TO Luke’s Place, a new uber-trendy micro eaterie currently getting fave raves in an old takeaway on gritty Infirmary Road, Sheffield.
It’s a seven course tasting menu for £30 but you’ll have to guess what’s on the menu because it changes with whatever is available or foraged on the day.
While a keen forager myself I am a little bit sceptical of tasting menus – all nibbles and nothing really hearty to get your teeth into.
I still remember one tasting menu where a course featured a radish and greenery often seen growing through the pavement cracks. I sneak chickweed into a salad but don’t want to pay good money for it. ( That night we hurried home to a cheese sandwich. )
Luke’s Place is a mostly one-man-band run by Luke Reynolds and if you like chefs with beards, tattoos and a baseball cap on backwards he fits the picture,
He has a ploughed a small inheritance into the restaurant which gives more than a nod to the new Scandinavian school of cookery – pick it, preserve it and pretty it up.
The website tells us it’s an eight-seater but there are 12 of us sitting at a counter, screened by Perspex, watching Luke cook and chat. Very laid back, very relaxed. There’s funky music in the background – don’t ask me what it was – but it isn’t overloud.
Publicity so far has been on social media and TripAdvisor, which has been almost universally enthusiastic.
Portions are small but flavours and textures can be intriguing. After an amuse of cubed beetroot with curds, topped by a rye crumb and ultra-mustardy nasturtium leaf we had lovely wholemeal bread rolls with a yeasted butter ( roasted yeast flakes ), spread on by a silly, clumsy wooden knife.
There was nothing wrong with the barbecued leek, split for a filling of crunchy roast onions and served with a burnt cream sauce, other than that the leek skin was tough and difficult to eat.
And I really enjoyed the mushroom, barley and rye ‘porridge,’ in reality a barley risotto, given a lovely resonance by a rich mushroom stock and a ‘floss’ of marinated and roasted oyster mushrooms, torn to resemble pulled pork. Very clever.
There wasn’t any meat or fish on our totally vegetarian menu although it has appeared on others. Some might feel short changed paying the same money when ingredients cost pennies while others pounds.
There did seem to be a lot of barley, rye and blackberries, the last of which must have been foraged. We had them as a jam, roasted and raw although sometimes things jarred.
You can lavish as much care and attention on a green blackberry, pickling it in homemade elderflower vinegar, but it is still going to be a hard, little green nub of winciness.
This appeared alongside a heftily flavoured basil pannacotta which I liked but my wife didn’t.
There were more blackberries with a yoghurt ice cream and an excellent honeyed tuille.
Booking via the website wasn’t easy – and it was made for our party of four by fellow blogger Craig Harris who had a previous career in computer tech – and downright misleading: you get a booking confirmation for one hour later than the sitting begins.
The website also promises a £20 a head ‘drinks flight’ which was unavailable, as was the promised ‘natural wine.’ So we had distinctly under ginned cocktails and the sole beer, Asahi.
We ended with an excellent cube of fudge flavoured with smoked salt but this is a case of petit fours with no coffee. They don’t do it.
Nor is there an actual written bill – just a total shown on Luke’s device.
While others have clearly enjoyed the experience, and there were some things to admire, I felt some ingredients had been partnered simply because they were available and I wanted a wider selection. I also would have liked to watch more cooking instead of assembling dishes.
We didn’t need a cheese sandwich afterwards – the sturdy porridge saw to that – but this hasn’t changed my mind about tasting menus.
*For younger readers, The Move, a popular music combo, had a hit with this in the Sixties.
This restaurant has now closed.
132 Infirmary Road, Sheffield S6 3DH. Web: http://www.restaurantlukesplace.com
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