Sheffield fishcake sighted in Lincs!

IT MAY come as a shock but to some people the very thought of Yorkshire is exotic. That’s if you come from Lincolnshire.

We are at Mantle’s weirdly named Underground fish and chip restaurant, in truth a cellar, in Horncastle where I notice Yorkshire fishcake is on the menu. I wonder if it could be anything like a Sheffield one, a layer of fish sandwiched between two slices of potato , battered and fried?

Or, as they say, batter, tatter, fish, tatter, batter.

It is. Mantle’s, run by the Koslow family, has been selling it since last year. It seems to have caught on with the locals. Mr K, pictured below, must sell three or four a day. I ask if they went to Sheffield and got the idea there or if city customers told them about it?

After all, I have heard there are several outposts in Lincolnshire where you can find this delicacy. I’d be grateful if readers can point me to more.

Neither. Mrs K said she came up with the idea by herself. I am not entirely sure I buy that! But why call it a Yorkshire fishcake and not a Lincoln one?

“Lincolnshire doesn’t sound very special. Yorkshire does.”

So she was telling me Yorkshire sounds exotic? “Yes.”

We like Mantle’s for its quirkiness. It has proper fishknives – not made in Sheffield but you can’t have everything – because that’s tradition, she said. And note the pair of scissors at each table to snip open the sachets of sauce, tomato and tartare, rather than wrestle with them.

There is haddock, cod, plaice and ‘rock’ on offer, the latter presumably being whatever is available, usually dogfish.

It’s haddock in my fishcake which has a very crispy batter. I enjoy it as we do our cod, chips and mushy peas. The food here is pleasant although perhaps not in the super league occupied by the likes of Whitby’s Magpie or Sheffield’s own Market Chippy.

But if you find yourself in Lincs pining for a Sheffield fishcake you’ll know where to come. Mantle’s just need to rename their version.

Mantle’s is at 19 St. Lawrence Street, Horncastle

Advertisements

Jossals – a Rasen to be cheerful

YOU can’t miss Jossals, with its two red, blue, green and yellow Lincolnshire county flags blowing in the damp May air, just across Queen Street from the Whoops A Daisies children’s clothing shop.

Some people know the little market town of Market Rasen for horse racing; we know it for steak and ale pies, properly topped and bottomed with firm, short pastry, haddock in a crisp beer batter and dreamy, creamy mashed potato with today’s special, homemade Cornish pasty, or three Lincolnshire sausages in an onion gravy.

Jossals has been feeding the good people of Market Rasen for 30 years, most of them from the present site, the town’s former post office. It has been feeding us for six as we make our once a year trip to holiday in Lincolnshire.

Jossals is not flash or modern but resolutely retro in a Best of British kind of way. Here are proper pies, home baked ham, fish and chips, sausage and mash (with Yorkshire puddings), a very Anglo chicken curry like my father used to make at the Tower transport cafe, Biggleswade (famed the length of the A1) and a mirrorful of puddings.

Yes, you read that right. A whole nursery of old school puds is listed in white on the cafe mirrors. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin – and if this litany doesn’t take you back to childhood, nothing will.

Chocolate, syrup or ginger sponge, rhubarb and ginger crumble, sherry trifle, apple and pear pie, lemon and meringue pie and Cake of the Day, chocolate.

Every time I visit reinforces my belief that despite Britain’s cafes and restaurants’ seemingly relentless downward spiral with menus full of pizzas and burgers you can still find, if you look hard enough, classic British cooking.

For Sheffield readers old enough to remember this place recalls Tuckwoods – the waitresses are in black pinnies – with just a touch of Butler’s Dining Rooms.

On our lunchtime visit the clientele was elderly. “Fifty shades of grey. I bet there’s no one here without a pension,” murmured my wife.

Well, they know their food. It is simply done so well. My sausages, from a local butchet, are saged up to the hilt with peppery undertones, the mash is so good it would make a meal on its own, the puddings are decent and made in the kitchen, the onion gravy is silky with flour and if the peas are frozen I reckon a spoonful of sugar had made them sweeter than most.

I go for the rice pudding, really creamy with more than a hint of of vanilla and a dollop of strawberry jam in the middle.

In 2017 the owners, a quartet comprising Sally Graham, Jo Parson and Nick (the head chef) and Maxine Guymer, put the càfe on the market. But they weren’t rushing to sell: they want a buyer who will continue the Jossals tradition. Let’s hope they do but not just yet!

Jossals is at 7 Queen Street, Market Rasen.

Birdhouse trills a happy tune

IMG_2214 (3)

Bao Buns with pork belly

WE might eat first with our eyes but sometimes we taste what we think we see. So, hands up, this veteran foodie has just confused pickled onion for chilli.

Chef Kevin Buccieri has brought us his Thai green ice cream to try and first I get flavours of lemongrass followed by chilli coming through the cold. It’s a little unsettling but intriguing. I wonder how he does it. Is the chilli infused or is it these little flecks of red, I ask? No, that’s pickled red onion, he says. I taste again and now I know the pickle flavour comes through. Doh!

It works. Brilliantly. Kevin thinks this dish should be a starter or certainly a palate cleanser (palate confuser, more like!) but diners prefer it at the end, like we had.

We have been invited to eat as guests at the Birdhouse, the tea emporium run by mother and daughter Julie and Rebecca English in a former workshop in  the charmingly named Alsop Fields on Sidney Street, Sheffield. They recently hired Kevin, ex-Rutland Arms No 2, to up the food offer from pies.

The menu, his first, is a pot pourri of small plates or tapas, mostly with an oriental slant at around a fiver each. And they often come with a chilli riff.

The chilli sidles up almost as an afterthought with the slices of crunchy stir-fried lotus root. It comes at you full gallop with the Puy lentil curry, firm and toothsome. But it is instantly addictive, particularly since it is on a contrasting bed of crispy kale. My wife loves it and she is a woman who has shunned kale all her life.

IMG_2231 (2)

Chef Kevin Buccieri

We’ve been here before to buy tea but not lingered. There’s a sunny courtyard we now look down on from our upstairs table in one of two first floor rooms, all beams and brick, seating around 50. From the windows across the room you can see the Porter Brook filter its way through the city’s industrial backside.

Sidney Street is a little out of the way and apart from an A-board and a slightly outdated menu pinned to the front wall – there’s not even a menu or picture of a dish on the website as I write – so Kevin’s food is being hidden under the proverbial bushel.

Seek it out, if only for the pork belly filled steamed bao buns. I’d half expected a chopped filling  but the pork is in whole strips of tender hoisin-flavoured meat, a lovely contrast to the spongy, airy bun. There are two for £8.50 but the dish could easily be reduced to one to keep the fiver price point.

I first encountered Kevin, or his food, at the Rutland pub, just a stone’s throw away on Brown Street, where I had praised head chef Richard Storer (aka Chef Rico) for a stunning fennel ice cream with cucumber jelly. He sportingly gave all the credit to Kevin.

Kevin, in return, acknowledges his culinary debt to Rico. He’d left college after training as a joiner but found that without experience he wasn’t wanted so took to pot washing. After the usual round of pubs and restaurants, without much ambition, he found himself beached up at the Rutland “where I truly found my passion.” A light bulb had been switched on. He stayed for over four years before striking out on his own.

IMG_2207

Curried lentils, crispy kale

Now the Rutland is an odd place, a scruffy, some may say eccentric-looking boozer, with an inventive, experimental kitchen which daily faces the heartbreak of sending out the pub’s best-seller, the Slutty Rutty, a massive chip breadcake, to those who should eat better.

For this reason you will not find chips on Kevin’s evening menu (it is available from 6pm). “The nearest I come to chips is the patatas bravas,” he says. Ah, we didn’t try those. But we did seem to have everything else. Dishes kept arriving (remember, we were being treated) and we were in danger of becoming Monty Python’s explosive Mister Creosote.

We loved the delicate goats cheese arancini balls winking like eyes with little ‘pupils’ of yellow pepper puree and the crunchy cubes of tofu (served with silky avocado) in a sauce of teriyaki, wasabi and golden syrup (rather than honey, to please the vegans). Since tofu is all texture and no taste it needs these companions.

There were big, generous slices of home cured salmon with paper-thin beetroot as well as seasonal asparagus served the classic way, with poached egg, hollandaise and truffle oil.

Despite his surname – great grandparents came over from Naples and he grew up in Darnall and Birley – Kevin cannot speak Italian nor cares that much for Italian food. But he does do a celeriac ‘tagliatelle’ with pesto. See if you can guess what the sauce is. A clue: apart from the pesto the dish only has one ingredient.

Writing all this I realise just how much we ate so my tastebuds can be excused over the Thai ice cream (I ought to mention we also tried an Earl Grey ice with gin and vanilla sauce but don’t ask me for a considered opinion – I was flavoured out)!

IMG_2206

Delicate goats cheese arancini

My tastebuds were very much in action at the start of the meal with the arrival of home made bread with tzatziki. Sourdough, I silently groaned, for local bakeries all seem to make the same rubbery, damp bread. This was none of that and it was close crumbed instead of holey. Kevin was disappointed with the lack of air pockets but not us. If we want holes we’ll eat focaccia.

This menu is very much an opening salvo. Kevin, a one man kitchen, has high hopes of doing more fish, probably pickled, possibly a ceviche. And a duck dish with a chocolate nod to Sat Bains’ Nottingham restaurant may appear when he’s happy with it.

Sheffield’s food scene is currently the liveliest I’ve seen it. Strip away the seemingly endless burgers and pizzas and there are plenty of fresh ideas and talent.  The Birdhouse adds to the mix. Just don’t ask for chips or Italy’s most famous export. Kevin might sound Italian but “I hate making pizzas,” he says.

You would be in the dog house at the Birdhouse!

Birdhouse is at Alsop Fields, Sidney Street, Sheffield S1 4RG. Tel: 0114 327 3695. Web: http://www.birdhouseteacompany.com

IMG_2195

The Birdhouse. Our table is in the top window

————-