The candle is flickering on the table at the Rising Sun, Nether Green. The weatherman has warned of snow. And over the speakers comes Hark The Angels. Bliss. Hang on a minute! Isn’t it the first day of spring? Abbeydale Brewery’s Moonshine bitter must be pretty strong to lose me nine months . . .
Don’t blame the beer, blame Spotify. Restaurant manager Faith Nicholson dived behind the bar to select another track but the sound system seemed to go along all evening with Wizzard in wishing it could be Christmas every day. It raised a smile.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Moonshine, the Abbeydale’s flagship beer, but I’ve never been to the Rising Sun, the brewery tap. It had a makeover last year and the moment you walk into the big, comfy bar with its gleaming row of a dozen hand pumps you think ‘nice place, nice people, nice beer.’ Or as Google puts it: ‘Convivial boozer run by a local microbrewery.’
Along with the makeover went a revamp of the food, which I gather hadn’t risen much above the level of snacks. But when some patrons looked at the newly minted menu they spluttered into their beer. “Rabbit croquettes?” shrieked one as if they were the mark of Satan. “It’s situated in the middle of Nether Green, not the middle of Baslow,” he complained on TripAdvisor. Pie and peas or bangers and mash yes but was it all becoming a bit too gastro?
While some were protesting ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ others were moaning that eaters were taking tables from drinkers. Diners were unhappy sitting next to dogs licking their rear ends. The Rising Sun is dog friendly but there are limits.
There seems to have been a happy compromise. The pub had an unloved Tap Room which, with a help of some pots of Farrow & Ball pigeon blue, has been turned into the prosaically named 42-cover Dining Room where dogs do not go. There’s a new menu which caters for all and we had been invited as guests to try it out.
It looked pretty good to us. There’s fish and chips, pie, sausage and burgers but, whisper it softly, there’s also turbot: posh fish at a not so posh £15.95. The Rising Sun does well for fish as there’s also stonebass, that lurker of wrecks, with Lyonnaise potatoes, as well cod with an olive and bean cassoulet for starters.
I began with a spiced crab Scotch egg (£6.50) which I think is a dish from Galton Blakiston of Michelin-starred Morston Hall in Norfolk (good food, sniffy service) which I loved, the yolk runny, plenty of crabmeat, the chilli slowly arriving on the palate. My wife had a special, a lively salad of crisp squid, crayfish, loads of peashoots and most of the other things listed on the menu.
My main was braised beef cheek (£12.95), this decade’s cheffy answer to braised lamb shank. It could have been hotter but it was smashing: tasty, tender and juicy on a slick of a horseradish mash with little aniseedy notes which may have come from ‘textures of shallots.’ Now when I see that word on the menu I want to reach for a rolling pin to give the chef a good whacking, if only to stop the kitchen ‘anointing’ its salads or ‘enhancing’ sauces in future.
But that would be unkind to joint head chef Ashley Bagshaw and chef de partie Rose Heggie because the cooking is light and bright. That turbot, from Mann’s of Sharrow Vale, wasn’t a big piece (it’s a luxury fish) but it was precisely cooked with lots of flavour and served on a bed of lettuce, peas, bacon and mushrooms, very French.
Service from Faith, who started 15 years ago as glass collector at the brewery’s other pub, the Devonshire Cat, was pleasant and swift although probably not as speedy as that day in May, 1891, when 50 members of the Engineers Volunteers marched up to Ranmoor Church on parade and rematerialised in the yard of the Rising Sun, where pints were handed through a window. Then landlord John Guest Taylor was fined £2 for serving out of hours. I wonder what those Tommy Atkins’ would have thought of rabbit croquettes?
They’d have liked the desserts. Co-head chef Luke Hanson has built up a reputation for them. A whisky flavoured chocolate truffle with raspberry sorbet packed a high-octane cocoa punch while I was entranced by the firm, sponge-textured ‘custard cake’ in my rhubarb and custard ensemble. Both cost £5.95.
So there you have it. Good beer, good food (and more good wines promised when the wine list is updated by Starmore Boss of Sharrow Vale), good service and a good atmosphere. Not too sure about the music, though. We left shortly after the sound system played Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
“I’ll have to make a play list,” said Faith.
Rising Sun: 471 Fulwood Road, Sheffield S10 3QA. Tel: 0114 230 3855. Web www.risingsunsheffield.co.uk