WITH A paper bag in my pocket I strolled into town, ready to do a little bit of foraging along the way.
I bake bread a couple of times a week and always have a supply of poppy seeds to incorporate in the dough or sprinkle over the crusts. But why buy when you can get them for free?
They’re not hard to find. The ground outside some blocks of social housing have been turned into wildflower meadows and at their height they look spectacular.
The project has been put on hold this year but the area has become self-set and there are plenty of crimson field poppies ablaze at the height of summer.
But I wait for the flowers to fade and the seed pods to ripen. They turn from green to blue-grey to brown and little windows open just below the top for the seeds, myriads of them, to sprinkle out in the breeze.
Unless, of course, I get to them first. It’s coming to the end of the poppy foraging now but even so I managed to collect a couple of tablespoons worth of seeds this week.
Pop the heads into a paper bag and work your way along the poppies. You’ll find the seeds tumble out and collect in the bottom of the bag. Resist the urge to crack the pods open for any last seeds for you’ll only get little shards of pod.
Then remove the heads and you’ll be left with the seeds which you can funnel into a suitable container. There is no need to dry them, they will be dry enough already.
I won’t get enough to last me all year but it will for a few months as I have collected them on a few trips out. That will spare me spending a few pennies!
I like the thought of saving dough when I make my dough . . .
IT’S BEEN a gloomy old week and that’s not including the weather. Holiday cancelled yet again and we really need to cheer ourselves up.
Let’s go down the hill and see if a trip round Sharrow Vale can revive our spirits.
Sharrow Vale may not be Minori – or Majorca – but it is close on becoming Sheffield’s new Restaurant Quarter with a more than Continental flavour.
Spanish, Sardinian, Italian, Vietnamese, Modern British, veggie and fishy places are all within a short stroll.
We fancy lunch at Mann’s wet fish shop where you just point at whatever you fancy on the slab and get it cooked at counter price. How is that for a bargain?
It is when you consider this place has spawned Native, the new, trendy ( and minty) fish restaurant Native, recently opened at Gibraltar Street, West Bar, a sort of son of Mann’s.
Chef-turned-fishmonger-turned-entrepreneur Christian Szurko has rapidly built up a mini fish empire based on his success in wet fish.
First there was a unit at Kommune, now deceased, then Native and almost simultaneously a fish shop in upmarket Bakewell.
The surroundings at Sharrow Vale are hardly swank: no more than eight stools bum to bum and within inhaling distance of the fish counter, with no chance of booking so it’s first come, first served, but, hey, it’s atmospheric and with the same ingredients as Native this is a bargain.
I strike lucky and keep two seats warm while my wife finishes an appointment. To keep myself amused I have three lovely oysters at £2 each, enjoying the thought I am saving 50p a mouthful on Native prices.
The fishmonger-chef is Scott Mills who will cook it how you want it while selling halibut or hake to non-dining customers.
He suggests a crab and coconut daal (one of two ‘sides’ available although the fish chowder has run out) and we settle on a scallop, couple of cod’s cheeks and some sea trout on top. Actually that just means we say yes to whatever he points to.
I reflect that cod’s cheeks have gone up in the world since you bought them for your cat.
Meanwhile I popped a few doors along to winesellers Starmore & Boss for a Madrigale rosato (just over a tenner).
That main was heaven. Daal is comfort food anyway ( the equivalent of sausage and mash), while the coconut added sweetness and a touch of the exotic and the crab a richness in flavour.
The trout skin was blackened just this side of barbecue and very crisp, the scallop was sweet and the cod’s cheeks also firm and sweet and far too good for cats. A sprig of samphire rounded things off. That’s £12 a plate. Perfect Scott!
We are not finished. We need dessert and coffee and so decamp around the corner to Spanish cafe-deli IberiCo in Dyson Place, newly removed from Hickmott Road with a larger menu. This what the Spanish do, somewhere for tapas, another for mains, a third for dessert.
We sit outside in the wan, chill sunlight and enjoy fine coffee and equally fine cakes involving lots of almond.
We think how lucky we are to have all this on hand and be only a short walk back home for a siesta.
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.
BEFORE Covid struck there was a hit play in the West End called The Play That Goes Wrong, in which Murphy’s Law rules supreme. Actors miscue, scenery falls down, things explode. It’s a real hoot.
It happens in the hospitality business too. Welcome to The Meal That Goes Wrong.
In this case it has happened early on in a restaurant’s life when things have still to be tweaked, staff to settle into routines and systems work the way installers promised
So although things went wrong on our night at the new Cornerstone restaurant in buzzing Dyson Place, just off Sharrowvale Road, I still thoroughly recommend it. Because by the time you go they will have tweaked big time.
You very certainly will be charmed by the 100-cover eaterie on two floors in the former Mission Hall, which had been empty and dark for years until developer Martin Flowers came along.
A building where the congregation once raised the roof in praise to God has had it raised yet again (and the floor lowered) to make enough space for tables on two levels.
And they probably won’t keep you waiting for an hour for food, bar bread and olives, and then arrive with your main course because the electronic ordering system has pinged your starters into Kingdom Come.
And, hopefully, the food won’t be tepid because it has waited on the pass too long under lights fitted too high up to keep things warm.
Nor, fingers crossed, will the fire alarm go off for five minutes because the barbecue in the kitchen is sending flames sky high.
This was the sort of night, to be honest, I would have given my right arm for when reviewing professionally because the story really writes itself. People, being what they are, like a touch of calamity. And it was my job to tell it how it was.
Well, I am a blogger now who pays his own way (unless where stated) and this is not one of those anodyne blogs, you’ve seen them, where Everything Is Simply Wonderful.
Folks, that’s not how life works.
Cornerstone is the project of brothers Richard and Michael Massarella, third generation members of the well-known catering family which runs a cafe empire across the North. It was grandfather Ronnie who started it off, building upon an icecream business developed by his own grandfather who emigrated from Italy over 150 years ago.
So they are not rookies in the business.
I’d booked for four of us online and a few days before the meal the agency sends a breezy email checking we are still going. Good idea to stop the no-shows. Then it suggests clicking a link to check the menu on the restaurant website. Bad idea. It’s not on there.
“We are still tweaking the website,” says Richard when we find our table, handing out flimsy paper menus because they are seeing what works and what doesn’t before they commit themselves to laminate.
The place is open all day and Massarellas don’t need any lessons on providing café dishes. Where the brothers have raised the eyebrows of older members of the family is angling the afternoon and dinner menu to World Food.
So while it nods at their Italian origins with pasta and chicken Milanese it goes progressively East with halloumi, harissa, falafel, kofta,Korean chicken and even a Vietnamese dish, cocking a cheeky snook at the Vietnamese restaurant across the block.
The building itself features bare brick walls with big chapel windows on one side looking onto the table-filled forecourt with heaters. Banquette seating runs round the walls while down the centre is a wooden arrangement which looks and feels, according to the ladies of the party, like old tram seats: fair enough for a five minute journey, not comfortable enough for a two hour meal.
A new metal staircase leads a low raftered first floor where, incidentally, three of the four unisex toilets are.
We order padron peppers with chorizo, sesame prawns with a dip and watermelon with whipped goats cheese but they never come. Our waitress has typed them into a tablet but they disappear into the ether.
We nibble at decent olives and bread (with no plates) and wait for them to arrive. And wait. Suddenly the alarm goes off just after a burst of flames in the partly open kitchen. Our pal Craig thinks it’s his peppers being barbecued.
There is a conclave of staff clustered at the controls for seemingly five minutes and a cheer goes up when it is finally turned off. I notice Richard leads a round of applause and he gets five stars for chutzpah. I like him.
When our mains arrive we vaccilate. The waitress says she will re-order our starters and they go back to the pass. But we worry we will get the same dishes back later and scrap the starters and recall the mains.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lady in possession of a fish does not want it with bones. Or if it is, the menu should say. My wife’s Vietnamese monkfish was served not as a fillet, nor as a steak, but completely on the bone. It was heavily spiced but the heat made up for the food being barely warm.
My lamb koftas were pleasant enough, served on a flatbread with labneh ( strained yoghurt) with rather too much coleslaw.
Craig was quids in, raving enthusiastically about his flatiron steak which, tweaking the menu himself, he had served with a broad bean, pea and feta salad, swapped from another dish. It, too, was lukewarm.
To be fair they offered us free desserts but we declined, perhaps a bad move as I have been told they are good. So Richard scrapped the alcohol bill. We liked him even more. Our bill was just over £70.
And Cornerstone had lots right: a relaxed, interesting menu, pleasant staff who kept to their stations so you weren’t being asked the same questions by different people, and a good atmosphere.
It’s not always right on the night, particularly when a reviewer is there. Murphy’s Law again. If things can go wrong, they will.
However, the runes are good for Cornerstone. I’ll go back. A tweak and a prayer should get them there.
IberiCo, that lovely little Spanish deli off Ecclesall Road, is on the move . . .
THE FiRST time I met Daniel, the owner of Spanish deli and tapas bar IberiCo on Hickmott Road, his Northern accent with a slight Sheffield twang led me to think he was a local lad with a liking for that country’s food.
Then when he effortlessly slipped into Spanish to greet an expat customer I thought ” By ‘eck, he’s got the lingo!”
He certainly has. But it’s our lingo. Although he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a Spaniard – he is tall, pale and laid back rather than short, dark and animated – Daniel Marquez Pedrosa is from Cadiz although, as he will tell you, his family comes from Cordoba. The city apparently had an influx of German immigrants a century or so ago.
He’s been in Sheffield since September 2014, arriving under the Erasmus scheme to study English at university. He obviously liked what he saw although South Yorkshire couldn’t be more different to the South of Spain. But he wasn’t so keen on teaching, his job after university, so looked around for something different.
The shop, a combination of grocery, coffee bar and cafe, opened last August Bank Holiday and brought an exotic flavour to the already vibrant mix of places on Hickmott and Sharrowvale Road, the lively area off equally Cosmopolitan Ecclesall Road.
While it has become a favoured destination for locals lured by the tempting sight of hams, hanging from the hook and on the cradle, it is also a rendezvous for expat Spanish, of whom there seem to be many in Sheffield.
“The Spanish say prices are higher than back home but they would be, wouldn’t they?” he jokes.
Until he speaks his native language you’d never guess he was Spanish although there’s a little clue on the menu with its idiosyncratic spelling of ‘ sandwhiches.’!
IberiCo almost never happened. The shop had been earmarked as a greengrocers but that fell through. Daniel had earlier been interested and got a call from the landlord.
The deli is the heart of the business, stocked with hams, cheeses and boxes and tins and packets of Spanish produce – everything from anchovies to tins of beans and excellent olive oil.
It won’t be there much longer. IberiCo is moving . . .but not far. August 13 has been pencilled in for transfer to the former premises of Olive & Joy in Dyson Place.
The larger premises will allow for a wider range of deli items and increase the offer not only from the shelves and counter but on the table.
For Daniel the move into bigger premises so soon wasn’t part of his business plan. “But you have to take your chances when you can. When we first opened this place didn’t look as it does now.”
Daniel, already Senor Jamon to local foodies, has made the little shop a favourite with many as an enoteca or bodega where they can sit down with a plate of meats or cheeses with a bowl of olives, glass of wine and bread from Phil at nearby Perfectionery. Seats are limited although in warmer weather they spread outside.
With more room in Dyson Place there will be tables inside and out. “There will be much more food. We will have a young Spanish chef and she has written a very good menu. It’s going to add a lot to Dyson Place,” he says.
Expect the transition to take a few weeks before it gets fully into gear. There will still be those plates of meats and cheeses plus a menu for more casual dining.
And as IberiCo moves out another food business moves in, upmarket patisserie Gilt from Abbeydale Road.
CHEF Cary Brown, one-time Bad Lad (reformed) of Sheffield restaurants, is in full flood with his intentions for his latest seafood venture: Neon Fish.
Builders are still working on the interior of what was the elegant Marco @ Milano on Archer Road but, as is always the case with Cary, the floor is littered with metaphorical donkeys hind legs and the occasional gastronomic sound-bite.
So when Cary rings his suppliers around the coast he’ll get the catch so quickly that when he calls “Tomorrow’s fish is still in the sea.” Heave-ho my hearties, the captain is speaking.
Here’s another. He detects people’s eating and social habits are changing so that “Saturday afternoons are the new Friday nights. They can come home, watch a bit of telly and fall asleep on the sofa.”
Neon Fish should be opening late July. He’s not in a rush, what with Covid still stalking in the shallows like a piranha – one fish not on the menu. Those who remember the heyday of Slammers on Ecclesall Road or recall his monkfish at Carriages will be licking their lips.
He chose the name after seeing an eatery in New York called the Neon Burger and signed by one: no letters, just the electric logo.
Neon Fish will be signed the same way and the decor will be full of glowing neon fishes. In a sense Cary is his own logo. At his last place his cartoon was on the menu. There has never been a Cary’s Cuisine but there was a Brown’s restaurant before the similarly named chain came to town.
The restaurant has not been finished or dressed for pictures but I get him to pose underneath a picture, appropriately, of fish inherited from previous owner Marco Giove. They are pals and Cary used to help him in the kitchen so he is no stranger to that.
This is the 14th place he has either owned, managed or cheffed and that’s not counting consultancies. “This is my last one. If it doesn’t work out I have no excuses,” he says.
It’s not entirely his. He is in 50-50 with co-director Gracie Anderson, a 23-year-old aspiring actress who has, at least for the moment, chosen the dining room as her theatre. She has already starred at the Devonshire Arms, Middle Handley, where they first met, and went on to manage front of house at the Tickled Trout, Barlow.
Ñeon Fish, in what is arguably one of the prettiest restaurant buildings in the city, has two dining room and a heated terrace on three levels seating 50 or so with sails and canopies.
There will be a bar, driftwood tables and, the centrepiece, a seafood ice bar in the lobby piled high with oysters, lobsters, crab, langoustines, buckets of mussels and everything else that could possibly go in a fruits de mer.
In addition there will be a reprise of Cary’s celebrated fishy Slammers, in some cases “pulled up to date,” those Basque tapas pintxos, good old-fashioned fish and chips for those with the word Whitby written in their hearts, a day boat menu ( turbot sir?) and yes, if you want it, meat. A cote de bouef (rib eye) will be on the menu.
And did I mention the revival of ‘chicken in the basket,’ given a 2021 update?
Cary reckons he can do all this with two more chefs in the kitchen because, with fish, it’s minimal although accurate cooking with first class ingredients and presentation.
He gets serious, pointing out that post-Covid the hospitality industry is finished as it was. Already it is struggling to get staff no longer prepared to work long anti-social 60 to 70 hours a week.
“We will open on Thursday at 12 and go right the way through until Sunday (when there will be a return of Cary’s orgasmic roast dinners). That way staff have three full days off. More and more places are not opening earlier in the week for this reason.”
It will be interesting to see how he fares up against Christian Szurko’s recently opened Native fish restaurant. Prices will be similar. Cary says they are different sides of town with different client bases. As to prices, people must be prepared to pay for first class ingredients.
He is 55 now, a plumper, older version of the cocky young head chef (at 23) I first interviewed at the Charnwood Hotel. There have been successes and shipwrecks along the way since then: the Rock Inn, Carriages (his longest port of call), Simply Carriages, Slammers, Brown’s, The Limes (in Barnsley), Mini Bar, London Club, Royal Oak, Devonshire Arms MH, Barlow Woodseats Hall, Earnshaw & Brown at Hathersage Social Club, and now here.
He’s also reanimated. “In the past two years I have never been in a darker place. At one stage I thought I was never going to cook again,” he tells me. Then he brightens up.
He’s looking forwards to working with Gracie. To coin a phrase, they’re in this together, sink or swim.
“Seafood speaks for itself. All the glamour is there, all the theatre, if you know how to cook it,” he says. With Gracie holding the stage, Cary at the helm, many in Sheffield can’t wait for them to drop anchor . . .or should that be curtain up?
IT CAN’T just be me, surely? I am at the butchers ordering a nice leg of lamb for Sunday dinner when I catch him about to saw the knuckle off.
” Whoa! Stop! That’s the best bit,” I cry and the knuckle hangs limply but still attached. My brothers and I used to fight over who was going to get that. . . as well as a teaspoonful of the blood that leaked from the joint into the runnels of the carving dish.
“It tastes so sweet,” I add and he nods. ” But our customers don’t like it and don’t want to pay for it.”
I sigh – not just because we now have a generation or two who have no idea how to use and eat the grobbly bits of meat – but because he should know me better.
It’s here I come to order breast of lamb because, if it sells at al, it goes to the dog, or give notice I’ll have some cheaper tail-end beef fillet because it’s going to be sliced up for a stroganoff. No point in paying good money for the meat further up the joint. It’ll taste the same.
I try and buy all my meat from a butcher, grobbly bits and all, but cry inside at supermarkets when I see labels telling me the innards of chickens and turkeys are not included “for your convenience.” He or she who cannot make a giblet gravy does not deserve the name of cook.
I am not going to rant on here that if you are a carnivore you respect the animal by eating most or all of it and not just the ‘best bits.’ I like to eat as if there’s a war on and it’s waste not, want not.
I have noticed big loins of pork for sale at The Moor Market for very reasonable prices – from £10-£14. Now one of these will give me some home-made middle cut bacon, spiced the way I like it, plus I can cut up the rest for a roast loin joint for two and still have enough meat left over for a stew or curry.
But hang on,, all these loins have been trimmed of skin and most of the fat. I want my bacon with the rind on because even in my favourite butchers’ it’s been taken off, doubtless for my own ‘convenience.’
This is part of the reason I make my own bacon, as you can see here. I like bacon rinds. They provide fat to fry the rashers and are great to eat crozzled up. Think mini pork scratchings.
So I have to ask for a joint specially cut with the skin left on but boned. I mutter something about people not knowing their meat, expecting the butcher to cluck in sympathy. He doesn’t. ” People like it this way.”
Now, wait for it, this’ll make you laugh: the joints are sold with ‘crackling for free. It’s only the skin and fat which has already been taken off!
While I’m about I ask for the bones. They will still have meat on and make a nice supper, marinated then roasted slowly in a barbecue sauce as spare ribs.*
So that’s bacon, a stew and a nice greasy gnaw on some grobbly bits from one piece of pork for under a tenner.
Call it nose-to-tail eating or think there’s a war on, it doesn’t matter. I know what butcher Cpl Jones from Dads Army might say: “They don’t like it up ’em!” Or should that be, in ’em?
* These are my free spare ribs from the loin of pork. There’s not really a recipe, I marinated them overnight in a mixture of soy and black bean sauces, ketchup, Sheffield Relish, coriander powder and so on, then roasted at 150C for three hours under tin foil. The pan was a bit dry but a few tablespoons of water, some honey and tomato paste stirred in made a lovely sauce.
AT THE age of 57 Marco Giove has seen all the varieties a life in Italian catering in Sheffield can offer – so he is going to take it a little easier from now on.
“I never saw my children growing up because I was always working. I want to spend more time with my five grandchildren,” he says.
Which is one of the reasons top city restaurant Marco @ Milano is no more.
After 21 years in the former Archer Road cop shop Brindisi-born Marco is handing over the keys to friend and fellow chef Cary Brown, who will reopen the venue as Neon Fish.
Marco, second generation of a Sheffield-Italian catering family founded by his late father Marco Senior, was one of those who took local Italian cooking up a notch or two from cheap and cheerful to fine dining.
After learning his trade in the family restaurant he had run Rossi’s from 1990 to 1995 before being approached by Nonnas duo Maurizio Mori and Gian Bohan to manage the venue, then called Milano, which they owned with Robert Brady. “I said no but I’d buy the business off them,” he recalls.
It was a bit of a struggle at first but he persevered and with head chef Franco Esposito’s cooking the place got noticed, nationally as well as locally: In The Guardian’s Italian Top 10 and the Independent’s Top 15 for alfresco dining – there is a beautiful terrace out the back overlooking Millhouses Park.
Then came the Pandemic. “I’d already been thinking about going back to casual dining, pizza and pastas, before it happened. I started doing takeaways during lockdown and found it was easier,” he says. And that’s when he decided not to return.
His Facebook and Instagram pages have been full of appreciative comments from customers and mournful messages and he says that is what he will remember from his time there – diners who have turned into friends. But they haven’t completely lost him.
He is continuing the takeaway business so the Marco @ Milano name will continue. He might be quitting the Milano kitchen but he’s just crossing the road to take up residence in Hazel’s Quality Catering kitchen. And the collection point will remain, the garage forecourt opposite the restaurant.
Ironically, it doesn’t look as if there will be a third generation Giove family in catering. Things are a lot different now than when he and his brother Vincenzo, with whom he worked, were growing up.
“We didn’t have a choice. They were different times. We worked in the restaurant as a family. I was put into the kitchen at nine and Vincenzo was put on the floor with my Mum. We have not imposed anything on ours (he and his wife Yasmin have three daughers who have gone their own ways).
Marco, who also got a couple of local awards for best restaurant of the year, has been equally at home front of house as well as in the kitchen but, I wondered, which gave him the bigger buzz? He doesn’t have to think about it: cooking.
Now cooking by himself for the takeaway trade he will still be getting a buzz. And from his grandchildren.
Changes at two Hathersage venues. MARTIN DAWES reports
JOHN PARSONS has taken over as head chef of Hathersage Social restaurant, replacing Cary Brown who has left to pursue a new venture in Sheffield.
Cary enigmatically announced on Facebook that the business, previously known as Earnshaw & Brown at Hathersage Social, was now simply Earnshaw.
For John, who had been cooking at the quirky staff canteen at Breedon Cement Works, it was a chance to return to his home village, where he has worked at different venues over the years.
Breedon was perhaps the only canteen which served tomatoes on toast with za’atar spices, Japanese noodles and other world foods and was also open to all-comers.
It had been a nice little number, acting as a base for outside catering, until Covid restrictions barred the canteen to its own workers. John survived by cooking takeaways for the surrounding villages.
“It’s been two and a half years since I have been in a serious kitchen and did I feel it!” he said on his first day back. His first menu has John Parsons written all over it from the beef cheek Marmite and sauce gribiche to the much-copied Three Little Pigs ‘with pig sauce.’
Owner Earnshaw diplomatically declines to discuss past events althoiugh he did say he had sold his Aston Martin to tide restaurant and staff over during Lockdown in the absence of furlough funding. Instead he enthuses about the menu including “a spectacular Paris Brest.”
Lisa Everest, known to many from years front of house at Yankees on Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, will manage the restaurant.
ERIC MARSH has sold the three star George Hotel which he took over a quarter of a century ago as “a rundown pub with rooms and a toilet with a condom machine” and turned into a plush three star hotel.
It is now being run as a companion hotel to The Maynard at Grindleford, owned by care home millionaire Peter Hunt, and Maynard general manager Rob Hattersley has taken over the lease.
Eric. who jokingly referred to the George as his pension fund, for many years also ran the Cavendish Hotel at Baslow on behalf of the Chatsworth Estate. Observers referred to the George as Cavendish-lite; he himself called it as “like the Cavendish but without the view.”
One of the old school, he encouraged loyalty in both staff and customers. He could work a dining room with consumate ease, leaving guests feeling they had known him for years, not minutes.
Very much hands on, it was his voice you heard on the recorded announcement if you rang while reception was engaged.
Outside the hospitality business he built and flew his own aeroplane.
At both the Cavendish and George, he had a gift for public relations and PR spin. A few years ago, to drum up business, he threw a party to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the latter. That would date it from 1515 but the earliest records are from the 1700s.
Nothing daunted, he offered an overnight stay to anyone who could come up with documentary evidence to back his claim. As far as is known the prize was untaken. But he did get the George blessed by a bishop.
Rob paid tribute to Eric as “an inspiration for Derbyshire hospitality for many years.”
THIS IS developer Martin Flowers, the man behind that new lively little square of shops, flats and restaurants which is Dyson Place, not far off Ecclesall Road, Sheffield.
On a sunny weekday morning the place is vibrant as people stroll in to buy a coffee, stop for lunch, get their hair cut, shop for vegetables or seek a little therapy in the tweely-named but correctly apostrophied Artisans’ Yard around the back.
Martin, aged 63, with no thought of retiring, sips his double expresso outside Tonco, his first tenant, and tells how he had to battle with planners to get his concept off the drawing board.
He’s a tactful man so we’ll brush over the original Town Hall veto of no shops. “Think how boring it would have been,” he says.
It would. The square is overlooked by 14 triple-glazed two-bedroomed apartments with ample balconies from which to survey the scene below. All but one are rented. That is occupied by him and his wife Wendy so living above the shop helps them keep a benign eye on things.
“I’d never done anything like this before so I had no idea how it would turn out. It has raised the standards in Sheffield. It’s even got decent toilets,” he says. His previous schemes were residential.
Right from the start, when he heard the site was coming up for sale on the death of Ron Wetherall, owner of garage firm Champion & Emmett, he knew he wanted a mixture of residential and commercial. The problem was getting the planners to see that. They just wanted flats.
He also wanted good restaurants. He likes his food. “I find Sheffield a frustrating city . . . I get tired of having to go out of Sheffield to eat decent food.”
The idea for Dyson Place, named after the cigarette stub of a lane between Mann’s fishmongers and the Mediterranean restaurant on Sharrowvale Road, first emerged in April 2013 but it wasn’t until just before Christmas 2019 that it received its first tenant, restaurant Tonco.
He met would-be restaurateurs Joe Shrewsbury and Flo Russell, who were then also considering another location in the city, on site. “It was an article of faith,” he says as the young couple were looking for their first bricks and mortar business. He’s been proved correct. Joe has no doubts he made the right decision. ” It’s really busy here. The city centre is dead.”
The other hospitality outlets are Vietnamese restaurant Nam Song, vegan coffee and cakery Olive & Joy, and from late summer a new Italian-style restaurant, Cornerstone, in what was the old Mission Hall.
Ironically, this was the one place planners did originally approve for a restaurant. The origins of the hall, built in 1905, are something of a mystery, as is its location, someone’s back yard.
If the original occupants raised the roof with their singing, Martin and his engineers have done it again literally. The roof was raised over a foot in the renovation.
The restaurant offer is going to stop there. ” I want Dyson Place to be somewhere people can kill time, look around the shops, while waiting to meet someone,” he says.
Other businesses include Inco Interiors, furniture and furnishings; men’s hairdressers Rapscallions in a former lock-up once used to store Christmas trees, and Unit 6, currently fronted by Doncaster-based greengrocers K.D.Davis & Sons.
The fruit and vegetables bring a splash of colour to the square. ” It’s a different culture to Doncaster ( where the firm has a big stall on the market). People don’t start buying until much later,” says Andrew Davis. His grandfather started the business in 1938. He is third generation, his sons are the fourth.
Behind the aubergines and grapes is an area for a mix of micro-businesses, a sort of posh flea market.
Martin finishes his coffee and leads me into Artisans’ Yard, housing skin clinic Arubia, acupuncture and lifestyle practice Life & Lemons and handmade children’s clothes makers Bear & Babe.
This area was originally meant to be the beer yard for the Mission Hall project but developed “organically,” his favourite word.
Dyson Place has had a spin- off effect on the local area. “It’s brought increased footfall on a Sunday from people attracted to the place,” says Marvin, who runs nearby curios emporium Trove.
Dyson Place is the latest sector of an area of Sheffield which has seen its fortunes transformed in the last half century. Ecclesall Road started things with its shops and boutiques, earning it the sobriquet ‘Bond Street of the North,’ before going over to restaurants and micropubs.
Then it was the turn of Sharrowvale and Hickmott Roads, cheaper rents attracting a variety of independent shops, as off-Ecclesall Road. Dyson Place leads off Sharrowvale so in reality it is off-off Ecclesall Road.
It is only with great reluctance that he agrees to be photographed and then when I threaten to take his back view. “Even worse!” he protests.
Developers are often categorised as greedy but you sense Martin has a heart. Consuming food and drink bought off the premises in the square is banned except for fish and chips from local chippie Two Steps “as we love them,” says a notice board.
It also appeals to the little boy in him. ” This to me is a game of Lego – taking bricks and reshaping them.”