No pizzas but you can have a Margherita

IMG_2888

Terrific pasta at Grazie

ALMOST alone among Sheffield’s Italian restaurants you can’t get a pizza at the latest to open, Grazie on Leopold Street. Not even a pizza Margherita.

But there is a Margherita. She makes the pasta.

Traditionally back home the best pasta is made by ageing Nonnas with bulging biceps who have been kneading and folding and rolling all their lives. The Margherita who makes the three types of pasta here is all of 21 and, not having seen her, I can’t speak for her biceps. But she has brought her mum with her! It’s glorious.

This is the lightest, springiest, toothsome pasta I’ve eaten for some time. I’m having main course orecchiette, ear-shaped pasta made with fine semolina (as is the shell-shaped cavatelli) in my Amore Pugliese (£9.25). It’s tossed with the stems of cimi di rapa, wild broccoli, anchovies, chilli, garlic and breadcrumbs for extra texture.

You could almost imagine being, if you ignore the double-deckers rolling by the restaurant’s picture windows, hundreds of miles away in a ristorante fanned by Mediterranean breezes.

IMG_2886 (2)

Sausage and mash, Italian style

Grazie, with a mostly Puglian regional menu, is owned and run by Vito Vernia, from that province via Piccolino in ,where he was general manager. Margherita is also from Puglia so she knows exactly the sort of pasta needed.

Grazie has already been widely praised, not least by my pal Craig Harris, whose review you can read here . I’d just like to add a few comments.

I don’t just like to leave a restaurant with, hopefully, a happy tummy full of good food, but an idea or two I can try at home when I’m feeling particularly cheffy. And, my word, there were quite a few at Grazie.

Craig and his wife Marie have already made one visit and he’s back, this time with us. And I’m eyeing up his main course sausage and mash. But it’s not as we know it.

There are two butterflied Italian sausages, as juicy and spicy as you could want, which have been griddled so there are perfect parallel lines. Instead of mash there’s a pool of broad bean puree and a garnish of caramelised red onions.

Fave e salsicca (sounds better already, doesn’t it?) is very tasty and I think I’ll give it a go, although I want to replace the broad beans with mashed potatoes. And I can’t help thinking that £14 is a bit steep for a couple of bangers, no matter how good.

There are lots of interesting things here. The semolina-rich Altamuran bread is excellent, particularly as a bruschetta tipica (£6.50). It’s smeared with some of that broad bean puree and topped with more cimi di rapa, the leaves this time, crispy onions, chilli and extra virgin olive oil. I love the Italian way of using two different parts of the broccoli. You won’t find it over here but try tenderstem or purple sprouting.

Graizie is in the premises of what used to be the Prosecco Lounge and reminds me a little of the early days of Gusto, then round the corner in Church Street, with its burst of new (to Sheffield) ideas and lively cooking.

Vito is married to Elena and you might see her and their new young baby Joseph popping into the restaurant during the day.

Grazie does coffee and cakes until 12 then the full menu operates through the afternoon and evening. There’s plenty more on the menu for us to explore – and we will.

1-3 Leopold Street, SheffieldS1 2GY. Web: http://www.graziesheffield.co.uk

IMG_2892

Vito Severa (wife and bambino in background)

 

Putting the shine back on Silversmiths

 

IMG_2909 (2)

Pork belly with apple

LAST time I was at Silversmiths restaurant on Arundel Street with a camera I was lurking on the corner trying to snap TV superchef Gordon Ramsay for The Star.

I found him in the street making a phone call during a break from filming his Kitchen Nightmares restaurant rescue show and got my front page picture – it was a bit blurry – but he caught me. “Did you write that piece in the paper?” he quizzed. I had to admit I had indeed wrote that he was a “foul-mouthed chef.”

He paused and walked silently back into the building. Interview over! When the series  was screened in 2009 there were 310 F-words in one episode alone and Silversmiths has become known all over the world.

Ten years later I’m back, this time legitimately, to see whether it will be third time lucky for this Sheffield restaurant since then owner Justin Rowntree, who had called in Ramsay to save his struggling enterprise, sold a transformed business on in 2017.

The last two reincarnations of the place have failed and doubtless there were a few more F-words when it suddenly closed in August, leaving diners in the lurch. So Silversmiths has a reputation to rebuild.

And Justin is back but in a different role. He’s been called in by new owners Rick Bailey and Matt Ray as consultant to publicise and advise on the relaunch. In a sense he’s doing a bit of a Ramsay “but without the swearing,” he laughed, inviting me to do a review as a guest diner.

IMG_2903

Silversmiths’ interior

They’ve pinned their hopes on tousle-haired head chef Ashley Bagshaw, just 24, who has already made a name for himself at the two AA rosette Chequers pub at Froggat Edge, to put the shine back on. I’ve already enjoyed his cooking at the much acclaimed Airoma pop-up venue with best mate Luke Hanson.

He’s opened with two menus: Simply British, with old favourites like fish and chips, a nod to Ramsay who instituted a pie night (here fish pie and a home-smoked brisket), burger, lamb rump and a steak; and a shorter, more expensive and adventurous a la carte featuring a mustard panna cotta starter, main course grouse with hazelnuts and a trio of desserts separate to the British menu.

IMG_2907

Blue cheese cigar

The restaurant, which seats around 60, seems wider than I recall (there is a separate dining room upstairs). That’s all to do with clever lighting, I’m told, and a row of mirrors helps. The familiar banquette which runs the length of the wall has been retained and so has the stage, a relic of its days as the One Eleven Club and Justin’s Runaway Girl (Ramsay changed the name).

Ashley cooks brightly. A blue cheese ‘cigar’, encased in a crisp pastry sheath (£7) which had absorbed the cheesy flavours, along  with melon balls and pine nuts, was an elegant starter. I had hoped for the panna cotta, which proved unavailable, so went for a very precisely steamed piece of cod enlivened by a hot but not blistering harissa sauce (£8)

My main course was pork belly, perhaps because I’d read that day it had been declared one of the world’s top ten nutritious foods, in at number eight between Swiss chard and beet greens.

IMG_2921 (2)

Sticky toffee pudding

Belly pork can be a dream of tenderness and succulence and this didn’t let me down, although my initial disappointment at the absence of a crisp piece of crackling was tempered by seeing Ashley had shattered the skin into crumbs and scattered them on top. The porkiness was continued through a quenelle of black pudding mash (£16). There was a nice piece of roast apple on top.

Chicken is so ubiquitous today that it often makes for a very dull meal. Here a supreme (£16) was full of cluck with plenty of flavour, alongside a rosti made up of a medley of root vegetables rather than just potato, and creamed leeks.

The long bar dominates the room and tables now occupy the stage which makes this a warm, friendly feeling place. Good music on the sound system, too.

We were greeted by general manager Paul Handley but most of the time we were served ably and enthusiastically by waiter and trainee sommelier Nathan.

We finished up with a chocolate suet pudding and a pretty nifty sticky toffee pudding.

The new Silversmiths is a bright, friendly place with a more than decent menu which should please those whose tastes are conservative along with others who want something a little bit different. Let’s wish it well.

Martin Dawes was a guest of the restaurant in writing this review.

*Silversmiths is at 111 Arundel Street, Sheffield S1 2NT. Web: http://www.silversmithsrestaurant.co.uk

71824611_505586630274616_830636796621619200_n (3)

Head chef Ashley Bagshaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter and Rob save the day for Maynard

img_20191116_221923-277454620.jpg

Rob Hattersley on the lawn at The Maynard

THE Maynard at Grindleford, which closed suddenly in October work forcing 50 couples to find a new wedding venue and putting 18 people out of work, is to reopen in January.

Award-winning new boss Rob Hattersley says it will continue in the weddings business and has made this offer to those left in the lurch. “I want people to feel they have a second chance of getting married here.

“I have already had one couple contact me. Within reason I will match the quote (people got from the old Maynard).”

He says the same goes for old staff who can reapply for jobs.

Mr Hattersley, aged 35, the son of Bakewell wine merchant John Hattersley, former proprietor of the town’s celebrated Aitch’s wine bar, has taken on the lease of the ten bedroomed hotel. He has set up a private limited company, Longbow Bars and Restaurants Ltd, to run the business from January 1.

He declined to name the new owner, saying he was “a very private individual.”

However I can reveal he is  businessman and roofing tycoon Peter Hunt of Ashford Hall, Ashford-in-the-Water.

Mr Hunt owns roofing and cladding business Coverworld, based in Chesterfield, as well as a number of other businesses and properties. He keeps a low profile but hit the headlines in 1997 when he bought Thornbridge Hall from Sheffield City Council, which had used it as an educational establishment.

He was not anxious to talk to journalists about his purchase then but I did manage to have a quick word with him when he attended the contents auction, at which he bought a number of books.

thornbridge-hall-1

Thornbridge Hall – one of Peter Hunt’s earlier homes

He sold it on five years later to  Jim Harrison, who was to found the renowned Thornbridge Brewery there, and his wife Emma, then boss of welfare-to-work A4e.

Mr Hunt did not reply to a request to comment on The Maynard.

Rob Hattersley, who was educated at Lady Manners School and took a BSc in hospitality management at Manchester Metropolitan University, comes to The Maynard (he is keeping the name but getting the hotel rebranded) with a career-long background in hospitality.

He has worked for the Revere pub group, the posh end of Marstons Brewery, and was until recently general manager of its flagship Farmhouse at Mackworth, Derbyshire, itself a weddings venue.

He announced on Instagram and Facebook that “I have big ideas to restore the life back into this iconic building with plans for the bedrooms, bar, restaurant and events.”

He told me: “I want to bring it into the modern age, doing things in a more acceptable way, making the food and drink more accessible. Everything I have ever done has all been premium.”

While he has moved away from the area (he worked for a time on cruise liners) The Maynard has always been in his heart. “We have had three family weddings there over the years. ” Although not his own. Rob is single.

He recently picked up general manager of the year in Revere’s annual awards.

Locals will be relieved The Maynard will continue as a hotel. There had been fears it would become luxury apartments, similar to others Mr Hunt owns, including the £300 a night Goldcrest at Stanton in Peak.

Not everything he does has met with local approval. He was in in a planning dispute over converting Bleaklow Farm, near Great Longstone,  into luxury accommodation. The farm was demolished but the new building was bigger than allowed by planning permission. Locals in the nearby hamlet of Rowland have protested about a 14 bedroomed “large country house complex.”

The Maynard is to undergo considerable refurbishment, something Peter Hunt will be experiencing at home. With a liking for big, historic buildings he moved on after Thornbridge to Grade I Jacobean manor house Holme Hall, Bakewell (a  location for the BBC’s 2006 version of Jane Eyre), before buying Ashford from banker and former High Sheriff of Derbyshire Jasper Olivier in 2009.

Ashford Hall 3356032_85305fbd (2)

Ashford Hall which Peter Hunt is having renovated

Grade II listed Ashford Hall, which stands in nearly 200 acres of prime farm land, is to be extensively renovated, subject to planning permission.  Work is expected to take two years.

The Maynard will be reopen considerably sooner, probably by the end of January.

 

 

Coverworld-1

Peter Hunt’s Coverworld HQ in Chesterfield