I may have mentioned this before but head chef Charlie Curran makes the sexiest bread rolls in Sheffield: springy little spheres of warm dough with a dimple in the top, dusted with white flour. They just look nudge, nudge, wink, wink, food porn naughty.
There are four of them on a slate at our table, two white, two wholemeal, with discs of butter, one yellow, one black, being flavoured with Henderson’s Relish. This does nothing for the butter but makes it Very Sheffield.
The rolls regularly get an outing on his Twitter page which, as an amateur baker, makes me green with envy. I cannot get mine as temptingly curvy as Charlie’s. And they’re in the first picture which comes up for the restaurant on TripAdvisor. If British Baker magazine ran a Page Three these little bread buns would be on it.
We are at Peppercorn, the restaurant he runs with front of house soulmate Kelly Ware on Abbeydale Road South, Sheffield, for Sunday lunch. It is exactly three years to the day since my review of the place in the Sheffield Star, shortly after it opened. How spooky is that? Back then I raved about the cylindrical chicken (here ) and vowed that if all potato dishes were like his fondant spuds I’d give up chips for life. Sadly, it hasn’t happened.
It was a five star meal then, even though it was early days, and it is a five star Sunday lunch which gets under way spectacularly with an exquisitely flavoured fish sausage of scallops and lobster, the shellfish in toothsome pieces within a finely minced filling on a bed of springy homemade squid ink linguine, bathed in a cheesy thermidor sauce. It’s a winner.
Apparently it’s the first one out the kitchen as a trial for the a la carte menu. The excellent pasta is made by sous chef Dan Kidd. Charlie ‘inherited’ Dan when he followed Brian Moran into the premises. Come to think about it, not the only catering Brian in his life. Years ago he worked for Brian Turner in London.
My wife’s chicken liver pate with toasted brioche was also a little belter of a dish for richness and flavour.
Now Sunday lunch is like fish and chips or a curry: you spend days looking forward to it and then, so often, the reality fails to live up to the anticipation. Not here.
There are three slices of tender beef, still pink and full of flavour, draped over four crunchy roast potatoes which taste as if they have just come out of the pan, not taken a turn in a deep fat fryer as I had recently. The gravy is made with the meat juices and there is a big, crispy Yorkshire Pudding. It is pretty close to Sunday lunch perfection.
My wife, meanwhile, is enjoying the cod, a good piece accurately cooked on a bed of crushed potatoes with a simple, classic chive butter sauce. Vegetables come by the barrowload. Well almost. We count four dishes of cauliflower cheese, mashed swede and carrot, peas and beans and red cabbage. Surely people don’t get though all that?” They do,” says Charlie later.
We share a sweet, a properly wobbly pannacotta brave enough to be served out of the mould with berries and a strange green spongy sort of thing made to resemble woodland moss. “Wheatgrass,” says our waitress. It’s a novelty.
It’s been a super meal with friendly, relaxed service. When Charlie comes out of the kitchen I compliment him on the rolls and the food. “I love baking,” he says and agrees that Sunday lunches have a different atmosphere in the kitchen. When everyone else has gone they’ll all sit down to their own Sunday lunch, chefs, servers and pot washer. I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did. Two courses cost £20, three for £25.
We leave thinking that these premises, a low key building shaped like a shoebox, squeezed in between a Park & Ride car park and the Summer House, give little hint of the quality of cooking inside. But then he’s only keeping up with a tradition, following two fine chefs here, Cary Brown of Carriages and Brian Moran.
Right now Charlie is on a roll in more ways than one.
289 Abbeydale Road South, S17 3LB Sheffield. Web http://www.peppercorn-restaurant.co.uk