung and Abha Dev Gurung and Abhi

My dim sum heaven

Steamed prawn buns at Dim Sum

Steamed buns at Dim Sum

“Mmm, chicken bum,” said one of us, peering at a menu I’d downloaded from the Dim Sum website. We laughed. Obviously a misprint. But when we got to the London Road restaurant we gleefully double checked the table menus to find someone had to laboriously correct in Biro the same mistake on every one.

I love steamed buns. I reckon I’d even love steamed bums because I’ve never had a mouthful at Dim Sum that didn’t surprise or delight in some way.

The red fronted eatery is exactly what it says on the fascia, a dim sum restaurant that also runs a classic Chinese menu yet 90 per cent of customers, says co-owner  Sang  Wan, eat dim sum exclusively or as a starter before going on to main dishes.

There were five of us. I love everything about dim sum, my wife is more reserved. The son said “Can we have lots of steamed buns?” My brother and sister in law claimed to be dim sum novices and I sensed they were a little dubious. So what’s dim sum? Think Chinese tapas. The Chinese usually have it for Sunday lunch.

It’s probably wise for newcomers to start on the gentler, lower slopes and go for steamed buns and dumplings and leave the wilder dishes – steamed chicken feet, whelk and tripe – for another time, if at all. So I felt it best to leave the steamed manifold off the order sheet. This is a tripe which looks like jet engine propeller blades and is colloquially called slut in Ashton-under-Lyne.

It is also probably wise for newcomers to note that in Chinese (and Japanese) cooking, texture is as important as taste and nowhere is this more evident than in dim sum dishes. Some dishes are quite slithery or gelatinous, which do not always square with Western tastes. Let’s put it this way: if you’re fine with tapioca you’ll be home and dry with dim sum; if not, you may need a steer.

Har Kwork - deep fried prawnparcels

Deep-fried prawn parcels

Don’t let this put you off. Dim Sum has 32 dishes on its dim sum menu and you’ll find some you love. In fact, even the doubters loved a new dish to the menu, stir-fried mooli cake in XO sauce (£4.30) which Sang’s sister and co-owner Tina Yau brought us to try.

It was soft little cubes of what some thought to be fish but is, in fact, vegetable – shredded mooli (also called daikon or white radish) mixed with rice flour, cornflour and seasonings, steamed then allowed to set before being stir-fried. The taste is delicate and haunting, set off by XO sauce, made from scallops, shrimps and chillies, which some local chefs (chiefly Rico at the Rutland) have taken up with enthusiasm.

The steamed buns were good: har gau (£4), prawn dumplings; siu my (£3.50), pork and prawn; as well as har kwork (£4), deep-fried prawn parcels. “This menu must be a prawn’s worst nightmare,” joked my brother-in-law. They come whole, chopped or minced with pork, inside wrappings of sweetish bread dough or rice flour ‘pasta’ jackets.

Sang and Tina opened Dim Sum in 2003. Sang’s father brought him over from Hong Kong at the age of 14 and he was sent to High Storrs School where, he says, the teachers ignored him. He left a year later and went into catering, learning about dim sum at a leading Manchester restaurant.

They took over Mr Yun’s tiny sandwich shop when he retired and turned it into a dim sum restaurant, later expanding into premises next door.

Aside from steamed buns and dumplings, another favourite are the breadcrumbed cuttlefish cakes (£4.20), very firm, sweet chunks of squid served with little bowls of salad cream as a dipping sauce.

Prawn Cheung Fun

Slithery heaven – cheung fun

You should also try one the cheung fun dishes, flat sheets of rice flour noodles with a slithery texture with fillings of beef, pork or, of course, chopped prawn.

We had started with half a crispy duck (£16.50) at the insistence of the ladies of the party who had wanted to hedge their bets if they didn’t like the dim sum. We ate it with wine or beer except for me, who opted for green tea, because that is the Chinese way and I’m a bit of a food fascist.

Sang, who predicts some London Road businesses will struggle when the nearby Chinese-financed ‘Chinatown’ New Era Square opens because supply will outstrip demand, is quite happy to stay put and keep to the dim sum path.

“Some places don’t serve dim sum in the evenings so customers order main courses and get bigger bills. But I am here and the chef is here so we serve dim sum all day.”

He was right about the bill. Despite ordering more dim sum dishes than described, a bottle of wine, bottle of beer, tea and coffee the bill for five came to £84.45 for five people on a Saturday night.

And in the end we never had that chicken bun or bum. We’ll do it next time.

Dim Sum, 201-203 London Road, Sheffield S2 4LJ. Tel: 0114 255 0467. Web: www.dimsum-sheffield.co.uk

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Dim Sum on London Road

 

 

 

Bilberry? I can see clearly now

Bilberry and vanilla jam

Bilberry and vanilla jam makes a nice change

You have to watch out for the snails. Tiny little things, micro snails really, that get caught up with the berries when you go bilberrying. If you’re planning a pie or some bilberry jam the last thing you want is an unexpected crunch between your teeth.

Funny thing is, when I went bilberry picking last summer I didn’t notice a single snail but then I didn’t look for them. On an earlier expedition this month my bilberry comb seemed to scrape up lots of them along with the berries, leaves and twigs. So now I pick the berries over very carefully indeed and leave them in a bowl, giving any snail time to crawl to the surface. I reckon if it’s survived so far I’m not going to flush it down the sink so take it gently outside.

This last time I had 575g of berries left after I’d had some with my breakfast cereal and porridge so I decided it was quickest and easiest to make some jam. If you google ‘bilberry’ you invariably get the story that bilberries were supposed to help RAF pilots’ vision in World War Two. I reckon this comes from the same stable as the myth about the RAF and carrots but, who knows?

Marguerite Patten, in her jam makers’ ‘bible’ Jams, Preserves & Chutneys surprisingly doesn’t mention bilberries at all. But she does blueberries, which are a larger, sweeter form of the fruit. If you google ‘bilberry pectin content’ you will be told it is on the low side. Marguerite, however, says it is high and her recipes contain no lemon for added pectin. As the bilberry is a tarter fruit I should imagine its pectin content is higher. What she says is good enough for me, although I do like to add a little lemon to most jams just to highlight flavours. I also decided to add a teaspoon of vanilla essence for a change this time.

The rule of thumb is the same weight of sugar as fruit but I decided to make it a little fruitier by cutting back on the sugar to 500g. I just added a tablespoon of water to the berries to start them off and crushed them only lightly to release the juices. Some recipes will have you producing a paste-like jam. Then I stirred in the sugar, the juice of half a lemon and the vanilla. I had a set, using the saucer test, in seven minutes.

I like a very light set. Here’s a tip. When you’ve taken your plate out of the freezer and put a blob of jam on it put it in the fridge (not freezer!) for a good five minutes before applying the wrinkle test. If you don’t give it a good time to set you may run the risk of cooking on when you don’t need to and it becomes a stiff paste.

I got four jars of varying sizes and the jam has the sweet-sharp qualities of the raw fruit plus a little vanillary background. I like it. And so far I’ve not crunched . . .

 

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Jamie pops up with a classic

Iamie's tea smoked salmon

Earl Grey tea smoked salmon

Now that’s a blast from the past! Looking at the menu of Jamie Bosworth’s ‘pop up’ restaurant at the Rendezvous cafe, Totley, one dish leaps out at us: the tea smoked salmon. It was the dish his late, talented brother Wayne introduced to Sheffield back in the Nineties.

It was new to the city and became a sort of classic although since then seems to have fallen out of favour until recently. Jamie credits his brother on the menu.

 We disagree over where we ate it. Rafters, I say, referring to the restaurant the Bosworth brothers ran together at Nether Green. Brasserie Leo at London Road’s Charnwood Hotel, she says.

 Jamie, after the meal, solves the riddle: it was at Henfrey’s, the posh little room upstairs at the Charnwood. Wayne used to smoke it on demand then and serve it hot. We had it and thought it lovely. The Yorkshire Post critic complained that the aroma made him think it was November 5.

 He might have had a point. One night Wayne was cooking with Nathan Smith, now at the Old Vicarage, as his sous and Nathan put the hot pan on the vinyl floor, welding the two together.

 Tonight the salmon is not smoked on demand – there are 24 covers to be fed from a tiny kitchen with only four rings – but is prepared in advance. The smokiness from the Earl Grey tea is subtle, the overall impression, aided by a citrus miso glaze and little blobs of pickled cucumber jelly, is a starburst of flavour.

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The beef main course at Jamie’s pop up restaurant

 “With such a small kitchen I have to think very carefully about the menus,” says Jamie. But if not everything is cooked, rather than assembled, on the night there is some impressive attention to detail.

 Canapes of crab fritters come with a spicy mango ketchup which makes me yearn to get the recipe and copy it (I forget to ask). Goats cheese arrives in a creamy swirl with roasted beets, a crostini and, oddly, hazelnut praline.

 The main course is terrific: a tender slice of Angus beef which had been barbecued first so the fatty exterior was crozzled into lip-smacking sweetness, a rich wild mushroom and truffle oil gravy moistening it.

 ‘Pop ups’ have become trendy, of late, but Jamie points out he has been running them for the last five years. This is his third location, suggested by his daughter Katie who, following in the family tradition, works there as a waitress.

 Jamie has left behind his restaurant days – Rafters, Bosworth’s at Sheffield United and his acclaimed Taste gastro-café – and is now development chef for Jigsaw Foods and available for private hire. The once a month evening is highly popular and helps to scratch an itch, I’d guess. With a waiting list of around 60, Jamie ran the menu on two successive nights to eat into the backlog.

 We finish on a lovely note, an Amarula flavoured panna cotta in a Kilner jar. It’s a South African liqueur. Again, there’s plenty of work involved. There’s a very rich chocolate orange ganache, some honeycomb and a white chocolate crumb. Not so much that your palate loses a sense of direction but enough to maintain interest and surprise.

 Five courses with coffee cost £28. Well worth it.

 Rendezvous is at 185 Baslow Road, Sheffield S17 4DT. To book a table call 0114 235 0884

 

Jamie Bosworth

Jamie Bosworth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s go bilberrying

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We are at the height of the bilberry season and there’s a glut of the sweet-sharp, tiny little berries out on the moors. Drive out along Ringinglow, stop the car when you get to the heather and the nearest bilberry won’t be far away.

Picking them is reasonably easy if you have a bilberry comb (see picture below), a plastic box with ‘teeth’ on one side which rakes the berries off the twigs and stores them until you can shake them into a suitable container, usually an old ice cream container. I got my comb from the ironmongery shop on Sharrowvale Road.

It’s not hard but, then, nothing is too easy: be prepared for midges, backache and juice stained hands and clothes. Don’t go out in your Sunday best!

So what are you going to do with them when you’ve picked a pound or two? Here are six ideas below. Another Helping welcomes other ideas for bilberries.

*Bilberry Jam: Cook 2lb of fruit with a tablespoon of water until soft (not long), add 2lb sugar, stir until dissolved, bring to boil until set. Plenty of natural pectin but a tbspn of lemon juice will heighten flavours.

*Bilberry pie: wash, pick out leaves and twigs and use as pie filling, with or without apple or other fruit. Add a tablespoon of sugar.

*Bilberry gin: Lightly crush 1lb washed bilberries and put in jar. Add 75cl of gin, 4 tbsps of sugar (or to taste), shake to dissolve and leave for at least three months. Strain, bottle and drink. Do not discard berries which will make . .

*Drunken bilberry jam (bilberry gin jam): Proceed as for bilberry jam

*Use alongside or in place of blackcurrants in summer pudding

*Sprinkle on your cereal or porridge

FOR hints on how to use the bilberry comb see http://wp.me/p5wFIX-fm

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Road to Rio (with a lot of coconut)

Mini picanha churrasco at Las Iguanas

Mini picanha churrasco for starters

So hello from Rio! It’s Carioca time. There’s a glass of caipirinha in my hand, Bahian coconut chicken on my plate and bossa nova on the sound system. Party on.

I wish.

Actually, apart from the location the rest is correct. I can’t quite run to the Copacabana so my road to Rio is a window table at Brazilian-themed restaurant Las Iguanas on a bright if breezy day at Sheffield’s West One. A girl sashays by outside in a coat not a bikini.

You won’t have missed the fact that there is an awful lot of sport, as well as coffee, in Brazil right now, what with the Olympics. You might have missed the fact that this is the Las Iguanas chain’s 25th anniversary. So that you don’t they’ve got a special menu on until the end of August.

Put on your loudest shirt, skimpiest skirt and don’t forget the flip-flops and have two courses and a drink for £17 (or three for £20) and be a carioca, a Brazilian party animal.

Now you could never accuse me and the missus of being party animals but we take the opportunity to pop in at lunchtime. We’re met by manager Hugo and it’s a bit quiet. “You should be at Meadowhall (the chain’s other outlet in Sheffield) so you can feel the vibe,” he says.

For a minute I think Hugo is going to ring the Meadowhall branch and check on the current vibe. We say we’ll imagine the vibe, if that’s all right by him, and yes some drinks would help. He brings a caipirinha for her and a Brazilian lager for me and we discover he’s Portuguese, from Porto, which we visited earlier this year. So we feel we’re halfway to Brazil in spirit.

Hugo says his name is pronounced without the ‘h’ and sometimes people think he’s saying “you go.” Luckily for him one customer didn’t. She married him.

Las Iguanos is a big place with over 130 covers and an impressive bar and the food’s not bad either. I kick off with a mini picanhana churrasco, which means pieces of very juicy rump steak on a skewer, with a spicy green molho a campanha salsa. She has dadinhos, cubes of fried cheese enlivened with a pot of chilli jami. Life is brighter with a dollop of chilli jam. And a caipirinha.

You could have the chance of tasting the same food in Rio itself because diners get the chance to enter a contest for a free trip to Brazil for two. Just to get you in the mood the tables have a handy Rio street map and some useful phrases, such as “como vai?” which means How are you? Very well, since you ask.

Coconut chicken at Las Iguanas

The coconut chicken is as vibrant as a Thai curry

There are six mains and we don’t go wrong with our choices. The coconut chicken with its chilli kick reminds me of a Thai curry with a gingery coconut sauce. I like the rice with spring onions and the shredded greens.

My wife’s got more coconut on her plate, making up a milder sauce to cover the peeled prawns and cubes of white fish. It comes with spring onion rice, sweet plantain, pico de gallo (a frisky salsa) and a little pot of coconut farofa. No I didn’t know what it was, either. Think crispy grains of coconut you sprinkle over your food like seasoning but with a crunch.

I hadn’t realised the Brazilians were nuts about coconuts. There are a bunch of them on display as decoration and I’ve got tembleque, a set coconut pudding for dessert. As a special treat for cariocas Las Iguanos also offers Brigadeiro, not normally on the menu. This is a runny, intensely chocolatey affair tasting, as my wife put it, “a bit like the bowl you used to lick out when your mum was making chocolate cake.”

I should point out the food and drinks were on Las Iguanas, the vibe was on Hugo. He’ll be taking charge of the Meadowhall restaurant from Monday.

Las Iguanas is at West One, Fitzwilliam Street, Sheffield S1 4JP. Tel: 0114 252 1010. Web: http://www.iguanas.co.uk

Hugo at the  Las Iguanos bar

Hugo at Las Iguanas’ bar

Not too sexy for my wrap

Mahesh Raikar at the Meadowhall Wrapchic

Mahesh Raikar thinks burritos are beautiful

Most of us seeing the relentless march of Indian restaurants down every British High Street would not have thought there was a gap left in the market, even to squeeze a samosa through.

But Mahesh Raikar did.

“Indian food is seen as evening food, which you sit down to eat, but there was no alternative to a sit down lunchtime curry,” he tells me at the opening of his 12th Wrapchic outlet at Meadowhall on Monday. Since The No 1 British lunchtime choice is a sandwich, eaten at the desk or on the hoof, a curry poses logistical problems.

Now M&S do a very decent chicken tikka sandwich but try stuffing a portion of rogan josh between two slices of multiseeded and you’ll come a cropper sooner than you can say Taj Mahal. But what about a wrap to replace the bread?

You’d have thought Mahesh, aged 42, from Mumbai, would have plumped for a chapatti but no. “There are issues with a chapatti : it is not so malleable and there is not much taste,” he adds. As for nan bread, there would be too much of it and it would swamp the filling.

So Mahesh, who had always liked Mexican food since running a outlet in the food hall of a Western-style entertainments complex in Mumbai, settled on a tortilla. Stick a curry inside one with rice, beans, sauce, coleslaw and chutney and you have yourself a burrito.

Or a “beautiful burrito” he murmurs, as if uttering the name of a loved one. Which he is. His website says Wrapchic’s mission is to be “the most loved burrito company in the world.”

His business life has taken him from Bombay (Mumbai’s colonial name) to Brum, where his wife Vrushali studied for her MA in architecture while he took up the reins again of a career with the Compass catering group. He rose up through the company like a soufflé but was already planning to go it alone.

He founded the first outlet in Birmingham four years ago and the concept has rapidly spread. He wasn’t stopping in Meadowhall long for by Thursday he was opening another in Dubai. And he has his sights on the USA.

The six meat and two vegetarian fillings are cooked at a central kitchen in Solihull and shipped out to be reheated. You start one end of the counter and a succession of servers fill the tortilla before it is rolled and wrapped. “We can do it in 90 seconds, rather less if it’s a regular,” says Mahesh as he orders for me.

I’ve got one of the favourites, Chicken Mughlai, chicken tikka with tikka sauce, turtle beans, white rice, coleslaw, sour cream and a mild salsa. I pass on the offer to add guacamole after raising my eyebrows at the coleslaw. But this is, sort of, fusion food.

The name Wrapchic is an Indian in-joke, meaning sexy, but I feel anything but sexy eating my burrito at a table. You need to be a teenager to be at ease eating a wrap.

But it is a tasty and lively lunch and pretty healthy: food is grilled rather than fried. On second thoughts, I’d rather have had chutney than sour cream but I liked it. My regular burrito would have cost £5.70 but it was on the house. As I sit down to eat I ask which is his favourite option. “Mutton Madrasi, with 30 spices and cooked in the sauce for hours,” he says. He’s in burrito heaven.

Wrapchic is on the ground floor in the Oasis. Visit www.wrapchic.co.uk

serving up a Wrapchic burrito

Serving up a burrito

 

 

 

 

 

Fancy a dosa? Follow that tiger!

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My crispy dosa at the Masala Dosa Cafe

I’m doing it all wrong. When you’re faced with a masala dosa, that crispy South Indian pancake which looks like a roll of linoleum, the one thing you don’t do is pick it up off the plate or thali. It will fall to pieces. And mine does.

I’m in Sheffield’s very new Masala Dosa Café on Ecclesall Road and the adjacent table has three Indian diners. I watch them very closely when their dosas arrive. The girl breaks into the middle of hers and the men tackle theirs from the ends.

“Is that the proper way?” I ask them later. “Yes, don’t pick it up but break bits off and dip them into the chutneys,” explains one. And how are their dosas? “Good.”

Which is an accolade indeed for the dosas had not been cooked by someone from Kerala or Sri Lanka but Tony Whiteman from Essex.

You can’t miss the little 20-seater café and takeaway: it’s the one with a life-sized plastic tiger outside. Inside, the place is decorated in the Indian national colours of orange, white and green. That’s Tony and his fellow chef Liam Hamre on the hotplates and Tony’s wife Praful on the counter.

They met when Tony was working for HSBC in Hyderabad and Praful was a graduate trainee. They’ve been married since 2002 and in Sheffield for the last two and a half years. Tony’s never worked in catering before – “Liam helps me fill in the gaps” – but it’s a big change from banking.

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The tiger advertising the Masala Dosa Cafe

Tony learned how to make dosas at a place called the Dosa Centre in Hyderabad. His wife’s family helped organise the lessons. “I was trained on the street in Hyderabad, quite an experience,” he says. Then he trained Liam.

I say I am impressed but Tony is disarming. “Dosa being what it is, it’s not rocket science.” But it’s not that easy. The batter is a mix of fermented urad dal and rice flour, which has to be carefully spread on the hotplate to cook. Experts had produce dosas several feet wide. Tony and Liam settle for a more modest foot or 30cms.

“Large crispy golden dosas cooked live” trumpets the menu. I order a chutney masala dosa, £5.75 with a drink, and my wife goes for the Chicken 65 masala dosa, at £6.95 with a drink. Service is a little slow but we don’t mind waiting.

The dosas are served on tin thalis with the compartments filled with a sambar and various chutneys. I’ve got something coconutty, something coriander andanother which is probably tomato-based. The central third of each dosa is filled with a spicy mix of crushed potato and onion. My wife’s has red coloured spicy chicken pieces. It apparently gets its name from being invented in 1965 at the Buhari Hotel in Chennai (Madras).

We liked the contrast between crunch and soft filling, the dips and the spiciness which creeps up on your palate so by the end of the meal your mouth is all a tingle.

It’s only in the last few years that we’ve been introduced to dosas in Sheffield as South Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants have arrived.

The café has so far only been open a few weeks and around a quarter of the custom is Indian which is a good sign. We loved it and will be back as there are more flavours to try: the Mysore, the Pav Bhaji, Chinese, Pulled Pork and Jini . . . and more. So if you want a tasty snack our advice is Follow That Tiger!

 

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Liam on the hotplate while Praful serves

Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. Web www.masaladosacafe.co.uk

  • The tiger is called Thekkady, after the tiger reserve in Kerala where the couple spent their honeymoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling social in Hathersage

Hathersage Social Club steak hache

I say burger, they say steak hache

I’m surprised they let us in. Almost alone among the lunchers and brunchers at the oddly named Hathersage Social Club we were the only ones without a dog. Some customers had two or even three.

It must have been the Sunday sun which encouraged people to bring their pets because most of those eating were in the garden and on a terrace outside. Inside the place was almost empty but that’s how it works here: there were enough tables to accommodate people should the heavens open and dampen their Caesar salads or halloumi burgers.

We’d fancied Sunday lunch but not roast beef. Something quirky would be good and this place fits the bill.

The Social Club, not quite a full-blown restaurant but rather more (and classier) than your average café is now in its fourth year of being run by founders Simon Couth and Lucy Wurstlin. They converted a former flower shop and gave Hathersage its first heady taste of guacamole bruschetta.

We first went two years ago and were intrigued by their story and the enterprise. Both were journalists living in Hathersage but commuting to London until they opened for business. They have an international background. Lucy is the daughter of a man she describes as a Bavarian Brian Blessed while Simon’s great grandfather ate kedgeree on a houseboat in Kashmir. Simon started life as a chef in Sidmouth, cooked at the Montreux Palace Hotel on Lake Geneva, then turned to digital media before going back to the kitchen.

The Social Club has a cinema upstairs, themed food evenings and guest chefs so the place is, like the menu, an eclectic mix.

Hathersage Social Club LP menus

These menu covers will help you remember the 60s

Eclectic is the word here. The menu is pasted inside old Sixties’ LP covers (with records still in). My wife gets Jane Fonda’s Workout Record, which is a hint not to overdo the calories, so she swaps with my Chicago album.

We’ve booked and find our table in the sun on the decking alongside the little Hood Brook. The place is busy and we’re warned it might take some time to get our food but we’re in no hurry and are happy to people (and dog) watch. “I like the demographic we get here, from the young trendies to villagers,” says Lucy later.

I order Paris-cut steak but it has sold out. Steak hache (£11), French for a posh burger, is impressive, thick and juicy inside a foccacia ‘bun,’ topped with caramelised onion and pungent, salty Roquefort. The salad is rocket, of course, with oven-roasted tomatoes and the chips come triple fried. The quality of the ingredients and the contrast in flavours knocked a ‘normal’ burger into a cocked at. My wife’s Caesar salad (£14) is equally good, with chicken, bacon and great hunks of sourdough croutons.

For dessert, people ask for a ‘naughty waffle,’ says Lucy, so I do, too: My Freiburg (£5) is topped with mascarpone and mulled fruits, simple but good. A brownie is fine but would have been even better warm.

The weather is, though, and it’s been a relaxing and slightly quirky Sunday afternoon, which is just what you want sometimes.
Station Road, Hathersage, Hope Valley S32 1DD. Tel: 01433 650 203

Web: www.hathersagesocialclub.com

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