Cary has a Concept and I have a shower


Thumbs up for Cary

Whenever I wanted a little innocent amusement I turned to TripAdvisor and the reports of the Devonshire Arms, Middle Handley. This award-winning pub drew plaudits and brickbats in equal measure but what added a touch of spice, an unexpected piquancy, were the landlady’s comments.

“Clearly it would have been better for all concerned if you had simply gone to KFC and eaten a bucket or two full of what you normally eat, the finer things in life aren’t for you.”

“Please spend your weekends in Huddersfield away from our pub, we don’t need or want customers like you.”

Now, though, the tone is more upbeat. “My, has the place improved,” notes one reviewer. “This is just what we need, great hearty food,” adds another.

The place, a lovely pub in the middle of some quiet, gentle countryside, is in new hands and one pair of them belongs to charismatic chef, Cary Brown. By both our reckonings this must be his tenth venture or rebranding but, duck for cover chaps, Cary has a Concept.

The man who did fine dining at the Charnwood and Carriages, made fish sexy at Slammers, spinned pizzas at the Limes and transformed himself into The Pub Landlord.1 at the Royal Oak, Millthorpe, with the finest Sunday dinner I’ll ever have on earth, is now The Pub Landlord.2

The Concept is simple, says Cary. It’s a pub. It’s a bit posh but it’s not a gastro-pub. It serves proper food. Don’t panic you might get swirls or flecks or foams. You won’t. It tastes good. No pressure if you don’t want to eat but that bloke at the bar just came in for a pint and weakened at the thought of a lobster roll. You pay for your food and drink when you order and don’t ask for a tab.

“In the past it was a pub with a restaurant. We want to get it back to being a pub again with drinkers in. Nice drinkers – imagine that, people drinking in a pub! –eating pork scratchings,” he says.


Fishy blackboard at the Devonshire Arms

There’s an echo of his fish restaurant days with a blackboard offering prawns, crab, lobster, thermidor “all served with bread and proper butter.” There was also grilled lemon sole and roast halibut but both had gone when we arrived. Cary promises the offering will get ritzier as time progresses.

We arrived on the day of my former colleague Lesley Draper’s review in the Sheffield Telegraph. She’d liked it but reported there were no starters as such. That’s the Concept although I must admit it took me some time to grasp . And, as she says, since everything is on blackboards, there’s a fair bit of walking about as you decide.

For non-fish eaters there was poussin, a burger, proper corned beef hash (he corned the beef himself) and, among other things, rib eye with Bearnaise. Hearty stuff.

Cary’s partner Shelley Chilton, the other pair of capable hands involved, suggested my wife have the salmon briefly seared and it proved a revelation, firming up nicely and deepening the taste. I had, for some reason, half a pint of king prawns which you could call a sort of deconstructed prawn cocktail.

You shelled them yourself, of course. I had to be careful as the heads were full of blood which spurted. They were tasty, particularly when dipped in Marie Rose sauce, and if you were looking for lettuce (this wasn’t a prawn cocktail) there were a couple of basil leaves for greenery. It came with Melba toast made from Cary’s own Bloomer but I had to pinch my wife’s butter.

This dish also includes a shower. The lot is served on one of those pesky boards and when it came to clearing away the waitress slipped and the finger bowl of warm water splattered my trousers. Many chefs have wanted to do something similar over the years.

For ‘mains’ my wife had a half lobster thermidor, which at £12 is a bargain and could well become the pub’s signature dish. So far he has sold 160. If you’ve never had this combination of grilled lobster, creamy sauce, mustard and Parmesan try his gutsy version.

I had Brixham crab with a salad big enough to defeat a field full of rabbits. I did think later that Cary had had very little to do with the crab, which must have come already dressed, except to artistically arrange the cucumber slices on the top. But he has never served me a dull mouthful and this was as seafaringly splendid a crab as you’ll get.


Half a pint of prawns or DIY prawn cocktail

At this point I had to mention his obsession with Melba toast. I got it again. And without butter, despite the blackboard promises. Bread, preferably brown, and butter is a must with crab. When I asked why he said it was just himself in the kitchen and easier to do. So far he’s been working alone as he builds up the business.

One of his jobs, he says, is to win back the locals so the sort of food he is offering is an attempt to persuade them they won’t have to have a three-course job if they cross the threshold. They’ll find a roomy pub with slick modern décor, not a horse brass or a Toby jug in sight, neutral tones, downlights and the occasional sign (apart from those blackboards) to complement the wooden floor.

There’s a no bookings, no tab policy and, currently, there are problems over the website which is for the previous business. Check things out on the Facebook page listed below.

So, nice one Cary but ditch that flippin’ Melba toast; this is not the Sixties nor the old Dore Grill.

PS: My trousers survived the soaking.

The Devonshire Arms is at Lightwood Lane, Middle Handley, Sheffield S21 5RN. Tel: 01246 434 800.




I’ve eten at Eten

Eten Café on East Parade

Eten Café on East Parade

I’m having lunch with my former colleague and sparring partner Lesley Draper of the Sheffield Telegraph which we do two or three times a year. It’s a time to swap ideas, talk shop, trade gossip – who’s moving where and why, alert each other to restaurants opening – and telling a few stories which will never be written on page or screen.

Naturally we chose somewhere we like and today it’s Eten Cafe, a curious little eaterie which sprawls between the Cathedral and York Street, home of the Telegraph and the Star. Our meals arrive. She’s got a fat-free salad of samphire, shaved cooked beetroot and brie and I’ve got shoulder of lamb shredded and shaped into a tower, cauliflower cheese and squeaky green beans.

At the same moment we both reach for our pockets, pull out our cameras and take snaps of our respective dishes. I laugh. Not so long ago we would have had to scribble down a word picture in our notebooks.

Eten is run by chefs Lee Vintin and Paul Gill who come up with a medley of enterprising specials dishes. I was here a while back to review its plate pie and re-tell memories of those served up by long-gone Tuckwood’s and have also enjoyed the pulled pork. I’d have had it today but the last portion had just gone out. It is busy, people were queuing up to the door for a table earlier.

It’s great to see an independent café doing good business in the middle of a city dominated by chains. Lee, bearded like a pirate, a sort of culinary Captain Ahab, drops by our table. His right arm is wrapped in clingfilm after an argument with a pan of hot oil. He lost.

He points out that I’ve had the low-carbs special. I blink then realise that there were no spuds and I hadn’t missed them. I’d been so busy nattering I wasn’t paying proper attention to my dish although I can tell you that the lamb was so tender it nearly baa’d.

Lee is coeliac so gluten-free (and vegetarian) dishes are always on the menu, as are scones and afternoon tea. Mondays are meat free, there are bistro nights and this is the only café I know which hosts early morning yoga classes, a book group and a Shakespeare enthusiasts’ club.

Eten is allegedly Middle English for ‘to eat’ so I’ve eten at Eten. I’ll pass on the yoga, though.

East Parade, Sheffield S1 2ER. Tel: 0114 273 0658. Web:

Eten's shoulder of lamb

Eten’s shoulder of lamb

A little bit of self-promotion


I’ve just been on a mini promotional tour for this blog, in much the same way as an author promotes a new book. It’s given a shot in the arm to the viewing figures but it has happened by accident.

First off was a call from Lesley Draper, food writer for the Sheffield Telegraph and a long-time friendly rival of mine. We are both ‘old school’ journalists, relish writing about food and, in my time at the Sheffield Star, each waged a weekly battle to scoop the other. I am sure it caused colleagues some amusement and others in the hospitality industry some bemusement. After all, we were working for the same company, albeit on different newspapers. But every journalist is born with the desire to publish first. It is how  we were brought up in the heyday of local journalism.

It wasn’t so hard when we worked in different buildings – the Telegraph used to be across York Street from The Star – but as cost cutting took effect we finished up in the same building then at adjacent desks. I would make my important calls when Lesley wasn’t there and I’m sure she did the same. I would swear contacts to secrecy, which didn’t always work.

We may have been deadly rivals but are the best of friends, respecting each other’s professionalism. We still lunch together and swap gossip. Lesley generously did a piece on the blog for her food pages this week. If you missed it first time round or were so impressed that you want to read it again, I have attached it at the end of this post.

Purely by chance, I was due at BBC Radio Sheffield for the Rony Robinson programme the following day. I am one of ‘Rony’s Friends,’ people on a rota who can all string a few a few words together, tell a story and promise not to swear (although I did once, if mildly).

It was the chance to plug the blog and bring him the bottle of homemade brown sauce he had asked for on my last visit. I stuck a label on with this blog’s website address so he won’t forget it for his next few Sunday breakfasts. Rony is the consummate professional. You can run an anecdote past him during a musical break, he will chuckle, then you retell it on air and he will chuckle even louder. It remains to be seen how many visitors to the blog the BBC spot will bring.

Now here’s Lesley’s piece.

Most people seize on retirement as a chance to sit back and put their feet up, or take up a new hobby, but not Martin Dawes…
A leading Sheffield food writer, and colleague at Sheffield Newspapers for more than 20 years, he is using his new found leisure time to do what he likes best: write about food.
Martin celebrated the new year by launching a new blog – Another Helping – and has already treated followers to four servings of his own distinctive take on food.
“I realised when I gave up reviewing – and I felt that 26 years was enough for anyone – what I missed even more than the meals was the fun of writing about them,” he says. “And with food and drink as a theme, I could write about virtually anything.”
Son of a chef and publican, Martin grew up in Norfolk but has spent most of his adult life in Sheffield, much of it writing about food for The Star.
Over the years he reviewed hundreds of city restaurants and consumed some 1,400 meals in the line of duty; he is also a keen cook.
Notoriously computer illiterate at work, Martin called on stepson David Arch to help him set up the blog. It now gives him a chance to share his tips and recipes – including the secrets of his home-made brown sauce and thoughts on the daily doorstep pinta.
“I’ve always felt passionate about food, so all the pieces so far have been about things I’m interested in – and I’ll still be doing the odd review,” he promises.
The blog has already been read by up to 40 people per day, including some from as far away as the USA.