It’s goodbye to the Big ‘Un


David Baldwin and wife Pauline

DAVID Baldwin, founder of Baldwin’s Omega banqueting rooms and the Grand Old Man of Sheffield’s hospitality industry, has died in his sleep at home in Dore. He was 80.

“He passed away peacefully at 3am, about the last kicking out time that would have been at the Omega,” said his son David Junior.

While he had retired through ill health after selling off the Omega on Psalter Lane two years ago, his passing marks the end of an era for the city’s restaurant trade. He put his stamp on it in more ways than one.

“He was most proud of the number of chefs he had trained who had gone on to bigger and better things,” added David. They include Ray Booker, now head chef at the Chester Grosvenor, chef turned fishmonger Christian Szurko, and Sam Lindsay, head chef at Owlerton.

Yet, at the same time, he inspired a terrific loyalty and many staff (as well as customers) stayed with him for years.

Among them were head chef Steve Roebuck, who worked for him for 30 years, and operations manager Jamie Christian, for 25, who have continued his legacy at the Omega at Abbeydale Sports Club.

He was committed to high standards of food and service, was known for providing value for money, and half the city must at one time have attended an office party or a works dinner, or perhaps been to a salmon and strawberries evening, at the Omega.

Bluff, gruff and wickedly funny, with a personality the size of Yorkshire, he was a great raconteur. A former chairman of the Restaurants Association of Great Britain, he actively promoted young talent through Young Chef and Young Waiters competitions, and had an unrivalled network of contacts throughout the industry, from Brian Turner to Rick Stein, using them to send his own brightest staff on placements.

He was known for very colourful language. Jamie Christian remembers calling his boss from the kitchen one Christmas after a woman diner found lead shot in her pheasant. He roared back: “What do you think it died of? A f*cking heart attack?”

Known affectionately as Mr B or The Big ‘Un, he and his wife Pauline took over the white-painted hacienda-style building in 1980, after it had been dark for two years.

With a catering background that included running the Angler’s Rest at Bamford and the Hillsborough Suite at Sheffield Wednesday, they acted on a hunch that Sheffield needed at top class banqueting venue. They were right and in its heyday the Omega was constantly busy but times change and they were hit by the decline in office parties as businesses tightened their belts.

P1050938 Rib Room at the Omega 21-02-2017 16-25-51 (2)

The Rib Room at Baldwin’s

It was offset to some degree by the popularity of lunches in the Rib Room for an elder clientele and people who wanted to give customers and friends a taste of Sheffield. When present and not on holiday abroad, he was a legend in many people’s lunchtimes.

David was born into the hospitality industry as a publican’s son. He was a former communist and a ship’s steward, no doubt accounting for his expletive-laden language. Customers often liked it gently directed at them.

Very much a family man, he had three children, David, in construction; Benny, a TV producer and presenter; and Polly, a photographer. He had four grandchildren.

Many spoke of his generosity. John Janiszewski, a former lecturer in hospitality at Sheffield College, said he had held a fund-raising dinner in aid of its restaurant equipment.

“On a personal note he was a mentor, almost a father figure and a hell of a laugh. We need to think about a proper memorial after Corvid-19.”

The Omega had a certain style, from its massive car park, big enough to house a squadron of tanks, through its entrance hallway with ‘flaming torches’ to the ballroom, scene of so many dinner-dances, with its sprung floor.

The menu might not have kept up with trendier places – roast beef sliced from the trolly by the chef at your table was a highlight – but it was always exceptionally well done. If you couldn’t manage that there was always the Yorkshire Pudding and gravy starter on the plat du jour menu.

Whatever the occasion, lunch or dinner dance, it was always enhanced by the appearance of Mr B himself.

David Baldwin was something of a rarity in the catering tkrade, equally at home in the kitchen as front of house, a born Maitre D. He will be very sadly missed.

The private funera is on Thursday at Hutcliffe Wood crematorium at 3pm. Friends and colleagues will line the streets as the cottage passes. Donations for the Alzheimer’s Society can be made online at


Some comments from those who knew David

Jamie Bosworth, chef: “He was a true gentleman and very generous. He lent us plenty of catering equipment when we started Rafters (with his brother Wayne) and always provided an ear to listen. Jayne and I got married at Baldwin’s and we had Wayne’s wake there.”

Cary Brown, chef: “He was the Godfather of so many chefs.”

John Mitchell, wine merchant: “It’s a sad day the Big Un leaving us. There was nobody like him.”

P1050950 Pauline and David Baldwin 21-02-2017 17-41-32

Taken on the announcing of their retirement

New Omega gets an alpha-plus

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Jamie (left) and Steve – old faces in a new setting

IT’S STILL the same. The table holds a two tone loaf, half white, half brown, on a board with a bread knife to cut it yourself, dish of butter, bottle of tap and crudities of red onion and tomato with Melba toast, just like before. The dining room is smaller but the view from the picture windows is better: a rugby pitch instead of a car park, grass not concrete.

We have made it at last to the Omega at Abbeydale, the true heir and offspring of the fabled, legendary and sorely missed Baldwin’s Omega banqueting suite on Brincliffe Hill, Sheffield, which closed after 37 years last summer.

Its champagne and strawberry bashes, Caribbean evenings and Eighties disco nights, the works and office knees-ups and the cracking lunches staged by David Baldwin (Mr B or The Big ‘Un, depending on who was talking) and his wife Pauline deserved to live on and they have.

The surroundings may have changed and the name slightly altered – this is now The Omega at Abbeydale Sports Club – but the ethos is the same: great food, much better than you’d expect for the price, Value For Money written in big, shiny letters of Sheffield Steel.

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View from our table

That has been transported across the city by two men: head chef Steve Roebuck and former Operations Manager, sommelier and front–of-house man Jamie Christian. Their belief that the city still values the Baldwin’s concept has been backed up by the diners: we couldn’t get in before Christmas and the dining room is full this Friday.

The menu is still the same, a three course TDH for £16 or a pricier carte, and there’s still roast beef carved at the table, calves liver and that Sheffield speciality starter, Yorkshire pud and gravy.

All it wants is Mr B, I say to my wife, and suddenly there he is in the corner, having driven up on his invalid buggy from his home in Dore. Where once he would have toured the tables with a joke and a casually dropped expletive, now they come to him. I notice that nearly all the tables, most of them former customers, drop by to pay their respects.

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Sea bass with tiger prawns

Jamie and Steve have had a nightmare opening the place. A school bus crashed into the building, not once but twice, asbestos was discovered and windows did not fit. But that is all in the past.

Jamie gives us a tour of the place: the bar which looks directly onto the pitch, a terrace which will be lovely in summer, a private dining room, function room upstairs with stage and the restaurant itself , 50 covers instead of the old Rib Room’s 80. “We’re getting a lot of old faces and new ones from the sports club,” he says.

In the restaurant, still run by Angela Jackson, the food hits the spot time after time. I have a satisfying cod and parsley fishcake surmounted by two fat chips in a pea puree and loin of pork stuffed with large pieces of mushroom, segmented, with creamed and crispy leeks and a rich, rewarding Calvados-spiked sauce. Dessert, an extra fiver from the carte menu, is apple strudel. Most kitchens would have delivered a flibbety-jibbet filo pastry affair but this was proper crisp pastry, firm apple and, if a custard can be stunning, this was: a splendour in vanilla.

Stuffed pork fillet

Pork fillet, Calvados gravy

My wife proves to be high maintenance: a starter of sweet scallops, fried hazelnuts and crispy Serrano ham with a celeriac puree (£10) followed by a fishy special of pan-fried sea bass, the skin properly crispy, with excellent tiger prawns and wispy asparagus on a lustrous red pepper sauce (£16). They do know their sauces here. She ends with an Omega favourite, cranachan, whisky, cream, raspberries and oatmeal. The food rates alpha-plus.

I take a peek in the kitchen, much smaller “but not as far to walk,” says Steve. He’s keeping to the same menu, I observe. “People won’t let us change but we are branching out here and there.”

The operation also has to work as the feeding station for the different sporting groups which use the club. There have been innovations. Those expecting match day chip butties have been met by tagines and cous cous. The jury is still out on that as far as the ladies’ hockey team is concerned.

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The table is set

Old hands will recognise the old lectern at the entrance to the restaurant and Jamie is still considering whether to use the ‘flaming torches’ from the old Omega foyer. The bar, also with great views onto the pitch, has four screens tuned to Sky Sports but the sound is turned off and muzak on. And, just as at Brincliffe Hill, there is plenty of parking.

For the new Omega there is plenty of potential for a brave, new era. The atmosphere may be a little different but there is still the same bright, accurate and reassuring cooking. The ‘Baldwin’s’ may have been dropped from the name but every time Mr B drops in at his corner table will be a reminder of the glory days.


The Omega at Abbeydale is on Abbeydale Road South, Sheffield S17 3LJ. Tel: 0114 236 7011. Web:

* This was written well before the sad death of David Baldwin, see

Pssst! Wanna buy a dance floor?

IMG_1453 Jamie Christian with the famous flaming torches 03-08-2018 11-30-45

Jamie Christian with one of Baldwin’s famous flaming torches

FIRST things to go were a couple of the ironwork chandeliers. “A lady wanted them for her barn,” says Jamie Christian. “Have you noticed the torches? They’ve got sold on them.”

So who’s bought them? “I have,” he says.

Ah the famous ‘flaming torches’ in reception at Baldwin’s Omega. Uplit strips of cloth used to flicker like flames. I used to joke they only operated when Mr B – big boss David Baldwin – was in the building. But they will flicker no more here. The Omega is shortly to be demolished for housing and it’s having a closing down sale. Everything must go.

Jamie, the Operations Manager, is keeping an eye on things during the sale, which runs until Sunday. He and head chef Steve Roebuck will be opening a new venture, the Omega at Abbeydale, with the old ethos at Abbeydale Sports Club in September and those torches will be used somewhere.

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The dance floor at the Omega

We wander past tables stacked with candles, vases, wine glasses, crockery, chairs and veteran kitchen equipment and into the ballroom with its sprung floor. Several generations of dancers tripped the light fantastic here at functions and dinners, whisked their partners round the floor on salmon and strawberry nights or limboed under the bar on Caribbean evenings.

Jamie looks thoughtfully at the floor. “We should have cut it up into squares and sold them off to people who had their wedding receptions here.” But it’s for sale. Name a price, Jamie. “£500 and take it up yourself.”

IMG_1458 All for sale at Baldwins Omega 03-08-2018 11-41-16

All for sale at Baldwin’s

I pass on that one but do buy a candle setting for a fiver. That’s not thinking quite out of the box as some people.

They’ve already sold basins from the ladies and one of the urinals from the gents, which once won David and his wife Pauline a Loo of the Year Award. I came down for The Star and we got a saucy picture of him pretending to take a pee. Just in case you were wondering, the Baldwin’s Omega sign on Psalter Lane is not for sale. They plan to take it to their home in Spain.

There are memories all around. The wooden lectern on which there used to be a copy of The Star or seat plans is for sale at £45.

Pauline Baldwin is in the office for very possibly the last time and in reflective mood. She’d expected a rush but perhaps people will be coming later. Will she be sad now it’s all over – some 37 years of company and works’ dinners, social shindigs, Christmas parties, lunches, pop up restaurant nights and private parties? “I won’t miss the admin but I’ll be like a fish out of water,” she says.

The new venture belongs to Jamie and Steve, who will take with them head waitress Angela Jackson, but doubtless the Baldwins will still be around to offer advice.

Indeed Mr B plans to take a seat at the bar at the new place. I look forwards to seeing him there.

*The sale runs until this Sunday.

NOTE: To read why it closed see here



All the plates you could want

This time it’s true: Mr B bows out


Pauline and David Baldwin

BALDWIN’S  Omega, Sheffield’s iconic banqueting suite and lunchtime venue, is to close next summer. After almost 40 years at the helm, colourful boss David Baldwin and his wife Pauline are calling it a day.

They have sold the site, which already has planning permission for around 40 homes, to a local builder.

“We can no longer do things to the standard we wish. Pauline didn’t want us to close but what made it easier in the end is that the figures don’t add up,” said David, known universally as Mr B or the Big ‘Un. “Since 2008 turnover has consistently gone down and we are not going to let standards slip.”

The business will close in July next year but expect there to be a series of parties and tearful farewells along the way.


The hacienda style banqueting suite

While lunches do well, as do weekend events, trade dips in the week. That has been the tipping point. Pauline said: “It’s not just about money, it’s a change in social attitudes. You don’t have all-male dinners any more. There are more women in the workplace and men can’t stay out drinking. They can’t use the excuse of going out when they have to look after the children.”

The standard of cooking here has always been higher than one would expect for the price and the couple are not prepared to cut corners. On top of that David has recovered from a long bout of illness.

They took over the hacienda-style building in 1980, after it had been closed for two years. It was built by Sheffield Refreshment Houses in the Sixties as a would-be rival to high end London establishments. They brought with them customers from their two previous ventures, the Angler’s Rest at Bamford and the Hillsborough Suite at Sheffield Wednesday, then leased from the Mansfield Brewery.

David, a publican’s son, ex-communist and former ship’s steward known for his colourful language, became an important figure in the hospitality industry. The Omega has been a sort of unofficial college, with many of its chefs finding top jobs elsewhere.

He is larger than life, a man with a kitchenful of contacts and a superb raconteur with anecdotes about the rich and famous, not shy of risqué stories. But while he can be hospitality itself he takes no prisoners. Customers love to tell of the time he was summoned from the kitchen by a woman in the Rib Room restaurant who complained she had found pellets in her pheasant. “What did you expect it had died of, a fucking heart attack?” he roared.


The Rib Room at the Omega

As Pauline said, the hospitality industry has been hit by a cultural change. There is now a generation which does not naturally go out to eat to celebrate. At a recent New Year’s Eve restaurant dinner with friends the party telephoned their children to see where they were: without exception they were all at friends’ houses.

In the early years the Omega, now rechristened Baldwin’s Omega, thrived on works clubs and company dinners and when that petered out ‘morphed’, as Pauline puts it, into the present pattern of lunches and parties. They used to slip in events like salmon and strawberries or Caribbean evenings to fill odd free dates then found these became a mainstay.

The news of the sale and closure has leaked out gradually. Staff – there are about ten full time with the rest students – were told first “so they knew more than the customers.”

Over the years there have been persistent rumours that the Omega was to be sold (some of which Mr B now confesses he had started himself to generate publicity) and they have grown since planning permission was granted.  The Omega’s website still says: “Just a note to clarify the TRUE facts about plans for the future of Baldwin’s Omega. Pauline & I are not planning to leave for some considerable time and are taking bookings for 2016, 2017, 2018 & beyond. We already have a very busy forward diary.”

The couple said they wanted to give customers plenty of warning and be able to honour present bookings.

So what do they plan to do after next year, retire to Spain where they have a property? “No, I’m a Sheffield lad. It was bad enough moving to Dore,” David said.

*NEWS of the closure comes less than a year after the demise of another equally long-lived top Sheffield restaurant, Greenhead House. You can read that story here

And here’s a taste of the food on a previous visit


Houses will be built on the car park

Cooking up a banquet of a book


The last time I met Paul Cocker, co-founder of Meze Publishing and the man behind The Sheffield Cookbook: Second Helpings, he was midway through his souvlaki on a summer’s day at a table outside the Greedy Greek in Sharrowvale Road.

We talked food, we talked cookbooks and he deflected my offer to write for him. So when I got a message that he had ‘something which might interest you,’ after I’d heard on the grapevine that a second edition was planned, I thought he might want a recipe. He didn’t. He wanted a foreword, a sort of amuse bouche before the meal proper.

I was honoured. After all the first edition’s had been penned by the great Mr B, David Baldwin, the grand fromage of the Sheffield food scene, a man who is a legend in so many people’s lunchtimes and evening shindigs.

My foreword is there on page 4 but you’ll be more interested in the book. It’s a belter. It weighs in at just over two pounds avoirdupois, almost the same as a big bag of sugar. Just think of the calories in the 80 or so recipes on its 320 pages featuring almost 70 local enterprises. I’m told that when it came back from the printers Paul was staggered by the size. He must have felt like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote in The Meaning of Life: one more little morsel, one more recipe, and it, too, would have exploded.

This banquet of a book – by contrast the 100 pages smaller first edition was just lunch – is a snapshot of what’s on offer in the city’s eating houses today and who cooks what and why. I commend it to you. He has not paid me. Paul (he is co-director with Exposed Magazine’s Phil Turner) has a wonderful business model which goes something like this.

It is a curious hybrid of the vanity press, where an author pays to have their book published, and that assignment which haunts every local journalist, the advertising feature. This is where he or she interviews the MD of Widgets Ltd and turns in a readable and entertaining account of the widget business for the newspaper.

A book begins when Meze contacts likely producers, chefs and restaurants and gets them to sign up to a chapter. How big that chapter is depends on the payment. Then Meze’s editorial team writes the words and takes the pictures. Copies of the book are then sold to each subscriber, at a discount, who can then resell to their customers (or give them away). How clever is that?

The cookbook idea started on home territory: Sheffield. “At first we printed 6,000. Then when that sold out we printed another 3,000. And then another 3,000,” says Meze’s Anna Tebble. This time, with Second Helpings, Meze has gone for broke and ordered 10,000 copies, pretty good going in the local publishing world.

Flicking through the pages I’ve come across some old friends and acquaintances and others I really must get around to meeting, not always that easy when you no longer have an expense account in your back pocket. There will be some recipes I want to try: Sentinel Brewery’s brown sauce to see which is best, their date or my prune-based sauce; Trippets’ Kalamata biscuits and the Rising Sun’s rolled lamb breast.

Sheffield was the first in a series of over a dozen regional cookery books, from Newcastle to Suffolk. That’s nice for the city to be the first in the food line: usually it’s well down the queue in the food business.

So treat yourself. At £14.95, it’s cheaper than a Baldwin’s Omega plat du jour, not much more than lunch at Sheffield College’s Silver Plate restaurant. Or tell Santa what you want for Christmas. I’ve already got mine.



Your quidsworth from the Big ‘Un

Cheap but more than cheerful breast of lamb

Cheap but more than cheerful breast of lamb

When you can catch him in big David Baldwin will tell you that lunch at his celebrated Baldwin’s Omega banqueting suite is Sheffield’s best-kept secret. If so, someone had been blabbing the last time I tried and failed to book a table – but it was for Friday the 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day.

But he might be right because the Omega’s Rib Room was only half full on the Thursday we booked and at least two customers enjoyed the spectacle of roast sirloin of beef, gloriously pink, carved by a chef at their tables. It is £18 and worth it – I’ve had it.

Even greater Value For Money, in a city which likes its quidsworth, is the monthly Plat Du Jour for £14.50, which, incidentally, is the minimum you can spend on a visit to Baldwin’s.

For this, you not only get three courses but olives and an appetiser (a ham and cheese ‘slice’) with your pre-lunch drinks, crudités (red onion and tomato) with homemade Melba toast, a loaf of kitchen-baked bread you cut yourself, and which you are encouraged to take home, butter and a carafe of water. You could, hypothetically, stuff yourself with bread, water, toast, crudités and olives and then remember an important appointment or feign illness, skipping lunch and leaving full, but that wouldn’t be playing fair.

For the Omega plays fair by its customers. Plat Du Jour diners get the same service from the waiting staff and the same attention to detail from the kitchen, under head chef Stephen Roebuck, as do those who order from the carte.

The Omega is still chiefly regarded as a banqueting place dominated by its owner of 35 years, known as the Big ‘Un, who lends a certain Sheffield fruitiness to proceedings. But this overshadows some really delightful cooking.

We both had the £14.50 menu but I was going to anyway as breast of lamb was a main course. It’s such a cheap cut it’s rarely seen on menus but fills me with nostalgia. And my wife wanted the sea bass in a jacket of filo which presumably is the same fish served char-grilled with roasted eel for £16 on the mains.

But first we began with a well stocked cock-a-leekie soup with herbed dumpling and a sprightly, clean-tasting slice of ham hock terrine with a very good homemade piccalilli.

In the years when I was hard up I got knowing looks from the butcher for I only ever brought breast of lamb, hand of pork and bacon scraps “for a quiche” (but in reality for Sunday breakfast) and know the worth of these cuts.

I had two roundels of lamb in a really meaty gravy studded with root vegetables and another dumpling. Now you couldn’t mistake breast of lamb for leg or loin but you are rewarded with an intense lamb flavour and the taste and feel in your mouth of sweet fat and crisp skin. The waitress brought mint sauce (with fresh mint) and a fruity redcurrant.

On top of that I shared vegetables which included roast potatoes and cheesy cauliflower with my wife, more than happy with her emphatically flavoured sea bass inside crisp filo with spinach leeks on a creamy tarragon sauce.

Desserts are from the carte, homemade chocolate profiteroles, crisp and light and full of cream, and an airy treacle sponge. Not bad for £29 for two for food. That’s getting your quidsworth.

By accident we had the dull filter coffee (old hands go for the Nespresso) but that was the only duff note all afternoon. And not seeing the Big Un. We left before he arrived.

As they say in the trade, very well worth a detour.

Brincliffe Hill, off Psalter Lane, Sheffield S11 9DF. Tel: 0114 255 1818. Open for lunch Tues-Fri. Web:

Chocolate profiteroles

Chocolate profiteroles

Ham hock terrine with piccalilli

Ham hock terrine with piccalilli

David Baldwin and wife Pauline

David Baldwin and wife Pauline