No Name, this is the pack drill

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Griddled scallop starter at No Name

IT’S a beautifully made piece of ciabatta, I think, as I bite into it at No Name in Crookes. Look how it almost quivers, the open crumb and the delightfully olivey taste. It’s almost a shame to dunk it into the bowl of balsamic and olive oil.

I can recall when ‘Italian bread’ here was half a breadcake wiped with garlic. Then it was called Franco’s Pizzeria, no great shakes for food but chef patron Franco D’Egido ended the evening singing the Wild Rover while his wife Elaine let off balloons.

We went back 20 years later to find Franco had retired, it was still Italian but in different hands and the head waiter was called Nigel.

I turn to my dining companion, fellow blogger Craig ‘Mr Ciabatta’ Harris, a foodie and Italophile so keen on authenticity he slips out of bed early to make his weekly batch. What does he think? He nods enthusiastically.

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Crispy chicken beats KFC

No Name is tiny, a micro bistro. It seats 21 or 24 if you all breathe in. So is the menu with just 3-4-2 choices at each course. The prices aren’t micro, though, so a meal for two would be banging on at around £60 and I get a bit of a grump on when Craig, who books, tells me there are two sittings. If I spend that money I want the table all night, particularly at a weekend. But then again, if you’ve got a place that small, it helps pay the rent.

Happily Crookes hasn’t got the grump because No Name, which opened in June, has been a runaway success in an area which is all pizzas and pakoras and where Modern British Cooking has not previously reared its head. “Simply outstanding,” one diner trilled on TripAdvisor.

The owner-chef is Thomas Samworth, 33, one of Mick Burke’s star pupils at Sheffield College, who won the prestigious Maurice des Ombiaux in Belgium, a junior chefs’ European Cup, back in 2003. After a spell at Gary Rhodes’ W1 in London he came home to head up the kitchen at Rowley’s in Baslow, as well as the village’s Devonshire Arms. We’ve eaten his food at both places as well as at the Schoolrooms in Low Bradfield, although he had fewer tattoos back then.

When I saw the menu (there is no website, just a Facebook page) it looked very safe: butternut squash soup, lamb shank and duck confit. I was proved wrong. It’s the way he cooks them as someone very nearly said.

There is now no Nigel front of house but there is a very expectant Mrs Megan Samworth and the hope skitters across my mind that she won’t give birth between my crispy chicken starter and confit main. “If I drop my food it stays on here,” she laughs, patting her belly.

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Megan and Thomas Samworth

I had no idea what crispy chicken (£7) was but it turned out to be a sort of chicken rillettes bound in Bechamel and shaped into a crispy coated lozenge. That’s very modern and also very old, a souped up version of croquettes. What soups it up is a sauce of blitzed sweetcorn and a good helping of fancy micro mushrooms, lightly pickled.

The rest of the table has scallops (£8), three very sweet pieces, seared one side only, with apple caramel, hazelnuts and celeriac. Craig, a celeriac junkie, wished for a bit more oomph with the vegetable.

We men went for the confit (£16), served boned on top of a triangle of wonderfully crisp and starchy rosti potato, so good it threatened to upstage the main ingredient. This was a lovely dish, helped along with earthy kale and an elegant pickled blackberry jus.

My wife had an excellent piece of stone bass, nothing like sea bass but it’s an ugly blighter otherwise known as Atlantic wreckfish, now becoming popular. Craig’s wife Marie enthusiastically offered portions of her ultra-tender lamb shank to share.

In his micro kitchen (just two rings) Thomas said he had got fed up cooking fish and chips and gammon steaks in country pubs and wanted to rustle up the kind of food he liked to eat out. Some pop-up nights at his family home helped establish a following and by early summer the place was open.

And why No Name? “I wanted an air of mystery,” he said. Doubtless he was thinking of The Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds. Well, there’s no mystery why No Name is popular. It’s the good cooking. It’s also BYO so that sort of compensates for speedy eating.

We finish with either spiced plums or a good chocolate mousse with honeycomb. A great night out and we wish Megan and Thomas all the best with the birth. Let’s hope the owners of No Name come up with one for the baby!

#253 Crookes, Sheffield. Tel 0114 266 1520. Open Wed-Sat night. Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pg/NO-NAME-Sheffield-1695321363841840/about/?ref=page_internal

 

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Tiny but perfectly formed

 

 

 

 

 

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Good Lord, she’s got chips on her pizza

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Fat lass eats a chip pizza on Lake Garda

I HAVE an uneasy relationship with the pizza, very possibly the world’s most ubiquitous – and abused – street food. It’s everywhere and usually not very well done. Every other new eaterie which has opened up in Sheffield in recent years seems to sell pizzas. Or burgers. Or both.

If I have one it has not got to be piled high with greengrocery, just a smear of tomato sauce, some mozzarella perhaps, olives and, hopefully, anchovies. But, please, not pineapple rings.

As I’m writing this a flyer has come through the door for Domino’s Chipotle Pulled Pork Pizzas. It sounds disgusting. I shall not be buying one.

I’m not long back from Italy and you expect to find them there. But not all Italians are crazy about them. Long ago when Pepe Scime ran his eponymous Italian restaurant on South Road, Walkey (now Vito’s), he would turn up his nose at the mere mention of pizzas and scratch his armpit in a Sicilian gesture of contempt.

I was reminded of Pepe when I came across the Trattoria al Commercio restaurant in Bardolino on Lake Garda. Outside was an A board in three languages. It read ‘Non facciamo pizze’ in Italian, ‘Hier machen Wier keine Pizza’ in German and ‘We don’t make pizza,’ in English. My wife and I thought this is our kind of place and it was.

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No pizzas sold here

Not everyone is as entranced by the food as we were. At the front of the menu it asks for people not to write reviews for TripAdvisor. They say things like they want pizza. But we ignored that and enjoyed the tortelloni, scallopine and a very good spin on zuppa Inglese and reviewed him anyway. And then we went back again.

The dining room, where we were, was packed full of Italians. Tourists are put in the garden room. The owner must have liked us because we ate inside both times. In fact, I visited four times, twice to book, but at the second meal he didn’t even acknowledge us. TripAdvisor thinks he’s ignorant. I think it’s just that he hasn’t got much English.

We had pizzas for lunch in a street café in Verona and another one for tea in Bardolino and on both occasions I was impressed by the quality. However, one at our hotel was pretty dire and probably came from the cash and carry.

But, as ever, we Brits can teach those Italians something about their own food. At a lakeside café I spotted a very fat English lass eating a chip pizza which she must have designed herself. I was so surprised I took a sneak picture. I thought this was the most disgusting thing I’d seen but then I didn’t know about the pulled pork pizza.

 

Anchovies in the tin and on a slate!

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Anchovies in a tin – and on a slate – in Verona

 

IF I was going to enter my dish on that excellent website www.wewantplates.com then I was certainly going for broke on holiday in Verona. I was paying a good ten euros for the chef to peel back the lid of a tin of anchovies and plonk it on a slate with a sliced up boiled potato. Food in a tin and on a slate is the stuff of that site’s nightmares.

 The menu at Caffe Monte Baldo read “Acciughe del Mar Cantabrico, servite con burro, patate e crostini di pane caldi” translated as “Cantabrian sea anchovies in their tin served with butter, potatoes and warm bread croutons.”

 It seemed so unusual that I just had to have it for the novelty value alone.

 And it was marvellous. I’m sure being on holiday and feeling I had to justify my choice had something to do with it but those anchovies were excellent, by far the best I have ever eaten. Pairing them with potato is not new: think of that Scandinavian favourite Jansson’s Temptation, which bakes anchovies and thinly sliced spuds with cream.

 My only grouse is that there was not enough potato and certainly not that many croutons to justify all that butter. Would I pay a tenner for the dish back home although they were extremely superior anchovies?

 There was, briefly, a restaurant in London called Tincan which served everything in its tins but it has now closed. I wonder why? And I believe there is one in Spain which does something similar. But so far the idea has still to catch on.

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Squd ink ravioli with sea bass filling

 Caffe Monte Baldo is one of the city’s top restaurants. I also had a fabulous squid ink ravioli stuffed with sea bass on a tomato and butter sauce. The contrast in colours, black and red, was spectacular as was the firm texture of the pasta again the fish filling.

 Wouldn’t it be lovely to find something like this in Sheffield? No sure about the anchovies in tins, though!

 Web: www.osteriamontebaldo.com

 

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Caffe Monte Baldo in Verona

Still lovely jubbly in Bakewell

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Eric Piedaniel, un chef Normande

“LOVELY jubbly,” I say as I hand back the menu and wine list to our waitress. I catch my wife giving me a look. “That’s the third time you’ve said it since we got here.” That was only five minutes before. The woman at the next table is amused.

I don’t know whether I’m turning into Del Boy Trotter from Only Fools and Horses but he could very well try out some of his fractured French – ‘Mange tout, mange tout’ – at Eric Piedaniel’s eponymous restaurant in Bakewell because the chef-patron is from Normandy. But that was a long time ago. He and his wife Christiana have been in the mock-Tudor building in Bath Street for the last 23 years. And we’ve been going there on and off for all that time.

I’m not sure what the French for lovely jubbly is but we always get it at Piedaniel’s. Here is a chef who cooks accurately and simply and is dependably consistent. We drop in for Friday lunch and have a meal full of surprises.

I am quite content to stay on the TDH until my wife discovers the baked brioche and duck butter pudding (£7) on the carte and I am so intrigued I have to order it. It’s a new one on me. Think bread and butter pudding with the butter replaced by layers of shredded duck confit. The dish arrives as a square-shaped section, the brioche and duck quite compressed, and my tastebuds are in some confusion as sweet meets savoury head on.

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Brioche and duck butter pudding

It seems to make sense by the fourth mouthful, aided by a fine Madeira sauce. Yes, I’m won over. Christiana says it’s very popular as customers are intrigued, like me. But where did it come from? In his kitchen later Eric, aged 52, says he thought of it when there was brioche and confit in the kitchen at the same time et voila. Simple as that.

Meanwhile my wife is getting very excited about her cheese charlotte. No, we haven’t heard of that either. It turns out to be whipped mousse of goats cheese, Roquefort and something else which arrives at the table with an Eifel Tower of rocket and celery batons perched on top (£4). It is beautifully light and zingy, crisp and fresh and decidedly cheesy.

Our first visit here was in 1994, shortly after it opened. Eric, previously at the Cavendish Hotel, Baslow, had not checked his new kitchen was properly equipped. He didn’t have a tin opener to open a can of olives and had to use a chisel. On our night the full restaurant was in near mutiny because he was cooking unaided, the wait time was long and Christiana was not around to soothe uppity patrons because she was having a baby. We nearly joined the mutineers until the food arrived but were captivated by his style and culinary elan.

I’m due for a second surprise with my TDH main (all are £12), two soused mackerel fillets on warm crushed potatoes. I had only previously had soused fish cold but this warm in a vinegary sauce. Again, it takes me a couple of mouthfuls to be won over. Sue has an asparagus and vegetable tart which turns out to be a filo basket with a superior tomato sauce.

For the last eight years Eric has been cooking with Eleanor, from Bulgaria, as his second chef. “She came to do the washing up and we found she was a trained chef,” he says. He now also had a tin opener.

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The soused mackerel is served warm

We have never had a grumble here and we’re not going to have one now. Sweets (£4) are classically simple but beautifully executed: a shimmering crème caramel and a light steamed chocolate sponge with a proper (but not Bird’s Eye yellow and thick) home made custard.

As we go back into the lounge for coffee I can’t help telling the woman at the next table that it has all been lovely jubbly. She nods in agreement.

The bill, which we paid ourselves, came to £64.70.

Piedaniels is at Bath Steet, Bakewell, DE45 1BX. Tel: 01629 812 687. Web: http://www.piedaniels-restaurant.com

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Piedaniel’s mock-Tudor home in Bath Street, Bakewell

A Sunday lunch, in which I am overfaced by Mr Brown

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Cary Brown explains a concept at Barlow Woodseats Hall

YOU know that old cliché about tables groaning with food? Well ours was. There were slices of very decent beef the size of rosy red doorsteps, wedges of tender pork so big they could almost have been a pig, wings and breasts of chicken, ribs of lamb, sausages wrapped in bacon and stuffing like golf balls.

 And then they brought the Yorkshire Puddings, the size and shape of cumulus clouds, with crispy crunchy roast potatoes posing as cannon balls. A big dish of cauliflower cheese followed, with another of vegetables. And a half pint jug of proper gravy. Talk about trencherman food: this could have filled a WW1 trench.

 “Right,” I said to my wife.”We’re going to tackle this the Victorian way, eating slowly.” But it beat us in the end and we were the ones groaning – with pleasure. If we had carried on we would have been like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote and exploded.

 “This is like going to an all you can eat buffet, only in this case they bring it to your table and it tastes of something,” I added.
 

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Just part of the main course

We haven’t had a Sunday lunch like this since that time at the Royal Oak, Millthorpe, and it was the same chef. So if I couldn’t tackle all that food I went to tackle the man responsible, Cary Brown. “Sunday lunch should be a time for indulgence. If people say I’ve overfaced them I don’t get offended,” he said.

 Cary has had almost as many venues as I’ve had hot dinners and that’s saying something. A month or two ago he and his partner Shelley spectacularly left the Devonshire Arms at Middle Handley after a dispute with the owners, draining the place dry with free beer for friends and regulars. Since legal matters loom we’ll say no more.

 He has popped up at historic 16th century Barlow Woodseats Hall, down a lane called Johnnygate that leads to nowhere except this former home of the famous Bess of Hardwick, the Elizabethan lass who had four husbands and ended up as the Countess of Shrewsbury. She and Robert Barlow were only 14 at the time and he died within a year.

 IMG_0226 Long Barn at Barlow Woodseats 13-08-2017 13-54-38.JPGTo be more precise Mr Brown has popped up in the Long Barn next door, a magnificent Grade II listed medieval cruck barn which, the last time I looked when reporting for the Sheffield Star was a cowshed knee deep in manure. That was in 2006 when the Milward family put the hall on the market for a million quid and right next door was a working farm, all smells and moos.

 I never checked to see if it had sold but if I had I could have reported it was bought by Nick Todd and his family, a partner in the long established Sheffield auctioneers and valuers, Ellis Willis & Beckett. He did up the hall, bought the barn and it is now a weddings and functions venue and, with Cary at the stove, a pop-up for Sunday luncheons and afternoon teas. The next will be in September and, at £25 a head, you get a doggy bag to take home.

 Nick and Cary, who met over the bar at the Royal Oak just down the road, have big plans for the barn, which comes with several cottages built from the old stables, still with some of the original features plus up to the minute wet rooms, kitchens and four poster beds.

 My wife Sue and I take a break for air after that main course (but before Shelley’s lovely passionfruit cheesecake and chocolate profiteroles) and Nick walks us around the garden with a brace or two of peacocks who have just been in the family way, orchard, pond, tropical garden and lawns. He may have a posh house but he’s not sniffy about letting guests enjoy the surroundings. He seems to enjoy sharing them.

 We join Cary later for coffee and he’s busy tossing culinary concepts up in the air like a juggler with plates. Here’s one. “It can be sweet and it can be savoury but you’ll have to wait and see,” he grinned. Here’s a clue: it’s on wheels. Oh and did I mention the Sunday lunch was absolutely first class?

 *Check Cary’s Facebook and Twitter pages for details of the next Sunday lunch in September. Details going up soon on www.barlowwoodseatshall.com

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LATEST NEWS: Sunday lunches are on hold at the moment, as is the hall website, while planning difficulties are being resolved.

 

Is this the perfect Yorkshire pub?

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Topside of beef blushing pink

THEY do things differently at the Board Inn, Lealholm, a little village tucked away in a valley in the North Yorks Moors. My wife Sue has ordered the scallops in butter sauce as her main and the waitress has just asked her if she’d like a Yorkshire Pudding with it.

“With scallops. Why?” she asks, surprised. “Because it’s Sunday,” the waitress says, as if it is the most natural thing in the world. Sue is about to say no when I intervene. Oh yes she will. I’m having the topside of beef and this way I’ll get two Yorkies. Actually I get three because when my plate arrives there are already two big crispy puds on it.

Everything about the Board Inn is supersized. At most pubs the biggest struggle is between choosing the beef or the lamb or possibly the pork. Here you have to make your mind up between three beef dishes, topside, rib or slow-cooked silverside, all supplied, as a blackboard of breeders, growers and suppliers helpfully informs, by M Wood, a local butcher.

I’ve written before about the pub here. Let your imagination run wild on what your ideal boozer would be and the Board Inn (established 1742) exceeds it. On the banks of the River Esk, it has two unspoiled bars and a dining room decorated with prints and pots and fishing rods, B&B rooms, real beer and good food cooked by landlord Alistair Deans, mostly from ingredients grown within a radius of a couple of miles. The fish is a bit of a problem. It comes from Whitby seven miles up the road.

It’s a perfect sunny Sunday with the sounds of light jazz and show tunes coming from a mature five piece swing band playing on the wooden decking over the river outside the dining room window. With a two girl, three man line-up, they’re the Esk Valley’s answer to Fleetwood Mac.

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Sweet scallops with lardons and lemon butter sauc

Lealholm, a pocket-sized village of some 50 homes but still managing to fit in a school, post office and general stores, ice cream and sweet shop, petrol station, garage, post office, three churches, two tea rooms, three water fountains, a garden centre, public toilets and a railway station, is fortunate to have the pub.

Until Alistair and his wife Karen arrived in the summer of 2007 things looked grim on the banks of the Esk. By all accounts the atmosphere at the pub was cold and it opened erratically. “It went up for sale and there was talk of it being turned into a house. There was talk of clubbing together and buying it as a community pub and the next thing we knew it had been sold,” says one resident.

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The blackboard menu at the Board Inn

Alistair had form. A former Smithfield butcher, he had run a foodie pub in Sheringham, Norfolk, before heading north. He keeps in touch with the meat business by raising his own cattle “fussed over by Gill and Richard Smith of Wood Hill Farm,” according to the blackboard, and cooking it.

I can tell my wife her scallops are going to be good because I order a smaller version to start with: three tender, sweet little pieces cook with lardons of bacon in a herbed up lemon butter sauce. She has five complete scallops. They have been cooked precisely, are sweet and come with their corals. I mention this because I was once visiting a restaurant kitchen in France and annoyed the chef because I was horrified he was cutting them off and throwing them away.

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The Board Inn beside the River Esk at Lealholm

The topside comes in two slices the size of paving slabs – well, cut thickly at about a quarter of an inch – and are pink as requested, juicy, easily cut and as tasty as they come. It’s the sort of meat you roll aroud your mouth to give all your tastebuds a treat.

The gravy, with more in a jug, is full of meat juices and if the roast potatoes are a little on the plus side of done I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m wondering if the Board Inn is the perfect Yorkshire pub.

We are full but nothing is going to stop me having a rhubarb sundae, full of sharp-sweet poached fruit and homemade ice cream. Sue has an enormous portion of rich beetroot and chocolate cake.

We sit, replete, with our coffees and listen to the band. Sunday lunches don’t come any better than this, we think. And that’s before I go to the bar to pay to discover that someone has already settled our bill.

Visit www.theboardinn.com

*We visited while on holiday at the delightful Prospect Coach House in nearby Great Fryupdale a couple of miles away. The two bedroom holiday let is available through www.sykescottages.co.uk

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The band plays on at the Board Inn, Lealholm

Explosions of flavour down on the farm

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‘Scotch egg’ starter – there’s mango in the yolk

CHEF Cary Brown and I are peering at a little pyramid of pink peppercorn meringue. I take a bite and after the initial burst of sweetness comes a very peppery hit. “Too much!” I say. He shakes his head. “Now have that meringue with the pineapple.”

 I cut a piece of the fruit, which has been macerated in Sheffield rum and Malibu, then blowtorched, pop some meringue on my spoon and eat them together. The pepperiness has retreated gracefully into the background but is still there in a bath of pineapple and coconut flavours.

 “That’s very good and I don’t even like pineapple” says Cary, late of the Devonshire Arms, Middle Handley, and like me a judge in a heat at Whirlow Hall Farm’s annual cheffy contest, Sheff’s Kitchen. It may be for charity but the chefs take it seriously so we do, Cary even turning up in his whites.

 Whirlow’s own head chef Stephen Wallis is up against Scott Philliskirk from the Hidden Gem. They have each got a budget of £150 and one sous chef to cook for 23 paying guests and one judge. Diners eat either from the red or black menu and don’t know who is who.

 Cary and I decide the fairest way to judge is to eat liberally from each other’s plates and compare notes as we mark the scores in a series of categories. We quickly realise that while guests may have paid £30 a head they are getting a bargain with meals easily worth £40 – £45. And what is also impressive is the high degree of skill and dedication on show as well as different styles of cooking.

 “We are being very picky,” I murmur as we carefully deconstruct each course – is this pork too dry and this sauce too reticent? – which other diners are happily wolfing down. “We have to be,” says Cary, relishing the task.

At Whirlow there is really only one kitchen plus a bit of one so as Stephen was on home territory he generously offered the main one to his opponent and, with the help of a couple of bain maries, found himself plating up in the courtyard. Thankfully, it didn’t rain.

 Dish of the night is red menu Scott’s cannon of lamb, an explosion of flavour and so tender it almost hurt, rolled in crushed pistachio (“with a little bit of garlic,” notes my fellow judge) with a stunning roast cauliflower puree. Even the fact that the fondant potato could be softer doesn’t detract.

 Yet Scott, who won the popular vote from diners, didn’t win the contest. Stephen inched ahead, first with a complex starter of a ‘Scotch egg’ with a yolk made from pureed mango and carrot. He lost out on the main as the lamb rump delivered to the judges was a little undercooked. We’d been served first and noted that other plates would have rested that little bit longer and the meat would have been that much better. Chefs in future rounds may want to take note of this.

 But he won on a Battle of the Spuds, his carefully constructed smoky potato terrine fighting off the fondant.

 By now there was only a point or two in it. Which chef would get his just desserts? And that was the course we were judging. Was it Scott’s peppery pineapple backed up by a ginger mousse, coconut milk ice cream and ginger crumb? Or Stephen’s Whirlow strawberries, dark chocolate terrine, honeycomb and dark chocolate tuille?

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Whirlow’s Stephen Wallis plates up in the yard outside the restaurant!

 Perhaps it was the richess of the terrine or the unexpected sherbet hit from slices of dehydrated strawberry that just tipped him over the line first.

 I found it extremely instructive sitting down with a professional chef and examining the food mouthful by mouthful. Of course, you can get too technical and I was there to provide the viewpoint of the experienced diner with some 1,400 restaurant visits under his belt.

 “What dish would I eat again, the one with the technical expertise or the one which blows me away?” muses Cary. We hope we got it right but in a sense we didn’t. “Both of you deserve to be in the final,” he tells the two chefs.

 Charlie Curran of Peppercorn takes on Chris Mapp from the Tickled Trout in the next heat on August 13 but all the tables have been fully booked. There are tables available for the semi-final at Sheffield College’s Silver Plate restaurant on September 28, a much bigger venue than Whirlow Farm. To book visit http://www.sheffskitchen.co.uk

 *Cary Brown judged just 24 hours after quitting his excellent restaurant at the Devonshire Arms, Middle Handley, a fish-orientated stay which lasted only 14 months. It would be accurate to say the parting was not amicable. He’s considering his next move. “I’ll come up with something.”

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Scott’s cannon of lamb

A few more shots from the evening.

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Stephen (left) and Scott before the cooking begins

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Final touches to the pineapple dish

whirlow's dessert

chefs and judges at whirlow

Chefs and judges