Sunday, 15 March 2015

Seven(ish) Thrills of Sheffield

Everybody knows that Steel City is also the most famous to be built on seven hills (there may be the small matter of Italy’s capital, with its Trevi Fountain and Coliseum, but Sheffield produced Bertie Bassett and the Cockers - both Joe and Jarvis – so it clearly nudges ahead).

The Ewing is also going through a little love in with the Rome of Yorkshire, after she saw a speculative application for a speculative job which she speculatively though of applying for, despite the closest she has previously ever got to the place being when we pass Meadowhall on the M1 on the way to my Aunt and Uncle’s. 

To indulge her new obsession, we decided to make a weekend of it on the way to our trip to the Peak District. So here we have a beery Sheffield thrill for every Sheffield hill, plus a coffee stop for luck (or for sobering us up...).

Just like our first stop in Birmingham last winter (with the fabulous Craven Arms), I think that our very first stop was here my favourite of the whole trip. Both Arms, Craven and Rutland, are similarly old school, the Craven with its Majolica tiling the Rutland with its 1920's frontage of red brick and gold faience, and both serve a good selection of fine beer in old fashioned, dark wood surrounds.

The Craven Arms also has a mural by Sheffield street artist Phlegm (thankfully the paintings are more attractive than the name), whose distinctive works crop up in many other places across the city.

After battling Sunday buses and spring gales we were just in time for lunch. But before we could eat, it was time for the fabled first drink of the holiday. In my case a half of Magic Rock High Wire, a juicy, tropical fruit filled pale ale from the Huddersfield brewery that’s not seen much down South. The Ewing had a pint of something dark and smoky; always start like you mean to go on.

The food was fantastic. I’m pretty sure that, along with my Aunt’s steamed ginger pudding that I ate on the last evening of our trip, the roast veal with dauphinoise potatoes I ordered was the best thing I consumed in a week and a half (and I consumed a lot). The mushroom gravy, augmented by a drop of the famous Hendos, still haunts my dreams. 

The Ewing’s slow roasted shoulder of lamb was also a belter, with exemplary roast spuds and three Yorkies (although they did have a faint whiff of Aunt Bessie about them). To drink was a second Magic Rock, the belting Big Top, an India red ale based on their Rapture, but boosted up to a tasty 8%, that went down a little too smoothly.

Pudding was a good homemade chocolate brownie accompanied by remarkably good homemade banana and coffee ice cream and a half of Magic Rock’s Chipotle Punchline stout. A decent brew, although I felt the smoky after burn from the chillies rather disconcerting.

Next we considered traversing the city to check out the Red Deer or Bath Taps, but the cruel winds and hail forced us back towards the station; which turned out to be perfect for a couple of snifters at the Sheffield Tap, the famed pub built at the side of the station and accessed from sheaf street or platform 1b.

They’ve got a big range of cask and keg but not a huge amount that interested me on our visit. In the end I settled for a fair, if a little pricey, half of 6 North's Hop Classic Belgian IPA. The Ewing picked the even more expensive Ten Fidy from the Oskar Blues Brewery, at a lethally smooth 10.5 %, and was rewarded with an awesome imperial stout with a malty sweetness and a big lick of dark chocolate and bitter coffee.

Their bottle selection was much more interesting, and we settled for two efforts from the Marble Brewery; the Chocolate Marble and the Earl Grey IPA. Although they came from the wrong side of ‘tPennines, both were belters, the IPA being particularly great and well worth seeking out. I also –displaying a streak of drunken machismo – ordered the chilli jerky to nibble on, the large red lettering proclaiming ‘warning’ not enough to put me off. Well, reader, they weren’t wrong, the aftereffects on my digestive tract being even more cataclysmic the following day when combined with all the beer that had been drunk.

First stop the following morning was for caffeine at the rather lovely Sellers Wheel branch of Tamper Coffee, a lovely bright and beautiful space co owned by a couple of Kiwis, a nation known for their great coffee and brunches.

We weren't disappointed, despite our order turning up in a rather random fashion with rather random excuses; The Ewing's omelette, followed by my coffee, followed by my sandwich (sandwich press was heating up) followed, finally, by the Ewing's coffee (the pour over takes a while to prepare).

Timing grumbles aside, the freshly cooked omelette - four cheese with red onion - was delicious, although butter would have been nice to go with the rye toast. My salt beef and gherkin sarnie with mustard mayo was, as the hedgehog haired presenter of a famous road food TV show may have said, off the chain. 

My piccolo was good, although I really liked the lamington I had asked for alongside whilst waiting for my sandwich to toast (I was on holiday). When the Ewing's coffee finally turned up it was in a chemistry beaker (crazy. TE) which, once poured into her glass, rendered it rather lukewarm. Still the flavours were good, so much so we picked up a bag of the Tamper house blend beans for my Uncle on the way out.

After breakfasting we made way of the unusually sunny weather by visiting the nearby Millennium Gallery - complete with its giant horse sculpture made of Sheffield cutlery and striped (both blue and white for the Owls and red and white for the Blades) bottles of Hendos - and the adjoining Winter Gardens; a fine temperate glasshouse housing an array of tropical plants seldom seen in South Yorkshire alongside shops and a cafe.

Next we made our way down to Kelham Island, formally an industrial area, the 'island' being created by a diversion of the River Don to power the town corn mill, and now home to the Kelham Island museum which celebrates the cities rich heritage, alongside some flashy new student digs and five pubs.

One of these, predictably, was the site of our first stop. The Fat Cat, opened in 1850 in Kelham Island, and which styles itself as Sheffield’s ‘first real ale pub’. While it was under ownership by a big brewery for many years, in 1981 it was put up for auction and became a mecca for independent and local beer lovers. 

Being (literally) next door to the Kelham Island brewery, two of its permanent fixtures are Kelham Island bitter and their signature brew Pale Rider. With both beers having to make less than a 20 yard trip, it’s no surprise to say they were in tip top condition. The pork pies, on the bar were also pretty great.

Being a Monday, the atmosphere (no piped muzak or fruit machines here) was a little lacking and the staff a little curt; although it was nice to see the steady stream of locals, most known by name, propping up the bar and the roaring log fire in the corner. The rest of the food – curry night £4.50 with £1.50 pints, fresh pies baked daily, ploughmans and burgers  – also looked good, and very good vale too.

Saving ourselves we made our way to the end of the road, home of Kelham’s other famous hostelry, the Kelham Island Tavern. The set up here is less warren-like than the Fat Cat, and the atmosphere livelier and more welcoming, and, even though we had just missed the hot beef rolls, the barman offered to rustle us up a chip butty if we liked. 

Kind as the offer was, we stuck to our liquid diet; for me a pint of local brwery Abbydale's Deception and the Ewing had halves of Barnsley’s Acorn Old Moor Porter and a Thwaites Symphonic, a blackberry infused stout.

Another good no nonsense pub, the kind we excel at and that are now, sadly, becoming a rare breed, the Kelham Island is a very fine place to while away the afternoon. The highlight of our visit being when the dyed-in-the-wool Yorkshire barman had to explain to a group of young Frenchwomen what exactly a scotch egg was; priceless.

From the old to the new, dinner was at Craft and Dough, Sheffield’s new pizza and craft beer gaff. Despite being able to see the Fat Cat and The Kelham Island tavern from the window, there’s no bitter and pork scratchings on the menu here. Actually, I tell a lie, there was a special pork scratching topped pizza made in honour of pig week, but they had sadly already sold out on the very first day of it being on the menu. And they also have bitter too, of which I enjoyed a bottle of Saltaire’s Joshua Jane. Proving there isn’t too much difference between the past and the present after all.

Being thwarted by the absence of the piggy special, I went for the equally protein loaded Crafty Cuts, an braised ox cheek, pepperoni, balsamic red onion mozzarella and oregano number, while the Ewing had the veggie Yorkshire Goats Curd, Henderson's Relish and with baby leeks grown at Furnace Hill, the restaurant’s own allotment in Kelham. I think I actually preferred the veggie option, although both were fine pies; generous and with a base that was at once chewy and charred, just the way it should be.

Puds came in the form of soft serve milk ice cream - a little boring, if I’m honest - which was enlivened greatly by the bottle of Brass Castle Bad Kitty vanilla infused stout (say that in a Yorkshire accent) I drank alongside it. The Ewing chose the Yorkshire rhurbarb mess, served with a Ilkley Siberia, a rhubarb infused saison and her second Ilkley beer of the night, after enjoying a bottle of Pale with her pizza. The mess was outstanding; batons of bright pink ‘barb, sweet crème anglaise and shards of meringue studded with tart rhubarb jelly, strong contender for pud of the year, even at this early stage.

The icing on the cake, literally and figuratively, came when JP, their lovely front of house, offered us the last couple of slices of his delicious chocolate birthday cake. Many thanks JP, and his Mum, who baked the fudgy, squidgy beauty (hat a treat! TE). You can see from our dishes, even after the shameless gluttony before, how well it went down.

First stop on our final day was the Three Tuns, which is known for being shaped like the Flat Iron Building (or should the Flat Iron building actually be known for resembling the Thee Tuns?) Whatever, this is another unusual and fine looking pub, recently taken over by the chaps behind the Rutland Arms.

Grabbing a quick half - a Bad Boi Rye IPA for me and a ginger infused stout for the Ewing -we managed to grab a spot in the ‘nose’ of the pub, which, with its boat shape, felt rather like being in Titanic, another beer and maybe I would have been doing my best Kate Winslet impression.

After the fearsome jerky consumed on the first night you may have thought I’d have learnt my lesson. Sadly not, as this time I opted to try the Pwhoar Horse My Brittle Pony (worth it for the name alone) a ‘100% beef free’ horse jerky. Whilst flavoured with chillies and soy, mercifully it was much milder and provided a good chew to accompany my pint.

Last up was the Harley - a quickly improvised stop when we realised the highly regarded Thornbridge pub, the Bath Taps, didn’t serve any grub. The Harley -along with the Riverside in Kelham and Jake’s bar in Leeds - serves food from the Twisted Burger Co., and we were soon happily ensconced on their battered leather sofas whilst waiting for our lunch.

I chose the Limp Brizket; Double Beef Patty, Shredded Brisket, American cheese, onion jam and techno Burger Sauce; and the Ewing the Pig Daddy Kane; double beef patty, pulled pork, American cheese, Kraken BBQ sauce and chorizo & apple jam; and a sharing portion of sweet potato fries. Not for dieters, then.

Overall these were pretty strong burgers; whilst my patties were overcooked, the outside had a good crust and the brisket was inspired, adding a juicy beefiness. A little bit of chilli heat would have been good, but I compensated with yet more Hendos. The Ewing’s effort was also commendable, although, with both BBQ sauce and apple jam, a little sweet for me, but the sweet potato fries, with their crunchy coating, were perfect.

To drink was a half of Saltaire’s Blackberry Cascade, an American style pale ale infused with a hint of the said fruit. And for me a pint of Farmer’s Bitter from nearby Bradfield Brewery, a rurally inspired and thoroughly English beer that was the perfect prompt for saying goodbye to the hustle of Steel City and making our way to the next stop, the bucolic Peak District.

No comments:

Post a Comment