Poppabombs and the curry philanthropist

kashmir curry centre

Long gone but not forgotten – the Kashmir

The first in an occasional series on former Sheffield restaurants and personalities.

THERE was lino on the floor, the three dining rooms were filled with mismatching Formica-topped tables and, so popular legend had it, a notice on the wall had declared ‘Today’s special: chicken curry’ for the last 20 years.

Apart from the twinkling fairy lights in the window looking onto Spital Hill, Sheffield, this could be the Asian equivalent of Butlers Dining Rooms, the ethnic Sheffield workman’s café par excellence across the city on Brook Hill.

The Kashmir Curry Centre, one of Sheffield’s oldest curry houses – restaurant is too strong a term for what was essentially a caff with great food – closed in November 2010 after 36 years. Such was its reputation that some people thought they’d been there when all they’d done was read about it, as one writer ruefully admitted.

Behind a counter sat the owner Bsharath Hussain, who’d worked there from the start, as a boy of 14, in the business started by his Mirpuri-born father. Bsharath was affectionately known as Paul by his customers and by me when reviewing until the time he told me apologetically that the elders in his mosque had asked him to use his proper name.

The clientele was mostly white, very often wimmin from Walkley, at least on our visits. “If you can get past the Guardian reading clientele and the woefully outdated decor, there’s an excellent curry waiting for you,” said one contributor to a local website. The Harden’s Guide echoed that: “Great cooking if you don’t mind the bare tables.”

I remember the breads, wonderfully light. “The plain naan is unlike any other – in colour and texture somewhere between leavened bread and Yorkshire Pudding,” said one currylovers’ blog. Others praised the Kashmiri lamb, the “near sublime samosas,” the vegetable thalis and the fact that the food was not overladen with ghee.

bsharat hussain.png
It was also inexpensive. Well, you weren’t paying for the surroundings or the waiters. With two cooks in the kitchen Bsharath, who avoured traditional dress, did most of the front of house himself. A carafe of water went on the table when you arrived and if you wanted something stronger you could bring it yourself from Morrissey’s East House pub across the way. Incidentally, the upper room of this pub once housed the city’s first Japanese-style restaurant.

Bsharath, who whiled away the quieter restaurant moments reading a copy of Vikram Seth‘s almost 600,000 word novel A Suitable Boy which a customer had recommended, had a good sense of humour. He styled himself the Curry Philanthropist because prices were so low. In 2008 starters seldom topped £2 and mains a fiver. But that didn’t help profits.

Around 2006 the place got a makeover. There were pictures on the walls and each Formica table was covered with identical plastic gingham tablecloths. “After 30 years I realised that if you buy some plastic it all looks the same,” he said dryly.

The menu was also jazzed up. South Indian dishes such as idli and dhoka made an appearance as did his famous ‘poppabombs,’ golgappa or pani puri, crisp little spheres of semolina flour stuffed with chutney and tamarind. It was quite possibly the first appearance of this Indian street food in the Sheffield.

Sadly, it wasn’t enough and he and his wife made the decision to close in 2010. It all happened rather suddenly. Bshareth, then 49, could no longer afford to, in effect, subsidise his customers’ dining.

The Kashmir was the nearest thing Sheffield had to the stripped-down curry houses that Bradford is famous for. Almost ten years later it is still missed.

Advertisements

Still shouting to the Rafters

 

20180301_142630.jpg

My review soon after Rafters opened in 1989

THE chef didn’t cook with onions and garlic, the waiter started a discussion about Adolf Hitler within minutes of us sitting down and we had no idea this odd little restaurant would become such a shining star in Sheffield’s culinary story.

 But by the end of the evening we knew we’d had a damn good meal at Rafters even though we had the whole place to ourselves.

 The other day Alistair Myers, the current owner (along with head chef Tom Lawson) posted on Facebook that the Good Food Guide-listed place was celebrating its 25th anniversary. Great news in an industry where even the best places can be short-lived but it is not the whole story. It may be 25 years since the Bosworth brothers, Wayne and Jamie, put the restaurant on the map but the roots go back even further, to 1989.

 The establishment of the restaurant, the naming and its ambition was the work of three enthusiastic amateurs in the hospitality business although they were not new to another branch of catering.

 They were June Hall , a former bakery worker and mother of six, George Taylor, her partner, financier and, on our night, the rookie waiter, and baker Steve Sanderson, with June, the chef at Rafters.

 Between them they had a burning ambition to run a posh restaurant. So do a lot of other people but it was the way they went about it that impressed. The two chefs honed up their cooking skills at evening classes at Earl Marshall, where June even found the time to learn upholstery to recover antique dining chairs they’d bought on Abbeydale Road.

The upstairs restaurant had previously been the Carriageway café and before that it was known as the Lord Mayor’s Parlour.

 She was determined to get the look of the place right. There was white linen, cut glass, Wedgwood plates and Sheffield cutlery underneath the black rafters which spidered across the ceiling and which gave the place its name.

FB_IMG_1519936878800.jpg

Wayne Bosworth in the Rafters van in the Nineties

 We paid £51.50 for our meal, big money back then, which is why, perhaps, we were the only customers that night. They had opened in February and we went in April. But the food was good.

 We began with prawn gratinee (£3.25) and smoked salmon and egg roll (£4), followed by soup and sorbet, the country house fashion at the time. There were 14 main courses, half of them steaks, but we had duck with Cumberland sauce (£12) and veal with a watercress and almond sauce (£12.75). Steve was responsible for the mains. “I cook without onions and garlic and I keep asking myself if I’m doing wrong,” he said afterwards.

20180303_155317 A youthful Jamie and Wayne 03-03-2018 15-47-11

A youthful Jamie and Wayne Bosworth

 It’s fascinating looking back on menus from 30 years ago. There was crab and avocado among the starters and a main called chicken mango, rubbed with sesame seeds and cooked with a mango and cream sauce.

 “I’ll shout it to the rafters . . . that we know something Sheffield doesn’t. They serve a memorable meal” I wrote after we finished off with petit pot of chocolate and a frozen Grand Marnier orange, a sweet from the era of Abigail’s Party, if ever there was.

 Despite my praise it did not thrive. By the time the Bosworths took over Rafters was closed more times than it was open. “They were just opening Saturdays and using the restaurant as a base for outside catering,” recalls Jamie.

He and Wayne, who had come from working at the Chantry, Dronfield, were innocents abroad in those days and set about running it without the restaurant licence they required. To cover themselves either June or Steve sat in the kitchen with them until the licence came through. It was then they saw the quick cheffy techniques which had taken them ages!

Meanwhile the brothers were agonising whether to change the name but they couldn’t come up with anything both agreed on. “It’s not easy. Eventually we settled on Bosworth Brothers @ Rafters for a while,” says Jamie, who is glad they didn’t change it.

The Bosworths put Rafters into the guides and made it one of the city’s leading restaurants. After Wayne’s death in 2000 Marcus Layne joined the partnership, eventually buying the business and running it until, beset by ill-health, he sold it on in 2013 to Alistair and Tom. At 14 years, his has been the longest tenure at Oakbrook Road.

.So while Rafters is right to celebrate those 25 years we shouldn’t forget those brave pioneers who laid the groundwork.

5373f24373c6eacc13c97c9539f6495f6eb7cba7[1]

Tom Lawson and Alistair Myers

 

 

 

 

Cross words at the Cross Scythes

IMG_0743 Cross Scythes Totley 24-01-2018 13-20-03

The Cross Scythes at Totley

FOR pub landlord Terry Groves it could all have gone terribly wrong. His local paper ran a story online listing the Cross Scythes at Totley as among 11 Sheffield eating places which got a big fat zero in the city council’s Scores on the Doors hygiene ratings.

Within hours it was on social media across the city. The Sheffield Forum website linked to it under the heading ‘Sheffield food places to avoid.’ There among a group of grubby looking takeaways was a pub with a gastro reputation in a posh suburb. So did trade slump? Quite the opposite. “A lot more people know about us now,” he told me.

The ratings run online all year but get an annual publicity boost in January. It’s part of a national scheme. Newspapers use it as a hook to run stories and while some of the places on the list might not raise eyebrows the inclusion of the Cross Scythes, which had a reputation as a gastropub under a previous head chef, Simon Ayres, certainly did.

In better times The Star would have told a reporter to ring up and find out what was going on. Instead it ran a series of 11 photographs, online only, with brief details, requiring users to click through to discover each one. As one disgruntled person commented on Sheffield Forum, this is ‘clickbait’ which would have exposed him to numerous adverts, according to his adblocker. It’s a deliberate way to earn the website money from more ‘clicks’ but lazy journalism..

So what was the story which The Star failed to find? Terry, aged 63, and his wife Glyn will be well known to local pubgoers. They ran a couple of Beefeaters, including the Mossbrook at Eckington, which they opened, as well as the Bradway Hotel and the Nelson on Furnival Gate, re-opening it as the revamped Grape Treaders and Hop Pickers.

They took a break from the trade to raise a family but were running the Shepherds Rest at Lower Bagthorpe in Nottinghamshire when they took over Enterprise Inns’ Cross Scythes last October. They now look after both.

“We knew about the zero rating. The previous tenant had said the chef had taken home the paperwork and forgotten it. Hmm. I suppose it was partly my fault I didn’t tell Environmental Health we had moved in but we were running two places and Christmas was coming up,” Terry said.

When the story went online (it hasn’t appeared in print) Terry went on Facebook to complain The Star was being unfair and to explain the situation. He’s asked, twice, for a new inspection but the council has a backlog. Terry is sanguine. The pub’s Facebook page has had plenty of hits and shares and comments have been “90 per cent positive. Until this happened I hadn’t realised the power of social media. A lot more people know about us. Some have given us five star reviews out of solidarity.”

Terry believes the rating was a paperwork problem: that gets an automatic zero. The kitchen was reasonably clean when he arrived but some equipment needed replacing. Staff training has been improved and he is happy for anyone to inspect the kitchen.

As he and Glyn moved in the previous chef walked out. Local boy Connor Lightfoot has moved up from sous to head chef. These days the Totley boozer isn’t going for gastropub status but is happy with pie, tapas and curry nights with a new specials and a la carte menu just being introduced.

Locals have rallied round on Facebook. “You’re my local. The food is always spot on,” says one. Terry reflects: “You know, there really is no such thing as bad publicity!”

Web: http://www.cross-scythes.com

cross scythes tapas

Tapas at the Cross Scythes

FOOTNOTE: The Cross Scthes has now changed hands and is run by Scott Philliskirk , formerly of the Hidden Gem.

 

How bread and butter pud went classy

wayne and cary

How it was. Wayne Bosworth (l) and Cary Brown: Puddings and pals

BREAD and butter pudding might just be a humble British dessert in many parts of the country but in Sheffield it takes on a bit of class. At one time you couldn’t go into any half-decent city restaurant and not find it on the menu.

It is still a firm favourite although perhaps not seen quite as much. Fashions change. But as far as this neck of the woods is concerned there’s a good story behind how a simple pudding was elevated into a fine dining dish.

This post has come together through a series of coincidences. Firstly, I reported late last year on the death of Chris King, founder of the former Charnwood Hotel, which was the high-end home of bread and butter pud. Around the same time chef Jamie Bosworth posted on social media that it was the 25th anniversary of the famous Bosworth Brothers baked apple bread and butter pudding recipe, originally created by his late brother Wayne.

Then I came across an old copy of Profile magazine, for which I used to write, from November, 1999. The main food feature was a bread and butter ‘cook-off’ between Cary Brown and Wayne, both in their time head chefs at the Charnwood. With two such highly talented chefs I knew better than to rate one dish above the other!

When Cary was head chef at the Charnwood in the late 1980s the menu was full of dishes with a French flavour but owner Chris wanted to offer guests something simple and comforting – and British – to end the meal. Cary came up with bread and butter pudding. Talking to him the other day, he recollects being influenced by his time at the Savoy Hotel and by Gary Rhodes in his Greenhouse days.

He turned in a super-eggy, creamy, luxurious dish which became quite a hit at the Charnwood. Cary moved on but when Wayne followed him into the hot seat a year or two later he was big enough and talented enough to dislike copying another chef’s recipe. So his was much that Cary’s was not.

“For a start I don’t like dried fruit like sultanas and raisins so they weren’t going in,” Wayne told me back then. “So I thought let’s use apricot jam and insert apple slices between the bread.” It turned out Cary didn’t like dried fruit either but used it because his customers wanted it.

The photoshoot was at Wayne’s then restaurant, Rafters, on Oakbrook Road, while Cary came up from Carriages (now Peppercorn) on Abbeydale Road South.

Both chefs, who had started out being slightly wary of each other, were by then great friends and were complimentary about each other’s version. “Cary’s is slightly sweeter and richer than mine,” said Wayne. His friend countered: “Wayne’ is more up to date. Mine is more classical.”

Both chefs took the recipe with them wherever they went and while Wayne dropped his for a time customer pressure got it back on the menu. Other restaurants copied one or the other or came up with their own versions. Cary’s dish is often served with a butterscotch sauce, the Bosworth version with sticky toffee sauce.

IMG_0609 Cary's bread and butter pudding 10-12-2017 16-13-16

Cary’s tray version for a Sunday lunch at Barlow Woodseats Hall

Since Wayne’s death it has been left to Jamie to carry the flame. And he’s updated it. “For about the last ten years I have been using brioche – it saves buttering bread – and is now richer from using a brulee-style egg yolk and cream using yolks instead of whole eggs,” he says.

And he adds Wayne nicked the idea of using jam and apples from his mother Gwen because the whole family disliked dried fruit. Judging from the then and now pictures he still garnishes it with three raspberries.

26543716_10155193626783030_1792327772_o

Jamie Bosworth’s pudding today

He dates the Bosworth version from the time he and Wayne took over Rafters in 1992, although they had obviously been cooking it much earlier at the Charnwood and the Chantry hotel, Dronfield. Like Cary, he still gets asked for it when running pop-up restaurants and catering for private parties. “If it’s not on the menu nine times out of ten they’ll ask for it.”

For old times sake, here are the original recipes from 1999.

Cary’s version:

1 medium sliced loaf, crusts removed
6 eggs
1 pt double cream
6oz caster sugar
6oz butter
5oz mixed fruit
4oz brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

Butter oven dish, butter bread, put one layer of bread on bottom and sprinkle with half the fruit and some of the sugar. Repeat. The top layer has no fruit or sugar. Cream eggs with remaining caster sugar and essence, pour over the bread and spinkle on brown sugar. Cover with tinfoil and bake in bain marie for 30 mins at 180C, removing the foil for a further 15 mins.

Wayne’s version

6 whole eggs
1 sliced loaf, crusts removed
3.5oz caster sugar
1 pt milk
½ pt double cream
1 vanilla pod, split
2 large Bramley apples, peeled and sliced
apricot jam
8oz butter

Spread slices with butter and jam and layer, jam side upwards, with bread, apple then bread. Repeat twice, ending with bread jam side down. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds together. Bring milk and cream to boil, pour over egg mix and whisk. Strain through a sieve over bread. Bake at 150C for 45-60 mins.

It’s a tempting recipe to play around with. I’ve used elements from both versions but prefer to make mine with leftover croissants or surplus panettone.


Still in the pudding club: Jamie (l) and Cary

The heart-stopping rise of King Cone

IMG_0586

Lawrence Wosskow takes a lick

IT didn’t take more than a few minutes to like Lawrence Wosskow. That was par for the course. He got onwards and upwards by people liking him.

He was the chap who made a profit on some land in Central America and invested it in the then infant Café Rouge because he hit it off with the owner. He used the profits from that to buy an ice cream company in The Peak, whose owner took a shine to him, and struck up a friendship with Eddie Healey, the billionaire owner of Sheffield’s giant Meadowhall shopping complex, when he sold products there.

Money flowed in and he founded Out of Town Restaurants, the biggest UK restaurant chain then . . . but let’s go back to the beginning. If the former Silverdale pupil’s story is the ‘Local Boy Makes Good’ variety there is also a touch of Greek Tragedy.

I’d been a bit sceptical before meeting him at the old Hanrahan’s bar in 1992 as, glass of orange juice and straw in hand, he told me he’d bought Bradwell’s ice cream, a much loved but very local ice cream company.

Some months earlier I’d run a story saying Noel Bradwell, third generation owner of Bradwell’s Ice Cream, wanted to retire and needed a buyer. Lawrence, back in Sheffield from London because his wife Julie wanted their first child to be born here, and was looking to find a business.

He at first bid for the ski slope but missed out by a few thousand pounds. He must have been thanking his lucky stars in the years after that.

He told me his mother had shown him the cutting on Bradwell’s and suggested he buy it. Journalists like to feel they are involved and that much was true. But his mum also lived next door to Noel and he would have known anyway! What clinched a good story was he was going to use the popular Last of the Summer Wine TV character Norah Batty as his company logo.

Media-savvy Lawrence never intended that but he was good copy, as we say in the trade. I was to write about him and his ventures, on and off, over the next few decades.

Now he’s telling his own story in his self-published autobiography Little Chef, The Heart of the Deal. He was a young tearaway at school (a teacher wrote in his report that if he took as much interest in his lessons as with girls he would be a genius). He still finished up with 2 A-levels and 10 O-levels.

He was a genius at business. He became Marks & Spencer’s youngest-ever buyer at 24, took over or founded a series of successful companies and was, as he admits, “running at 100mph” when stress led to a near fatal heart attack after watching England crash out of the World Cup to Portugal in Germany in 2006.

IMG_0582 wooskow from Profile 03-12-2017 15-37-13

My Profile magazine interview in 1999

He was on the brink of reviving the ailing Little Chef, an out-of-date empire of roadside cafes. Told to take it easy and quit business for up to three years the big plans fizzled out. Little Chef collapsed. After his brush with the Grim Reaper Lawrence moved his family to the United States, leaving his businesses and power of attorney in the hands of a childhood friend, James Burdall, who fleeced him of several millions (figures vary) and caused the collapse of his business empire.

The first I heard was when, not long after I’d retired I got a telephone call from him while I was driving to a holiday in Suffolk. I contacted my old office to put them on the scent.

Most people who are very rich have not made their money nicely. Lawrence Wosskow doesn’t fit that mould. He says he is able to ‘mirror’ the people he is with. Perhaps that is what worked with me.

I kept on writing about him although some stories were left to The Star’s business desk. To jazz up my copy I had dubbed Lawrence King Cone until I got a phone call asking me to stop because schoolfriends were teasing his son Toby. Regretfully I agreed. His family is everything. He claims it cost him £25,000 to replace the branding which featured his daughter Hannah, then aged two, because by the time she got to six she, too, was being called names at school.

He has had time for retrospection. Lawrence suggests that he suffered from inherited anxiety which he suppressed with an adrenaline rush from his business interests. He didn’t leave things to others. Before buying Little Chef he personally visited 220 out of its 234 outlets in 60 days.

There are some good stories in the book. He paid £250,000 for the Loseley ice cream brand and stock then discovered the stock was worth £300,000 so he’d bought it for nothing. He turned around another failing ice cream company, in North Wales, which so infuriated the former owner (whom Lawrence still sportingly employed) that he sabotaged the refrigeration unit. With half a ton of melting ice cream it was a race against time to find alternative storage. The ex-boss spent time in the cooler.

Another who did, Burdall, the friend who shafted him, was sent to prison for four years in March 2014 for swindling him out of £1.2m (although in his book Lawrence reckons it was nearer £3m, with the collapse of his companies). Bradwell’s was only saved with an injection of his own cash. “What hurt most . . . was the fact that Burdall transferred £20,000 the day he took over the chequebook, the very day I left for the United States. What a complete an utter scumbag,” he writes.

Later parts of the book chronicle the partying and high-profile friends he has made since, from Sir Elton John to Sir Richard Branson. He has done a lot for charity. Despite the name dropping he comes across as a genuinely decent, perhaps a bit too trusting bloke. After several years he and Julie, his teenaged sweetheart since 17, left the USA for tax reasons and now live in the Bahamas.

These days Lawrence (who, unfortunately, has written the book in American English) is a property developer. Sadly Meadowhall, now in different hands, turfed out his businesses through non-payment of rent during the Burdall saga. There are still not too many nice guys in business.

Little Chef: The Heart of the Deal is available on Amazon. Profits from the book will go to the Elton John Aids Foundation and Dreamflight.

 bradwells_new_cone_logo_medium[1]

A bunch of Sunday lunches

IMG_0503 oysters kilpatrick at Peppercorn 19-11-2017 14-26-02 19-11-2017 14-26-02

hereOysters Kilpatrick at Peppercorn

MY wife had stirred disconsolately through her bowl of modgy fish chowder, so thick and full of overcooked potato you could stand a spoon up in it. “I feel like Jacques Cousteau: I’ve just found a piece of fish at last.”

Oh, I remember it well: One of our many Sunday Lunches That Went Wrong.

We are speeding towards one now and have high hopes but to pass the time reflect on some of the others we have had in the 25 years or so when I wrote about restaurants for a living instead of for fun, as here.

Sunday lunches were our special treat and usually chosen carefully. We regarded it as a perk for filing a review on time and never missing a single week. It was also compensation for giving up our day of rest (Wednesday or Friday night reviews didn’t seem so onerous) and it kept down the housekeeping bills.

So we would make sure we did the Peacock at Rowsley (country house hotel with famous guests, super food and Sunday newspapers by the fire) at least once every three years and preferably on a rainy winter Sunday. There were a few others like that, on a rota, but every now and again you had to take pot luck.

Wherever I went I almost inevitably had roast beef. My reasoning was that this was the dish most people would order, certainly the men, and Sunday isn’t a day to go experimental. My wife could explore the menu’s more exotic slopes.

That modge of a chowder was in an hotel dining room on the edge of Sheffield where the chef had unwisely bunked off in the middle of service to leave a trainee in charge. My roast beef wasn’t any better but the gravy was surprisingly good. I shan’t name the place because it’s still there but I will the Middlewood Hall Hotel, long deceased, like the chipolata served up with my daughter’s roast. It had been baked so hard she couldn’t get her knife through it so gave it to her mum. Mum couldn’t either so it was Pass the Sausage and my turn. It was Man versus Chipolata and I lost.

IMG_0507 roast beef at Peppercorn 19-11-2017 14-44-30

I always order the roast beef

 

At another place, where customers piled their plates so high they looked like relief models of Mount Kilimanjaro with clouds around the top – oh no, they were cauliflower florets – the kitchen had burned an apple pie badly. The chef had tried to conceal the error, submerged under a sea of custard.

Sometimes we got it right but customers got it wrong. I trilled a hymn of praise to the rosy red beef and brown bread ice cream (in the days before it was retro) and the following week it was so inundated with customers they couldn’t cope. Diners hadn’t been reading my review closely. “My beef was undercooked,” one reader rang in, who liked his meat grey.

I went back some years later and the highlight of our visit was not the food but a diner who strode to the table in flat cap and Wellington boots. Well, it was in the countryside.

No one is wearing flat caps or Wellington boots at Peppercorn on Abbeydale Road South. We had meant to be a four but friends cried off so we kept the booking just for us. Now I have reviewed Sunday lunch on the blog here just over a year ago so I’ll keep it short. Chef-patron Charlie Curran and his wife Kelly had disappeared to Filey to relax before the Christmas rush leaving the kitchen in the capable hands of sous Dan Kidd.

It was notable for a starter I’d not seen before, oysters Kilpatrick. This comprised three rock oysters toped with cheddar cheese and bacon lardons, baked on hay. I think it’s Australian in origin and the cheese can be optional in most recipes I’ve seen. I liked it. Flavours were subtler than I expected, I didn’t get the briny blast you have with a raw oyster, so it’s not so much Margate, more Frinton. With light as a feather batter on my wife’s squid rings (“If my cheese soufflé is as light I’ll be pleased,” she said and she was) and up to the mark roast beef, we enjoyed ourselves.

#Peppercorn, 289 Abbeydale Road South, Sheffield S17 3LB. 0114 235 0101. Web: www.peppercorn-restaurant.co.uk

The King who came to dinner

charnwoodhotel[1]

The Charnwood Hotel

 CHRIS King, the man who restored an historic building into Sheffield’s first boutique hotel and was a driving force behind the city’s culinary renaissance, has died. He had Parkinson’s Disease. He was 81.

FUNERAL DETAILS AT END OF STORY

WHENEVER Chris King passed the crumbling Georgian mansion at the corner of Sharrow Lane and London Road he knew the best way to bring it back to life was as a hotel. The Grade II listed building had been built around 1780 by Master Cutler and scissorsmith John Henfrey on a site then on the outskirts of the city.

Chris didn’t start out as a hotelier, he was a structural engineer. So he knew if a building could be saved. However, as with so much of what happens in Sheffield, he had to battle with a city council which lacked imagination. It took over two years for him and his wife Val to get planning permission for the Charnwood, Sheffield’s first boutique hotel. It lasted for almost 20 years as a popular wedding venue and the focus of much of the city’s good cooking.

The 22-bed Charnwood opened in 1985. Its guests included stars from the World Snooker Championship and comedians Victoria Wood and Mike Harding. It also became the home of two top restaurants, Brasserie Leo and the smaller more upmarket Henfrey’s. Chris was not a man to cut corners. He employed celebrity chef and local lad Kevin Woodford as catering consultant. The Woodford Suite was named after him.

“Chris told me he wanted to do things right,” says Cary Brown, whom he appointed the hotel’s (and the country’s) youngest head chef at 21. He had dropped by to do a two day shift after leaving Claridges and was on his way out when he was offered the head chef’s job, provided he passed a three month’s trial.

Chris sent Cary to Paris to see how things were done there before opening Brasserie Leo. When Cary left, Wayne Bosworth and his sous Marcus Lane made similar trips. The restaurant was designed with banquettes, alcoves, gleaming brass, big mirrors and a splendid bar. Even the coat stands were authentic. And in the kitchen were a dozen copper pans.

The hotel aimed high. A lobster, truffle and veal sweetbread starter was on the menu for £17.95, a fortune, then as now, for Sheffield in the Eighties. Even Cary was worried about the price. “Chris said if it’s worth that, charge it,” he recalls.

He enjoyed his new life. Always impeccably dressed, he and Val could often be seen dining quietly in a corner checking the quality of the food and the reactions of customers.

Other chefs who made a name in the kitchen included Wayne, Murray Chapman and Stephen Hall as head chefs while others including Marcus and Jamie Bosworth, who would both later run Rafters, and Richard Irving also cooked.

While the cooking got the Charnwood into the guides the hotel ran smoothly with Chris and Val at the helm and her sister Ann Sommerfield as duty manager. There were good years then bad as business was hit by a slowdown at the turn of the century. “The economics did not stack up, the economics of a small hotel against a big one,” he said then. Chris tried unsuccessfully to sell the hotel, on the market for £1.3 million.

christopherking

Chris King presents an award at a hospitality event

It closed on Christmas Eve, 2004. The 16 staff were all found jobs, according to Anne. If Chris couldn’t sell the place as a hotel he would turn it into apartments. He supervised the work himself. “I do not want to pay people for what I already know,” he said. The project opened the following year renamed Wisteria Gardens, after the striking mauve and blue flowers which covered the walls. He had planted them a quarter century before.

Val, who predeceased him, died from cancer. Chris also had it but recovered and went to run a smallholding near Lincoln where he planted 2,000 walnut trees. However he returned to Sheffield later and died at Beauchief.

Cary Brown said: “He was a legend and pioneer in the hotel and catering industry. What he brought to Sheffield wasn’t realised until later. If it wasn’t for that hotel Sheffield would not have got on the culinary map until years later.”

#Chris King died on Thursday, 16 November, 2017. Details of the funeral will be announced here shortly.

Picture of Chris King sourced courtesy of Craig Harris.

*The funeral will be held at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium at 1.15pm on Thursday,7 December, followed by a wake at the Double Tree Hilton, Meadowhead.