How Marco boxed clever and founded a restaurant dynasty

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Marco Giove at 79: among the last of his generation

MARCO Giove, one of the last surviving members of Sheffield’s founding generation of Italian restaurateurs, has died, aged 89. The funeral will be on what would have been his 90th birthday.

HE was a slim, slightly built, man from Brindisi, Puglia – he certainly did not look tough enough to be a handy flyweight boxer – who emigrated in the early Fifties to find work in the steelworks at Staveley.

The work was hard and he soon realised that using his fists was easier and could make him money.

“He used to visit the local fairground boxing booths and win money. His cousin, also called Marco, would point to him and bet the promoter that he would beat his man. He’d win more often than not,” says his son Marco junior, who runs Marco @ Milano on Archer Road.

They went all over the country until the ruse was stopped after the message went out to beware of two Italians, one big and one small!

It didn’t pay to tangle with Marco. Before he came to England he’d joined the Italian Navy at 19, serving six months of his two years in the cooler. A Southern boy, he was picked on by  a senior officer from the North so the plucky little rating threw him overboard.

His good looks also belied his age. He appeared much younger, fooling an 17-year-old girl called Anne, from Rotherham, whom he met at Sheffield’s Locarno dance hall in 1961 and married later that year. She thought he was about 24 when he was, in fact, 32. He told her just before they were married!

She must have forgiven him because they went on to have six children: sons Vincenzo, Marco and Stefano and daughters Susanna, Louisa and Francesca. It is a big family but Marco himself is one of 11 children.

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Marco Giove Senior aged 18

The following year the couple went to live in Italy where their first three children were born. For Anne, the lure of home was strong and they returned to Sheffield and opened their first restaurant, Marco’s, on Abbeydale Road, in 1973.

There were few other Italian restaurants in the city and for many diners it was their first experience of pasta not from tins!

Then followed a succession of restaurants. The business moved to Worksop, Doncaster then Crookes  (below,l eft), also as Marco’s, then as La Dolce Vita on Abbeydale Road, Martini on Campo Lane, Delle Rose off West Street and back to La Dolce Vita, which again became Marco’s (below, right). He retired around 1992.

 

 

But the family hadn’t retired. Son Marco Jnr ran first Rossi’s, now Marco @ Milano, while Vincenzo (Vinnie) had Buon Deli at Broomhill.

Marco, known as il Capitano (the Captain)  kept himself busy, dealing in wine among other enterprises. Customers at Remo’s, Broomhill, before it developed its menu, would have seen him come in with a tray of, perhaps, home-cooked lasagne for owner Remo Simeone to sell for lunch.

Marco died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday, August 10, surrounded by his family at home in Crookes.

The funeral will be at St Vincent’s RC Church, Crookes, at 1pm on Tuesday, August 27, followed by a wake in the church hall. His ashes will be scattered in the sea off Brindisi.

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Marco Giove and his wife Anne

 

 

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Birdhouse trills a happy tune

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Bao Buns with pork belly

WE might eat first with our eyes but sometimes we taste what we think we see. So, hands up, this veteran foodie has just confused pickled onion for chilli.

Chef Kevin Buccieri has brought us his Thai green ice cream to try and first I get flavours of lemongrass followed by chilli coming through the cold. It’s a little unsettling but intriguing. I wonder how he does it. Is the chilli infused or is it these little flecks of red, I ask? No, that’s pickled red onion, he says. I taste again and now I know the pickle flavour comes through. Doh!

It works. Brilliantly. Kevin thinks this dish should be a starter or certainly a palate cleanser (palate confuser, more like!) but diners prefer it at the end, like we had.

We have been invited to eat as guests at the Birdhouse, the tea emporium run by mother and daughter Julie and Rebecca English in a former workshop in  the charmingly named Alsop Fields on Sidney Street, Sheffield. They recently hired Kevin, ex-Rutland Arms No 2, to up the food offer from pies.

The menu, his first, is a pot pourri of small plates or tapas, mostly with an oriental slant at around a fiver each. And they often come with a chilli riff.

The chilli sidles up almost as an afterthought with the slices of crunchy stir-fried lotus root. It comes at you full gallop with the Puy lentil curry, firm and toothsome. But it is instantly addictive, particularly since it is on a contrasting bed of crispy kale. My wife loves it and she is a woman who has shunned kale all her life.

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Chef Kevin Buccieri

We’ve been here before to buy tea but not lingered. There’s a sunny courtyard we now look down on from our upstairs table in one of two first floor rooms, all beams and brick, seating around 50. From the windows across the room you can see the Porter Brook filter its way through the city’s industrial backside.

Sidney Street is a little out of the way and apart from an A-board and a slightly outdated menu pinned to the front wall – there’s not even a menu or picture of a dish on the website as I write – so Kevin’s food is being hidden under the proverbial bushel.

Seek it out, if only for the pork belly filled steamed bao buns. I’d half expected a chopped filling  but the pork is in whole strips of tender hoisin-flavoured meat, a lovely contrast to the spongy, airy bun. There are two for £8.50 but the dish could easily be reduced to one to keep the fiver price point.

I first encountered Kevin, or his food, at the Rutland pub, just a stone’s throw away on Brown Street, where I had praised head chef Richard Storer (aka Chef Rico) for a stunning fennel ice cream with cucumber jelly. He sportingly gave all the credit to Kevin.

Kevin, in return, acknowledges his culinary debt to Rico. He’d left college after training as a joiner but found that without experience he wasn’t wanted so took to pot washing. After the usual round of pubs and restaurants, without much ambition, he found himself beached up at the Rutland “where I truly found my passion.” A light bulb had been switched on. He stayed for over four years before striking out on his own.

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Curried lentils, crispy kale

Now the Rutland is an odd place, a scruffy, some may say eccentric-looking boozer, with an inventive, experimental kitchen which daily faces the heartbreak of sending out the pub’s best-seller, the Slutty Rutty, a massive chip breadcake, to those who should eat better.

For this reason you will not find chips on Kevin’s evening menu (it is available from 6pm). “The nearest I come to chips is the patatas bravas,” he says. Ah, we didn’t try those. But we did seem to have everything else. Dishes kept arriving (remember, we were being treated) and we were in danger of becoming Monty Python’s explosive Mister Creosote.

We loved the delicate goats cheese arancini balls winking like eyes with little ‘pupils’ of yellow pepper puree and the crunchy cubes of tofu (served with silky avocado) in a sauce of teriyaki, wasabi and golden syrup (rather than honey, to please the vegans). Since tofu is all texture and no taste it needs these companions.

There were big, generous slices of home cured salmon with paper-thin beetroot as well as seasonal asparagus served the classic way, with poached egg, hollandaise and truffle oil.

Despite his surname – great grandparents came over from Naples and he grew up in Darnall and Birley – Kevin cannot speak Italian nor cares that much for Italian food. But he does do a celeriac ‘tagliatelle’ with pesto. See if you can guess what the sauce is. A clue: apart from the pesto the dish only has one ingredient.

Writing all this I realise just how much we ate so my tastebuds can be excused over the Thai ice cream (I ought to mention we also tried an Earl Grey ice with gin and vanilla sauce but don’t ask me for a considered opinion – I was flavoured out)!

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Delicate goats cheese arancini

My tastebuds were very much in action at the start of the meal with the arrival of home made bread with tzatziki. Sourdough, I silently groaned, for local bakeries all seem to make the same rubbery, damp bread. This was none of that and it was close crumbed instead of holey. Kevin was disappointed with the lack of air pockets but not us. If we want holes we’ll eat focaccia.

This menu is very much an opening salvo. Kevin, a one man kitchen, has high hopes of doing more fish, probably pickled, possibly a ceviche. And a duck dish with a chocolate nod to Sat Bains’ Nottingham restaurant may appear when he’s happy with it.

Sheffield’s food scene is currently the liveliest I’ve seen it. Strip away the seemingly endless burgers and pizzas and there are plenty of fresh ideas and talent.  The Birdhouse adds to the mix. Just don’t ask for chips or Italy’s most famous export. Kevin might sound Italian but “I hate making pizzas,” he says.

You would be in the dog house at the Birdhouse!

Birdhouse is at Alsop Fields, Sidney Street, Sheffield S1 4RG. Tel: 0114 327 3695. Web: http://www.birdhouseteacompany.com

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The Birdhouse. Our table is in the top window

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Marco, Dan and a Lisbon tart

A PORTUGUESE custard tart at Lisboa, that little cafe with the custard yellow fascia in Sheffield’s Peace Gardens, is £1.95. That’s two euros.

“Last time I had one of these was in Lisbon when it was only one euro,” I say to the chap behind the counter, then pause. “But I expect you’ve heard that before?” The server, wearing a yellow Lisboa t-shirt , nods wearily. “Several times a day. But everything is imported from Portugal.”

“Everything. Flour, eggs, the baker,” says co-owner Dan Martins, sitting at the next table. He opened Lisboa – a bakery and cafe with a handful of tables – last December with fellow countryman and business partner Marco Matias, Sheffield Wednesday’s Portuguese footballer.

Dan, an architect, says: “I always wanted to open a cafe and bring something of Portugal to England. We put our heads together and it turned out out to be pasteis.”

These are not the first Portuguese custard tarts in the city but they are very authentic. And good. We first saw them from Chris Wong, who sold them from a stall in the Moor Market and now from Da Da Shu  on Furnival Gate. The Chinese encountered them in Macao, then a Portuguese colony, from where they travelled to Hong Kong. Local bakeries also make them, with varying degrees of success. And they are made by the Anglo-Russian Cossack Cuisine. The world , it seems, has taken this little eggy tart to its heart.

A pastel de nata (pasteis is the plural) is the photographic negative of the English version. The pastry is flaky not short. The filling, which in England tends towards the underneath of a creme brulee or burnt cream, is lighter and slightly jellied in texture. The top is scorched, not with a blowtorch, but by natural caramelisation of sugars in the oven.

There is artistry in this. A Portuguese can sum up the excellence of a pastel de nata by looking at the markings which should neither be all black nor too pale.

I am a sucker for a pastel de nata. I am not saying it is better than the English version but it is different .

I thought when Lisboa first opened they hadn’t quite got the texture right. Dan agrees. He blames the Sheffield water although I am not sure in which way. The end result, as I ate the other day, is a pleasingly rich mouthful.

Lisboa, which has a floor of authentic Portuguese tiles and a tiled street sign, Rua Fernando Pessoa (he’s the Portuguese Shakespeare), sells some 600 tarts in a good week.

It also makes other pastries, Nutella brownies, croissants, palmiers, custard slices and the Ham and Cheese Wonder, plus a couple of styles of loaves, but if you are going in for a coffee and a pastry you’ll probably have a pastel de nata. The coffee, by the way, is also Portuguese.

There are only three or four tables plus a couple of smaller ones tucked away at the back but an application has been made to the city council for outside seating.

Dan and Marco seem to gave scored a greater success with custard tarts than the Owls have in the Championship.

Kommune gets it together

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Mann’s salmon fishcake

AT Sheffield University in the Eighties urban geographers detected an invisible line which ran through the then Hole in the Road. Below it, past C&A down to The Wicker, taking in the Castle, Sheaf and Rag and Tag markets – and the courts – was territory occupied by what sociologists called rough working class.

Above it, from Rackham’s to High Street, Fargate and the Moor was the domain of the respectable working class and the city’s relatively small middle class.

Modern sensibilities being what they are, we no longer use these terms but some may raise a wry smile that there is now a bridgehead of gastro-gentrification in what was the old Brightside & Carbook Co-Op in Castle House, now the Kommune Food Hall. Here they sell lobster thermidor for £30 a go, Korean spicy pork, vegan salads and sourdough loaves not 30 yards from the Poundland opposite.

Kommune sounds a bit beardy and trendy with tattoos optional and indeed it is, on both sides of the counter. But in the opening weeks this enterprise with 10 different food options has had a real vibe and exciting atmosphere. Sit at the communal tables, bar stools or booths and you get just a hint of Lisbon’s Time Out food hall, although not the sophistication.

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Part of the seating area

On our first two visits it was packed and difficult to find a table, on our third, a Tuesday, it was quieter but still busy. And certainly livelier than when you went to get your divi at the old B&C.

At lunchtimes you order from each kiosk, pay and are given a buzzer when your food is ready. Evenings are more relaxed: pagers are dumped and food is brought to your table.

Kommune is still being developed. On the non-food side there is a splendid bar curving around the well of the building’s impressive spiral staircase, an art gallery and arty magazine shop but the building still has acres of empty space.

I’ve eaten or bought from seven of the independent businesses here. There is a ubiquitous burger and a pizza place, which I have yet to try, but the star of the show has to be Mann’s fish bar, the offshoot of the wet fish business at Sharrow Vale (where owner chef Christian Szurko already cooks up lunchtime fish ordered from the slab).

Kommune is all about street food and you might say Mann’s is hardly that. Here we had an excellent, if slightly small salmon fish cake (£10, to a Savoy Hotel recipe) on a dazzlingly good dill sauce and a ‘fish finger sandwich’ of battered goujons inside a squid ink-coloured bun. Chef Scott Mills, Christian’s partner, is enthusiastic about things so far.

The menu looks tempting: there is also dressed crab, clam chowder, steamed mussels and stuffed squid but did he really sell many thermidors? “They fly out,” he said, perhaps a little over-dramatically. “We don’t make anything on them but it gets us known.” He covers the breakfast and brunch market with dishes like kippers and haddock frittata with more expensive and sophisticated offerings at night.

We have yet to go at night. A trip to the Chaat Cart, a South Indian street food joint, produced an excellently flavoured chicken kati roll (£8), spiced-up poultry with vegetables on a roti. It was chicken for me from Shoot The Bull, a rotisserie and grill. I enjoyed my quarter chicken (£7.50) which was hardly more than a leg. This had been first brined then basted with maple syrup so there was plenty of flavour in the flesh and skin. The price included top quality chips fried in beef dripping. One thought: I never saw more than two birds on the rotisserie so the stall lacks kerb appeal.

Pom Kitchen is an Australian-inspired vegan and veggie option. The salad bowl (£7) was lively salad with decent focaccia let down by boringly bland hummus. A trip to Yoki, a Korean enterprise, offered an interesting spiced pork (slices stir-fried with chilli) which combined heat with a touch of sweetness. It came with a timbale of rice and salad garnish.

Kiwi coffee from local enterprise Tamper is stronger and richer than your average cup (each shot uses 42g of beans instead of the usual 36g) so you might not be safe drinking it after 2pm!

So far, so good. Kommune could do with a desserts offering, perhaps to justify lingering in the evening. It’s so refreshing to see something good, locally owned and independent in the city centre as a change from all those dreary old chain eateries.

Kommune is at Castle House, Angel Street, Sheffield S3. It opens Tues to Sat 9am to 11pm, Sun 9am to 9pm. Web: http://www.kommune.co.uk

#Castle House, a Grade II listed building has a lot of history and a story of delay caused by two world wars. Land was originally bought by the B&C on Angel Street in 1914 just before war broke out so building was delayed until 1927. It was slowed by discovery of the Sheffield Castle site and not completed until 1938. The building was destroyed in the Sheffield Blitz of 1940. The new building, designed by G S Hay, took as its inspiration Irving Park’s Sears Roebuck department store in Chicago, with its two blind walls on the first and second sales floors. The splendid interiors, including a mural, are by Stanley Layland.

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The curving bar

From burgers to braised pork

AS predicted by this blog, the site of the long-established Sheffield burger bar Yankees is to open as a Chinese restaurant in April, Lounge 418.

Or, more precisely, as a ‘cafe and Chinese restaurant’ according to owners Chun-Fat Lee and his wife Corrie Wong, who bought the site for a reported £525,000.

This is the Chinese Year of the Pig, which purportedly signals wealth.

It will be the first Chinese restaurant on Ecclesall Road (home to Indian, Japanese, Thai and Italuan eateries) for a very long time, possibly ever. And that’s despite it being a short hop away from London Road, the city’s unofficial Chinatown.

Mr Lee told the Vibe website that the new business would not look like a conventional Chinese. For a start the Yankees’ red (an Imperial and lucky colour) has been painted white and Lounge 418 must be the first Chinese restaurant with a dartboard.

The Hong Kong-based couple are in Sheffield where their son is studying and already own commercial premises further along at Banner Cross.

Yankees, at the corner with Thompson Road, was opened by the Freeman brothers in May, 1979, eight years after Ron Barton’s Uncle Sam’s. In recent years it had lost its way, at one point advertising a menu on banners outside not available within. It closed before Christmas 2016 and will have been ‘dark’ for over two years.

Encouraged by several thousand mainland Chinese students at the two universities a swathe of ethnic restaurants have opened in the West Street area to serve them. They are also a boon to local foodies as there is no pressure to Anglicise menus. Lounge 418 will have a South China (Cantonese) menu.

Some Sheffield-based Chinese restaurateurs have remarked upon the students’ reluctance or ‘laziness’ to travel far off the beaten track. It remains *to be seen whether the New Era complex and tower block between London Road and Bramall Lane, with plenty more student flats, will be near enough for Lounge 418 to attract their attention.

Or whether it will stick to the Anglo market.

Yankees as it was

Food to make a Mexican wave

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Richard and Abi Golland

CURIOUSLY, for a couple who have made a thriving business out of burritos and cashed in on the chilli-hot dishes south of the border down Mexico way, Abi and Richard Golland have never, ever been there.

“We have just been too busy but I think we should set a target to go to Mexico,” says Abi, nibbling away at her chorizo hash in their Street Food Chef burrito bar on Arundel Street, Sheffield. Richard pours agave syrup on his breakfast pancakes and shrugs. They have recently introduced a new breakfast menu and have asked me along to try it.

Well, as it says on their website, you don’t need to go all the way to Acapulco to taste the food and I’m enjoying the huevos rancheros from their new breakfast menu. The last time I ate this was in a Tex-Mex joint in Texas and the chillies blew my head off while I burped all the way round The Alamo. (The Mexicans are still besieging it, although now from food stalls outside.)

The Street Food Chef’s version is milder – I shall not be burping in the Winter Garden, my next stop – but I love the tender black beans and chipotle sauce.

Abi tempts me to a nugget or two home Mexican-style chorizo. It’s gentler and unsmoked compared to the Spanish version, made from local Moss Valley pork. They make the chorizo, mole sauce (chocolate and chilli), black beans and even the small tortillas themselves. “We decided from the start on never buying stuff in,” she says.

Street Food Chef has been around since 2010, the couple rather longer. They met in Oxford. “Richard was living on a boat on the river making gargoyles to sell to tourists. I was teaching,” she says. As Richard was from Sheffield they decided to make their home here in 2006 but needed a business idea they could both get involved in.

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My huevos rancheros

They thought of food but Richard had had his fingers burned while running a restaurant and wasn’t keen, at that point, to plough their money into property. So they decided to go on the streets with a trailer. But what would it be?

“We thought about ideas such as (selling) soup, porridge or hot dogs but as the council issued the licence they wanted something healthy. It was Richard’s dad in Toronto who kept sending us pictures of burrito bars,” adds Abi.

It was pretty good timing. Mexican food was just coming into fashion in the UK and Sheffield is notoriously always half a decade behind in food trends. There was not much Mexican food in Sheffield so they went to London to taste it there. “It was winter and I remember tramping the streets and thinking it was going to be cold selling here!”

They did well at markets, fairs and events – it’s a quick learning process and you either sink or swim. They learned a lot. But when they went to the council for a permanent pitch the following year they were persuaded to take “four square metres” in an empty building on Pinstone Street, in 2011.

The young business started winning awards but now they needed to get into bricks and mortar. Arundel Street opened in 2012 and there is another branch on Sharrowvale Road (one on Glossop Road, proved to be the wrong place).

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Chorizo hash

Their clientele in the city centre tends to be local business and university lecturers and staff. I’d have thought students but perhaps the average spend here of around £8.50 puts them off. But the couple make no claims that their bright, very red and yellow cantina is a destination place. “You come here on your way to somewhere else, the theatre or the Showroom,” says Abi.

With the enthusiastic assistance of chef Rob Cater-Whitham, who ensures even the queso fresco (fresh cheese) is made in-house, the couple have been able to fend off corporate Pedro-come-latelys in the Mexican market.

Customers may have drifted off to sample the likes of Taco Bell and the introduction of a KFC Mexican menu but “they’ve come back with their tails between their legs,” laughs Abi. In fact, the new arrivals put sales up.

The menu offers the usual mix of burritos, tacos and quesadillas although as Abi points out the former  is more a Californian thing. Mexicans always go for tacos.” Mexicans in Sheffield, they say, have responded favourably and particularly like the corn tortillas. You could say Abi and Richard have been given a cheerful Mexican wave.

So have their three children, Billi (23), Alfie (19) and Phoebe (16), all of whom have helped in the business and given their parents candid criticism. “The best people to test your food on is not your friends – they say ‘that’s very nice’ – but your children,” their mother says.

Richard, whom his wife describes as a serial entrepreneur, is already thinking up his next one. “We’re going to focus on pop-ups,” he says, describing the sizes of the carts they have. And perhaps go back to the idea of US-style hot dogs.

Who knows? Perhaps one day they’ll even find themselves down Mexico way?

*The breakfast menu is available until 10.30am on weekdays and until noon at Arundel Street, weekends only at Sharrowvale. Web: http://www.streetfoodchef.co.uk

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Street Food Chef on Arundel Street

There’s no blood in a white pudding

IT IS years since I had a white pudding. It is a very regional dish: think black pudding without the blood and you have more or less got it.

The Irish have a fancy for it, very often alongside black pudding which makes their breakfasts the Very Full Irish. In fact the best breakfast I have ever had was on the train heading south from Dublin with puddings of both colours and the tastiest sausages I have encountered.

When I worked on a Sunday paper in Devon white pudding, or hogs pudding, was always in the shops but I lost sight of it coming north. Now I’ve found it, or at least the Irish version (made in Lancashire), on sale at Dearne Farm Foods’ stall on the Moor Market.

As I understand it white pudding may or may not contain meat alongside the fat , oatmeal and spices. This pudding was made with quite a bit of pork as well as finely chopped bacon but seemed low on oats. It did have a rainbow of herbs and spices: white pepper, pimento, ginger and cinnamon along with rosemary, sage and thyme.

When I cooked it in the pan, simply by slicing and frying, I found it meatier than I expected and less oaty than I would have liked. But it was enjoyable . Think polony (which the stall also sells) but with a firmer texture.

Unlike most black puddings, there weren’t any little nuggests of chopped back fat but this would certainly go well in a ‘poor man’s fry up’ as the only porky contribution.

The stall has been selling it in 200g ‘stubs,’ as the plastic-wrapped sausages are called, for the last four years. “The Irish buy a lot of it,” the butcher told me.

The Scots have their own version, mainly oats, suet and beef, which sounds closer to the Devon hogs pudding I recall, although that didn’t have beef in it. There are even versions of white pudding which contain dried fruit, a recipe which goes back to medieval times.

This white pudding is made by the Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company and he also sells their award-winning black pudding. I bought some of that as well. Also on sale are stubs of polony, once a famous Sheffield delicacy but now fallen from grace, from Potters of Barnsley. Polony is still favoured in South Yorkshire funeral teas for the elderly and by anglers as bait.

I intend to have both black and white pudding, along with bacon and eggs, on Sunday mornings – a Very Full British Breakfast!