A curate’s egg at Butcher & Catch

craigspic

Duck breast

THERE’S a famous 19th Century Punch cartoon which shows a young clergyman struggling to say something good about the bad breakfast egg he’s eating at the Bishop’s table. “It’s good in parts,” he says, or some such, thereby launching the phrase ‘a curate’s egg.’

Which is what I think about Broomhill’s trendy Butcher & Catch after a meal there. Good in parts but then not in others.

Let’s start on a high note. You pass an open kitchen before which is set store a display of the tempting meat and fish waiting to be cooked to find a decent sized table in a bright, buzzy room.

And they can cook fish. One of our party had the catch of the day (£17), a whole sea bass as sparkling and fresh and equally as good as that she’d just eaten in Portugal. “Really on point,” she approved.

But why, and here we come to the curate’s egg, had the kitchen served up a heap of practically tasteless new potatoes alongside it?

Our friend’s starter of salt cod and mussel fritters (£6) knocked your socks off in the cod department  – salty, intense, vibrant – but the mussels were hard to find. My wife opened with a blackberry and apple cured sea trout, really quite lovely, but it was set on what was described as a buttermilk pikelet.

“It’s got the texture of a shoe insole,” she bemoaned. It was duly passed around the table and we all agreed it was a load of cobblers.

Both chaps ate the same. Our brioche doughnut filled with sticky oxtail (£6), obviously a Euro riff on a bao bun, was a little underwhelming. There was scant meat inside the sweet bun, burnished with a Henderson’s and maple syrup glaze. The roast carrot puree added an extra pleasing sweetness.

The duck breast (£18) ultimately failed to shine. There was plenty of it, pink and relatively tasty, but why on earth was it served into two big tranches when this is a meat which needs to be eaten sliced thinly? Worse, a thin layer of gristly cartilage was left on both our dishes and the skin, one of the glories of duck, was flabby not crisp.

It did, however, come with a lovely duck leg bon bon which showed what the kitchen can do: lip-smacking, shredded, confited meat in a crisp shell.

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Brioche with oxtail

The kitchen isn’t so hot on the pass, though. Both our dishes were missing their sweet potato fondant. It was rectified but, frankly, sweet potato doesn’t have the texture to make a fondant.

Service here is studied casual so they don’t offer to take your heavy coats unless you ask, put bottles of wine on the table without removing the tops or offering to pour and ask you one too many times if you want more drinks when those bottles are still clearly half full. So, in a similarly studied casual way we don’t leave a tip.

And the wine.!We had a Chilean Merlot and a Spanish Verdejo, both at the cheap end of a short list and poor value, lacking fruit and over acid respectively.

It might have been an off night. I hope so. But they might want to rethink some of their dishes and ask themselves if they really hang together.

In my reviewing days for The Star the tenor of my report often hung on the dessert course. Many a restaurant which faltered on the mains, cooked there and then, scraped home on the starters and puddings, prepped more leisurely in advance.

But this was our money, not the company’s, and my wife and I weren’t prepared to try.

We did, however, give it the old fingers test, where we each raised the number of fingers on one hand to show what we felt. In the spirit of generosity I raised three. She put up two fingers. She had just taken a sip pf wine.

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Sea trout with pikelet

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Going to the dogs

Rod's Dogs in Broomhill

Rod’s Dogs in Broomhill

I’d been drinking but as I sank my teeth into a late night bratwurst and stepped backwards from a Viennese sausage kiosk I was in heaven. Another step more and I really would have been. I hadn’t noticed the tracks and at that moment a tram rattled by, missing me by no more than the width of a bread bun.

For me it would certainly have been Goodnight Vienna.

I’m thinking of that moment now, on much safer territory, as I start eating a frankfurter from Rod’s Dogs ‘sandwicheria’ on Fulwood Road, Broomhill. I pass this place most Saturdays out shopping and have always meant to go in since it opened about a year ago. Now I have.

It’s already changed hands in that time (so Rod’s gone) and is now run by Chilean-born Jeannette Vilo, a very personable lady, and her son Pablo. They import their sausages fresh from Germany but the place is a take on an American diner.

I’ve been hooked on frankfurters (and bratwurst and currywurst) since I went to Vienna on a Press trip, armed with a copy of Graham Green’s Third Man. I read the book, rode the wooden Ferris wheel which features in the film, inhaled the smell of horse dung which pervades the Viennese summer and marvelled at the little kiosks, or wurstelstands, selling sausages on every street corner. I was fascinated by the spike which punches a hole in the roll in which to insert the sausage.

Sadly, the trip didn’t involve eating at one so I nipped out late at night on a one man sausage mission and nearly came a cropper. Interestingly, the Viennese call their sausages frankfurters. On a trip to Frankfurt I expected to see something similar but was disappointed.

Hot dogs are big in America – the term was coined over there – and are also very popular in South America, says Jeannette, bringing me my frankfurter with fries and soft drink, a £4.50 special. Down Latin America way they call them wieners.

Rod’s Dogs’ frankfurter is good in a quiet way, meaty and porky and juicy, but Jeannette later tells me, as restaurateurs have done so for the last 30 years, that I ordered the wrong thing. I should have gone for a Jumbo. I thought that was just a blown up frankfurter but apparently not. They also do beef filled frankfurters and bratwurst.

You can have all manner of toppings, German, American and South American-style, but my preference is for fried onions (which they don’t do, only onion rings), mustard and sauce. Jeannette tempted me into trying the homemade barbecue sauce, and I’m glad she did, because it’s like a very, very good, fruity brown sauce, rather like I make to Cary Brown’s recipe (see http://wp.me/p5wFIX-h ).

Frankfurter at Rod's Dogs

Frankfurter at Rod’s Dogs

In fact, when she twigged who I was, I got to try all the sauces, from a perky pico de gallo through guacamole to a wicked jalapeno.

Sheffield is full of fast food joints, almost always dishing up food from the freezer or cash and carry but at Rod’s Dogs it is all their own work, apart from the chips, vegetarian sausages and bread from Roses. They make their own pulled pork, brisket and burgers and you’ve got to warm to a place which makes its own chicken nuggets for the kids, haven’t you?

If this is going to the dogs, give me more!

Jeannette seems proud of her little diner with its red booths and mirrored walls. I was delighted to learn she is the sister of city restaurateur Kito Valeria, currently at La Mama on Abbeydale Road, and that I would have met her when they opened the city’s first Latin American restaurant, La Parrillada, on Cumberland Street, almost 30 years ago.

The sauces available for your hot dog or burger

The sauces available for your hot dog or burger

“This may be fast food but it’s fresh food,” says Jeannette and I applaud her. I’ll be back to try a Jumbo and – mine was something of a fleeting visit – and to order some churros, which I’ve just noticed are on the menu.

Incidentally, if you are into German sausages and don’t fancy them out of a tin or jar, good as they can be, visit the little Austrian café Tiroler Stuberl in Water Street, Bakewell http://www.tirolerstuberl.co.uk which has an excellent range imported from Austria. And anyone interested in going to Vienna to taste a street corner wurstel should get a copy of Sheffield author Duncan J D Smith’s guide to the city Only in Vienna, available on Amazon and from http://www.duncanjdsmith.com

Rod’s Dogs is at 267 Fulwood Road, Sheffield, S10 3BD. Tel: 0114 268 7865. Web: http://www.rodsdogs.co.uk

STOP PRESS: Sadly Rod’s Dogs has now closed and gone to the great wurstelstand in the sky.

A wurstelstand in Vienna

A wurstelstand in Vienna

Rendezvous with Remo

Italian meatloaf

Italian meatloaf

luxurious tiramisu

luxurious tiramisu

The other night my wife and I did something we haven’t done since last October. Well you can stop sniggering because we went out for a meal together. Not with the grandchildren, just ourselves. Oh and a pen, notebook and camera. When you’ve had over 1,400 meals out over 26 years of restaurant reviewing old habits die hard.

I thought I might as well, for the blog. Anyway I could never switch off when I was working. I’d always pause mid-mouthful and ask myself what I could say about it if asked. Once on holiday we went to the famous Magpie fish and chip restaurant in Whitby. “Now you’re not working, just enjoy it,” admonished my wife.

“Hello Martin, Are you going to write about them?” called a well-known Sheffield character who spotted us coming in. And I thought, why not? Lots of Sheffield people eat here on holiday so a review would be legit. My wife didn’t quite see it that way but I jotted a few notes on a paper serviette, took the odd picture, wrote up the piece and in the end the paper settled the bill. Now that’s what I call a free meal.

We were certainly paying at Remo’s in Broomhill, a place we invariably call in for coffee when we’re out shopping on Saturday. It’s got lots of atmosphere, looks authentic (the boss is Italian via Rotherham) and has very probably the best coffee in town.

Last year owner Remo Simeone finally realised his dream of expanding the place and doing rather more in the food side than a few salads and sandwiches and the odd hot dish cooked and brought in by veteran Sheffield restaurateur Marco Giove Senior. He hired his old pal Richie Russell as chef.

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Chef Richie Russell

You’ll know Richie. He was the chef in that Kitchen Nightmares TV show in 2009 who memorably swapped 310 expletive deleteds (including 240 F words) with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay at the restaurant rebranded as Silversmiths in Arundel Street. Despite this, one reviewer described Richie as one of the nicest chefs seen in the series. And so he is.

Since starting, Richie has introduced more hot dishes to the menu, which now changes every month, and there is now a monthly bistro evening. Well, chefs have to keep interested. We’ve been meaning to go and eventually did.

Soup was cauliflower, chickpeas and celery, with a background flavouring of rosemary, with a slice of ciabatta with toasted taleggio on top. Nice flavours, which is what you could also say about the asparagus and artichoke tart which followed. I followed next with Italian meatloaf (a sort of square meatball) and got two gutsy slices. The kitchen had used quite a bit of bread in the mixture but it was a good, rumbustious dish, although it cried out for a tomato sauce.

Instead, it was partnered with a bean casserole, as was my wife’s main course of baked squash with pasta and Dolcellate. It looked rib-sticking but was quite delicate, if too much with the beans. It was all good spirited stuff and the meal ended with a quite glorious orange, chocolate and Amaretto tiramisu so, with BYO and no corkage, it was great value for around £25 a head and I heard nobody swear all night.

NOTICE TO READERS FROM SOUTH KOREA, MORE ABOUT RICHIE (AND PHOTO} HERE http://wp.me/p5wFIX-lO

 

Remo's

Remo’s