Archive for the Yorkshire Category

Sheffield – Romanian food in Attercliffe

Posted in Attercliffe, England, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom, Yorkshire with tags , on April 10, 2019 by gannet39

To start with I should tell you that two of us were given a free meal in return for this review but these are still my real and honest opinions.

The dining scene in Sheffield is coming on in leaps and bounds at the moment, not just in terms of the quantity and quality of new places to eat, but also in the number of different kinds of cuisines on offer. In the last few months I’ve eaten excellent Korean, Ethiopian and Portuguese food, all of which were quite hard to find in our city just a short while ago. And now we can add Romanian cuisine to the list of exciting new arrivals…

The Vlad (formerly The Sfinx) (Intermediate A), 539 Attercliffe Road, Sheffield S9 3RA, +44 114 244 3123,

Tucked away in deepest darkest Attercliffe, this hidden gem is virtually unknown to most people outside of the local Romanian community. It’s on the main strip, opposite La Chambre, but you can easily park round the back on Kimberley Street.

The Vlad is owned and run by Adrian and his wife Camelia, both of whom are from Transylvania, the central region of Romania. The restaurant takes its (former_ name from a famous rock formation in a national park in the nearby Bucegi Mountains that bears a resemblance to the famous Egyptian Sfinx.

The dishes on their menu are taken from all over Romania but Adrian and Camelia give them their own personal touches. In turn Romanian food has been greatly influenced by a number of neighbouring cuisines but has interpreted each of them its own way. From the north-west, influences have come from Germany, Austria and Hungary, and to the north-east, from Poland, Ukraine, and Russia, while to the south you have Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. While Romanians share many common foods with these countries they have also developed their own distinctive cuisine.

Although I’ve never been to Romania, I have been to Moldova which was once a part of its larger neighbour so I have some knowledge of its food and wine as they are very similar (my Moldova posts are here).

On arrival I slaked my thirst with a bottle of Ciucaş Export (4.6%). It’s a slightly sweet beer, with hints of roasted malt and flavoured hops, made with spring water from the Ciucaş Mountains between Transylvania and Bucharest. It was a little too sweet for me but it’s still a nice beer.

We began with the delicious Sharing Platter. Starting clockwise from top left this included Salată Muraturi, a traditional pickled salad with green tomatoes, gherkins, sweet pepper, carrots and cabbage. You either love pickles or you don’t, personally I’m a big fan. Continuing to the right; Ouă Umplute (devilled eggs filled with chicken liver pate, served with lambs lettuce), some black olives, ‘winter salad’ (roasted aubergines and peppers, onions, mushrooms and beans), Salată de Vinete (roasted aubergines blended with chopped onions and mayonnaise, served with sliced tomatoes and Pâine, fresh bread). Finally, bottom left are some Sarmale; cabbage rolls stuffed with seasoned ground pork, bacon and pickled cabbage, and some cubes of fried cornbread served with sour cream and chilli pepper.

Sarmale are my most favourite Romanian dish. They are probably a take on Greek stuffed vine leaves but personally I prefer the Romanian version. At the Vlad they can be served as a starter (two rolls) or as a main (four rolls). I strongly advise you to get at least two per person.

I added on the bowl of Ciorbă de Burtă as an extra starter. Adrian was a bit surprised that I finished it so quickly, given that it’s a soup made with cow stomach parts. It’s true that it’s not a dish most Brits would usually go for but personally I adore tripe when it’s cooked as well as it is here. The soup is a deep and flavourful stock with small strips of tripe settling at the bottom. I agree with Adrian’s observation that the tripe has a very similar texture to squid. The soup is served with separate pots of garlic and chilli sauces on the side both of which I emptied into the bowl. I can totally understand why it’s one of the most popular dishes with Romanian customers.

Moving on to the mains, we got to try a selection of meat stews. We really enjoyed the Gulaş Unguresc, which is of course the Hungarian national dish but is also very traditional in Romania. Also good was the Tachitura Românescă, a Romanian stew which is a mixture of chopped pork, chicken breast, Romanian sausages, mushooms and tomato sauce, served with a topping of polenta, fried egg and Brinza cheese.

Our favourite though was the Ficătei de Pui Prăjiti in Ceapă; chicken livers fried with sliced onions. This went well with the Cartofi Piure Cremosi; creamy mashed potatoes.

After the Sarmale, my second favourite dish was the Ceafă de Porc la Grătar, a chargrilled pork collar steak, (the juiciest cut according to Adrian) which had spent some time in the restaurant’s secret marinade. It’s pretty much unmissable I’d say.

Also nice were the Mici la Grătarl they came with; minced meat rolls reminiscent of koftas, made from a mixture of beef, lamb and pork with spices and served with a dipping sauce of Romanian mustard and mayonnaise.

At this point I feel I need to say that although our selections were very meat heavy, there are two or three vegetarian options for both starters and mains on the menu. Romania has a surprising number of vegan and vegetarian dishes due to their long tradition of fasting for Lent. The menu features many dishes with beans, wild mushrooms and other kinds of veg and for dessert there are vegan pancakes with jam.

Happily Romania also has a long wine making tradition and we really enjoyed all the ones we tasted. Adrian started us off with a glass of Fetească Neagră, a Merlot blend de Ceptura, demise DOC Dealu Mare, Crama Ceptura. Jokingly Adrian said that he had inherited a love of this table wine from his father, much as you would a football team!

After this we moved up a notch to a really nice Moldovan wine; Rara Neagră, a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon from Bostavan

The best though was a Reserve Sec by Budureasca called ‘Origini’ from the DOC Dealu Mare, which was a blend of Shiraz (50%), Cabernet Sauvigno (34%) and Merlot (16%)

To finish we had the classic dessert of Papanasi, also known as papanash, which are sweet doughnuts made with cream. Here they are served with yet more whipped cream and drizzled with a loose, homemade, wild berry jam. They weren’t as sweet as I expected them to be (a good thing) and in fact one mouthful tasted slightly savoury to me, but that changed when I slathered a bit more cream and jam on it. A perfect ending to a great meal.

In Moldova I would have finished with one of their excellent brandies but I didn’t want to take the mickey as I wasn’t paying! They have a likely looking bottle on the shelf though.

So for me the Vlad is a great new addition to the Sheffield dining scene. I have no hesitation in recommending the food there to anyone, carnivore or vegan, adventurous or not, and there are also plenty of new experiences for wine lovers. And if one of your party isn’t in the mood for trying something new, they do pizza as well. What’s not to like?


Sheffield – a few of my favourite things

Posted in England, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom, Yorkshire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2019 by gannet39

I’m often asked why I don’t write reviews of restaurants in my home town Sheffield. The reason is that I know a lot of people who work in the local food industry personally and I don’t want to upset them, so by way of compromise, in this post I’m just going to accentuate the positive and list some of the things that I really, really like.

You’ll find all these places and many others on my Google map.

Full English Breakfast at The Hidden Gem, Bents Green, Ringinglow Rd, Sheffield S11 7TB, +44 114 262 0094,

The Hidden Gem Full English comes with Moss Valley sausages, bacon chop, fried egg, black pudding, charred tomato, mushroom and their own baked beans, served with freshly-baked, toasted bread. All the ingredients they use are top notch but it’s the homemade black pud with that seam of confit belly pork running through the middle of it that wins it for me. This helps them beat off strong breakfast competition from Ceres and Jonty’s down at Hunter’s Bar.

Pancakes and Maple Syrup at Four Corners Canteen, 150 Abbeydale Rd, Sheffield S7 1FH, +44 114 250 0768

Slathered with butter with a bottle of syrup on the side, these pancakes come as the second less healthy part of the Big Sur breakfast, another strong contender for my favourite breakfast in Sheffield. I do my very best to avoid them but have to succumb every now and then!

Hot Roast Pork Sandwich from Béres, 151 Pinstone St, Sheffield S1 2HL,

Not many people know that one of Sheffield’s most famous ‘delicacies’, the hot roast pork sandwich with all the trimmings (crackling, apple sauce, stuffing), was first introduced to the city by Mr. Béres, a Hungarian immigrant butcher fleeing the Russian invasion of his country in the 50s. Thank goodness he came here is all I can say. Many other places do a good one, Roney’s on Sharrowvale for instance, but you can only get your bun dipped in gravy at Béres. Or you can treat yourself and ask for a double dip.

Toasted Sandwiches at Braggazi’s, 224-226 Abbeydale Rd, Sheffield S7 1FL, +44 114 258 1483

All the focaccia and sourdough sandwiches are killer here. You can have them cold but they’re best toasted. I loved this one with Fennel Salami, Emmental, Basil Pesto and Vine Tomatoes. I’m quite partial to their coffee as well. And their Sicilian lemons.

Chicken Flatbread at Shoot the Bull Rotisserie & Grill in Kommune, Castle House, Angel St, Sheffield S3 8LS,

Maple-brined chicken with a waldorf salad made with lemon mayonnaise on a soft flatbread. Fresh, healthy and very tasty.

Sarmale at Sfinx, 539 Attercliffe Rd, Sheffield S9 3RA, +44 114 244 3123,

Sarmale are cabbage rolls stuffed with seasoned pork mince and vegetables, a Romanian take on Greek Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). For me they are the tastiest dish in a great cuisine, and the Sfinx is the only place I know of where you can get them in Sheffield.

Fried Chicken at Yoki Social Table in Kommune, Castle House, Angel St, Sheffield S3 8LS,

I adore Korean food and this outfit are the only authentic purveyors in the city. Their fried chicken is dangerously moreish. Stay away.

Cod & Chips at Brenda’s, 2 Earl Way, Sheffield S1 4QA, +44 114 249 3035

For me this is the best chippy that I know of within striking distance of where I live. You can get a small cod and chips and a can of Vimto for a fiver. They’re only open at lunch times, never in the evening. Another fantastic shop is Hicks Street Fish & Chips where I had an amazing beer-battered cod with some excellent chips. I also like the Admiral and the Abbey Friar but I don’t have a car to get to them, so Brenda’s it usually is.

The Special at Kurdistan Charcoal Grill, 97-99 London Road, Sheffield S2 4LE

For a mere £12.50 you get five different kebabs, rice, salad, four sauces, naan and a bowl of lentil soup. Not only cheap but delicious as well, especially the soup and the lamb doused with their yogurt. So what if they got a zero rating from the environmental health inspectors. I’ve eaten there a dozen times and never had any problems. It’s a takeaway but they have a few tables and your food experience will be better if you eat in. Be warned they close at 9.

Aubergine Dips at Narooz, 140 London Road, Sheffield S2 4LT, +44 114 255 5522

I come here when I’m desperate for an easy kebab and the Kurdistan Grill is shut. Narooz’s kebabs are quite average but I love their aubergine dips Kashkeh Bademjan (aubergine with yogurt) and Mirzaghasemmi (aubergine with eggs and garlic) as starters.

Mixed Seafood Lunch at J.H. Mann, 261 Sharrow Vale Road, Sheffield S11 8ZE, +44 114 268 2225

A slightly pricey fishmongers but oh god, they do the best seafood lunches. You’ll be hard pushed to eat fresher seafood in Sheffield which is usually a nono for me.

Beef Noodle Soup at Noodlesta, 192-194 Brook Hill, Sheffield S3 7HE,

The ‘Braised Beef Pull Noodle’, aka beef noodle soup made with hand-pulled noodles, at Noodlesta is as authentic as any I’ve ever eaten on my trips to China. Hordes of Chinese students seem to agree.

Hot Pot at Golden Taste, 279 London Rd, Sheffield S2 4NF,

Definitely the best hotpot in town. You check off what you’d like on the tick box menu (maybe skip the meat) then cook it yourself in one of the two different stocks in the hotpot. The helpful staff are always happy to explain some of the more unusual items like the seaweed (order it).

Vinegared Cabbage at China Red,

I know, it doesn’t sound great but don’t knock it till you try it. My favourite out of many excellent dishes served at this completely authentic Sichuan restaurant. Other great dishes are the Kung Pao Chicken, Mapo Doufu, and for the more daring, an offal dish called Husband & Wife, or alternatively their delectable thinly sliced pig’s ear. Expect big flavours and lots of dried chillis, chilli oil and Sichuan peppers to scorch and numb you.

Thali at Hungry Buddha, Unit 2, Food Court, 77 The Moor, Sheffield S1 4PF,

Choose between the curries of the day, or have them all as I do. Nepalese Chicken Curry, Goat Curry, Yellow Gram & Cabbage, Aubergine & Potato, Rice, Dal, Homemade Chutneys and a Roti for a mere fiver. Lunch time only, get there early or they may run out.

Lamb Curries at Mangla, 149 Spital Hill, Sheffield S4 7LF,

When it’s on form, which isn’t all the time, the Mangla does the best value curries in the city. The lamb on the bone, and anything else made with lamb, is considered very scoffable by me. They don’t sell beer but you can bring some in from the offy a few doors down.

The Pulled Pork Burrito at Street Food Chef, 98 Pinstone St, Sheffield S1 2HQ,

Too plain to photograph but oh so good, especially with extra avocado, sourcream and a cold beer. A must whenever I’m passing.

Pork pies from Waterall Brothers, 26/27 Moor Market, Sheffield S1 4PF,

Now that Kempka’s has closed to the public, this is the best pork pie in Sheffield that I know of.

Halloumi from Porter Brook Deli, 354 Sharrow Vale Rd, Sheffield S11 8QP,

This is the best halloumi I’ve ever eaten, although for legal reasons it has to be called Yorkshire Squeaky Cheese (it’s made in Huddersfield). Sublime when grilled, perhaps with some psb. The deli also sells a fantastic Colston Bassett Stilton, which for me the is best example of Britain’s greatest cheese.

The donuts from Forge Bakehouse, 302 Abbeydale Rd, Sheffield S7 1FL,

A variety of flavours are on offer from traditional jam to vanilla cream and they’re all good (no pic sorry). Make sure you get them early, I’ve seen a group of Chinese students come in and buy the entire stock of twenty plus donuts in one go!

Ice Cream from Ikea, Sheffield Rd, Sheffield S9 2YL,

Not an obvioius one I know but super soft ice cream, or Soft-Is as it’s known in Scandinavia, is very nostalgic for me as it was a special treat for me as a child when I visited my family in Norway during the summer holidays. Ideally it should be dusted with chocolate powder but this inferior Swedish version comes a good second. Have a hotdog first (another must) and finish off with this.

There’s more to be added but that’s it for now!

What are your favourite foods in Sheffield? 🙂

Leeds – The Victorian Quarter – The Man Behind the Curtain

Posted in England, Leeds, United Kingdom, Victorian Quarter, West Yorkshire, Yorkshire with tags on February 10, 2017 by gannet39

Even though I only live a short drive away, I stayed in Leeds for one night as I’d been tipped off by Chris Feinmann, a fellow foodie friend, about a very special place to eat…

The Man Behind the Curtain (Advanced A+), 68-78 Vicar Lane, on the top floor of Flannels clothes shop,

I don’t have time to wax lyrical but suffice to say, this is my favourite fine dining experience in the North of England. Not only are all the dishes visually spectacular, the flavours are there as well.

Due to its success, reservations are essential. Access to the restaurant is quite unconventional as you have to walk through a men’s clothes shop to take the lift to the top floor.

You have to have one of the tasting menus (lunch or dinner), there are no other choices. I had the £65 evening menu with the wine matching add on for £50. It probably costs more now since they got a Michelin star in 2016.

You’re not supposed to take photos but I got a few sneaky ones in to give you an idea of the amazing creations that were put in front of me.

Upon arrival I was greeted with a glass of nutty Chenin Blanc champagne (A).


Cooked Oyster & Pearl with the ‘pearl’ containing oyster emulsion (A+).


Next an Olive Sachet (A) with the instruction to dip it in my drink. Sorry, I couldn’t really take photos of the wine so I can only occasionally tell you what it was.


This with a Rioja by Bhilar which had a fantastic nose (A+).


Next, Mackerel Wrapped in Pak Choi Leaf with Lime (B+).


This with a Beaujoulais made from 100% Gamay grapes by the producer Lapierre of Morgon; one of the best wine villages in the Beaujolais region.


The Red Mullet Allioli and Sea Fingers with Ham Fat and Sweet Corn was fantastic (A++). I liked the Sauvingon Blanc and Semillon blend by Exmoor Drive from Western Australia that came with it (A).


Slow Cooked Egg with Bread and Squid Ink Cinders with an Edible Shell made of milk!! Visually it scored very well (A+) but not so well on taste (B). This was served with a great Vouvray Chenin Blanc (A).


I was given a sweeter wine, a Riesling (B+), to go with the Black Cod with Fried Potato and Squid Ink and Squid Ink Cinders. It was the coddiest tasting cod I’ve ever tasted! It started well (A+) but the cinders became slightly overbearing so my score went down (A).


Next, the Roast Duck with Beetroot Sponge, Caramelised Pineapple and Orange Sauce was amazing (A).


The best thing I ate were the Sweetbreads (thymus glands) with Black Pudding Gnocchi and Parsleycake, always a favourite but here one of the best times I’d ever eaten them (A++).


I got a Basil Sorbet palate cleanser before the sweet.


The dessert was a Milk Chocolate Violet Ice cream with Potato and Vanilla Custard, Salt and Vinegar Rice and Beetroot Vinegar. This was very good as I remember but I’d lost the plot when it came to grading by this point!


It was served with a nice glass of Els Pyreneus Maury Grena; a sweet red wine by Jean-Marc Lafage from the Languedoc-Roussillon region.


After this I added a Baron de Sigognac Armagnac to finish things properly.


Next to arrive was a ‘tree of spoons’ containing various sweet tasty things. I was delirious with pleasure by now and totally forgot to record things! The last item was this ‘Cupcake’.


Overall a fantastice experience. Michael O’Hare is a genius in my view. You definitely need to check him out.

Marina O’Loughlin agrees.

Please see my previous post for pics of the Victorian Quarter where the restaurant is located. You’ll find it on my Google map.

Leeds – The Victorian Quarter – Architecture

Posted in England, Leeds, United Kingdom, Victorian Quarter, West Yorkshire, Yorkshire with tags on February 9, 2017 by gannet39

Although Leeds is only about 45 minutes drive away from my hometown, Sheffield, this was only the fourth time in forty years that I had come to visit the neighbours.


Naturally there’s a lot of competion between the two cities, especially when it comes to football and my previous experiences as a visiting Sheffield United supporter to the Elland Road stadium had been less than pleasurable to say the least!


On this occasion though I was visiting for work and I could walk around and appreciate the good things about the city centre without worrying about my choice of football team.


I’d never realised it before but the Victorian Quarter, the main shopping district, has some beautiful architecture.


Quirky period buildings are at every turn.


I particularly like the galleries of the old shopping arcades.



Here’s my Google map. Please see my next post for a great place to eat in the Victorian Quarter.


Getting it on with the Green Fairy

Posted in City Centre, England, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom, West Street, Yorkshire with tags , , on March 20, 2015 by gannet39

I’m occasionally asked by chef and restaurateur friends to come and eat at their places and give my opinions about their menus. I tend to avoid blogging these experiences as it’s a good way to lose friends, and besides my readers would think that my opinions were biased, and they’d probably be right.

20140514_221143However I did want to share my experience at my friend Dave’s place (the Wick-at-Both-Ends  on West Street, in my hometown, Sheffield) for two reasons. Firstly to big them up for being a quality establishment (great cocktails, good food) in a sea of city centre mediocrity, and secondly to show you the pictures of their beautiful antique absinthe fountain (please click on them for a better view).

20140514_221353Absinthe was originally invented in Switzerland, originally as a medicinal drink, but it became most popular in 19th century Belle Époque France, especially with artists and writers who attributed drug like effects to drinking it, which ultimately led to it being banned. Science has since proved that absinthe is no different from any other alcohol in this respect but the reputation has remained.

20140514_221227Absinthe is known as ‘the Green Fairy’ because of its psychedelic reputation and the colour of the spirit (due to the inclusion of green anise). Absinthiana, the equipment needed for the preparation ritual, has become very collectible for its aesthetic beauty.

20140514_221914The traditional ‘French method’ of preparing is to put a sugar lump on a slotted absinthe spoon on a glass containing the absinthe and slowly drip iced water onto the cube and then into the drink turning it cloudy (absinthe was the forerunner of French pastis). This ‘louche effect’ creates a microemulsion of tiny oil droplets in the water, bringing out subtle flavours that wouldn’t be so apparent in the neat drink.

20140514_221640Absinthe fountains allow the water to be dripped evenly and slowly out of two, four or sometimes six spigots. This meant the fountain could be shared with groups of friends.

20140514_221236With the more modern (since the 90s) ‘Bohemian method’, also known as ‘The Flaming Green Fairy’, you douse the sugar cube in alcohol, set fire to it and drop it into the glass to ignite the spirit. The flames are then put out with a shot of water. Although more spectacular, purists say this spoils the taste of the alcohol.

I think we tried both methods but I wouldn’t like to say which was better!

20140514_224334Thing is, although I love the ritual I’m not actually that keen on the drink, which is unusual for me! I used to DJ at a night called Absinthesis that received sponsorship from a drinks producer in the form of free absinthe, so I remember the terrible hangovers only too well! It’s nice to pretend you’re a French artist for a couple of drinks though.

I love the art of the period. Check out these absinthe postcards.

The food was good too, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking for that.

20140514_210039_2 20140514_210019_1 20140514_210015_2 20140514_210353

Thanks to Dave, Chloe and all the staff at the Wick x

ClandesDine #2 Back Street Banquet

Posted in England, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom, Yorkshire with tags , on May 11, 2012 by gannet39

Easter Bank Holiday Friday April 6th saw the second outing for ClandesDine, a secret supper club for discerning food and fun freaks!

Psychadelic plates
The ‘secret eaters’ had to call a special number on their ticket to discover the location, which turned out to be a cosy little works on Queens Rd, known to locals as Haggler’s Corner, now revamped to house artisan workshops, a yoga studio and a cafe.

Haggler's entrance
Unfortunately the capricious April weather saw the event retreat from the al fresco surroundings of the courtyard to a long wooden-beamed room indoors. However this atmospheric space had the benefit of a large bar, ably presided over by everyone’s favourite bar meister; Mr. Okie Dulo.

Dining room
The loft room was soon humming with merriment as the guests tucked into canapés and glasses of sparkling wine.

Proceedings were occasionally interrupted by the sound of an electric drill as our barman Okie Dulo found alternative means of opening bottles, following the disappearance of the corkscrew.

DIY Barman

Bottle o Barolo
Next in line was a starter salad of freshly picked Mixed Leaves (from chef Richard Henderson’s own garden), served with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds and edible Spring Flowers.

Salad army
Downstairs, in the shell of the future cafe kitchen, Richard magicked up a seasonal multi-course lunch on a small cooker, two camping stoves and an oil-drum barbecue.

Men at work
The forty diners could choose one dish per course from a choice of three dishes for each of the three courses.
A popular choice for many was the Native Oysters, the first coming Au Natural and the second with a Tabasco-based Bloody Mary vinaigrette. Both were great but the third little bivalve, doused in a sublime coriander and lime juice dressing, was the star. Certainly a taste epiphany for this writer!

Oi oi oysters
Another delicious starter option was the Calf’s liver, perfectly cooked (still tender and bloody) in butter and sage and served with butter beans on the side, the coarse texture of the beans perfectly complimenting the grainy meat.

Lovely liverStarter line up

The novelty award however had to go to the third first course option of Soft boiled Duck, Hen and Quail eggs, served on wooden planks with holes in them drilled by Richard to form eggcups of varying sizes.

These were seasonally decorated with freaky little chicks, guarded by a rank of asparagus soldiers;  a feat of timing and presentation that made this the most popular dish of the evening.Incoming egg

What you looking at


A spear of grass soldiers

Braised lambsageFor the main What you looking atcourse, meat-eating guests could choose from Braised Rabbit with Mustard or Braised Neck of Lamb, while the vegetarian minority feasted on Rotola of Roasted Butternut Squash, with Spinach and Ricotta, all delicious in their own ways.
All came with bowls of Spring Greens, Rainbow Chard and terracotta flower pots of New Potatoes, again locally sourced from Hendo’s back yard.

Pots of potatoes
Some people just couldn’t get enough of them!

Spud head

The dessert course saw a frenzy of spoon swapping as a trio of tarts (Lemon, Poached Pear & Chocolate, Fig & Frangipane) finished things off nicely.

Poached pear tart

Fig & Franzipan tart

Backed up tarts

Mr Dulo however, took things a stage further with a flurry of Margaritas, Attitude Adjusters and French Martinis that put a wobble in several people’s walks.


Margherita SourAfterwards the party made its way to local hostelry The Vine on Cemetery Rd to schmooze and dance into the small hours at sister music promotion Nano.


The sultry tune selections and mixing skills of The Gannet, The Funk Master General and The African proved the perfect end for an evening of excellent food and company.

Secret EatersKeep your ear to the ground for the next outing of this top little food event, hopefully sometime in August.

ClandesDine – Secret Eating in S4

Posted in England, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom, Yorkshire on September 18, 2011 by gannet39

On a soggy Saturday in September I attended the first outing of ClandesDine, a pop-up supper club for a group of foodie friends. The ‘Secret Eaters’ were given a mobile number to call for directions to the hush-hush meeting point, which in this case was a portable bar on a wooden river jetty overlooking a picturesque weir in the lower Don Valley. Actual ownership of this spot is uncertain but it probably belongs to some musician friends whose warehouse studios back wall supports the jetty.

Brunswick Weir

Cava loverA grey crane and the odd swan looked on while a giggling gaggle of gourmets knocked back glasses of cocktails and cava, and gobbled down trayloads of canapés.

Cava communist
All day bursts of strong sunshine had alternated with brief but heavy showers which threatened this wholly outdoor event with potential ruin. Nothing could dampen the spirits of this jolly gang though who were prepared for any eventuality.

Well adjusted attitudes!

Thankfuckfully, after one last shower at the beginning, the rest of the evening was dry and quite warm.

Umbrella weather




Sheffield’s favourite landlord, Mr Okie Dulo, was in charge of pouring the wine and mixing the Attitude Adjusters, basically a Long Island Iced Tea (equal measures of vodka, tequila, gin, rum, triple sec, sugar syrup, lime juice and mixed en masse) but topped up with cava rather than cola. It was a moreish but very heady mix!

yes please
The food was provided by Nikki Harris, former proprietor and chef at Kumquat Mae, a much missed local vegetarian restaurant. The most visually stunning canapés were the mini-Yorkshire Puds with Soured Cream, Spring Onion and Lumpfish Caviar.

Yorkshire Puds with Soured Cream, Spring Onion & Lumpfish Caviar

Canapes comin at ya
The first tray of titbits to be finished were the Rolled Pancakes with Cream Cheese and Sundried Tomato Tapenade.

Rolled Pancakes with Cream Cheese and Sundried Tomato Tapenade

Canape queen

My personal favourites were the Bouchees of Chicken Liver with Marsala Wine.

Bouchees of Chicken Liver with Marsala Wine
After demolishing all available supplies our by now very merry crew made their way a few minutes down the road, past aging warehouses and factories, for the main event in yet another industrial setting. Again the actual whereabouts were kept secret until the last minute which made the surprise of arriving in the canal boat yard all the more special.

Mirth merchant

A line of picnic tables in banquet formation awaited us under gazebos on the towpath while Nikki cooked up a storm in the kitchen of one of the long boats. As dusk fell in this pretty spot, candles and lanterns made from brown paper bags were lit up giving the yard an ethereal yet cosy atmosphere.



Round two involved an earthy ‘Grande Mezze’ of twenty different dishes, including starter nibbles of Roasted Nuts…

Roasted Nuts

…Hummus and Tsatsiki…


with Crudités and Breadsticks…

Marinated Olives…and homemade Sunflower Seed Bread.

Sunflower seed bread

A seemingly never-ending bombardment of dishes ensued as Nikki kept the obliging servers constantly busy with a stream of plates coming out of the hatch.
I particularly liked the Briouats (filo pastry rolls of spicy Merguez sausage and butter beans) and Spanakopitta (filo parcels of spinach and feta) which came with a tangy Sour Plum & Balsamic relish.

Briouats & Spanakopitta

The vegetable side of things was well covered; Beetroot & Pomegranate Salad.

Beetroot & Pomegranate Salad

Also Tabbouleh with Fresh Herbs & Lemon.

Tabbouleh with Fresh Herbs & Lemon

Stuffed Vine Leaves with Roasted Lemon & Garlic.

Stuffed Vine Leaves with Roasted Lemon & Garlic

Roasted New Potatoes with Lemon, Green Salad, Tomato & Basil Salad, Garlic & Rosemary (really loved these!), Broad Beans stewed with Lemon Fennel, White Wine and finished with Truffle Oil,  Ratatouille-stuffed Aubergines in Tomato & Cinnamon Sauce and topped with melting Gruyere.

Ratatouille-stuffed Aubergines with Tomato & Cinnamon Sauce & Gruyere
For the meat heads flavoursome Lamb Meatballs with Ras-Al-Hanout and from the open-air grill; Barbequed Sticky-Pork Ribs and Char-grilled Chicken Thighs Marinated in Yogurt, Chilli & Garlic.

Ribs and beans

To finish, dates and grapes, and Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake with Fresh Raspberry Coulis.
All this went down with a fine selection of French and Spanish reds and whites gathered from the organiser’s trips abroad. Digestifs were on hand for those so inclined and several of us retired to the sofas by the wood stove to let digestion commence in comfort.

Wood stove

I had the best time but to be honest, the drink had started to take over from the food quite early on! The excitement of being with a great bunch of people in such an unusual spot meant that I did not do everything justice. Too busy tittle-tattling!

Mid banguet

Hopefully another ClandesDine won’t be too long away so we can all get another helping. Make sure you keep your ear to the ground and your taste buds in training for the next secret feast, somewhere in the Sheffield twilight zone.

Party peeps

The Gannet September 24th 2011

Dhanistha’s Southern Indian & Sri Lankan cuisine

Posted in England, London Road, Sharrow, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom, Yorkshire with tags , , , , , , , on September 29, 2010 by gannet39

2015 UPDATE: Dhanistha’s is now under new management and is called Arusuvai. The food is pretty much the same i.e. very good.

Dhanistha’s, 74 Abbeydale Rd, Sheffield S7 1FD, Tel. 0114 255 0779

Unbelievably, it’s quite hard to get a good curry in Sheffield. If you’re prepared to pay you can get good food at places like Nirmal’s on West St and the Ashoka on Ecclesall Rd. The only half-decent cheap place though, until now, was the Mangla on Spital Hill, but the food can be variable there too and they seem to have the same complacent attitude as the rest of the curry restaurants in the city. What’s more, all these places serve Pakistani or  North Indian food and seem to have the same predictable menu. So, the market was wide open for a newcomer and when East & West arrived on Abbeydale Rd with their new Sothern Indian/Sri Lankan angle, that gap seemed to have been filled. The food at East & West is great, however their prices are rather high given the plastic tables and cafe environment. For example, their Mango Lassi is fantastic, but you get a tiny amount in a takeaway cup for a tasty £4.

DhanisthasNow another Southern Indian & Sri Lankan restaurant has sprung up to compete, a bit further along Abbeydale Rd from East & West, in a space formerly occupied by an Italian restaurant. Dhanistha’s has great food for next to nothing in a simple but pleasant atmosphere. Vegetable curries are either £2 or £3 and meat or seafood around £5.50 or £6.50, really great value. Mr Dharma the manager is from Galle in Sri Lanka and his head chef is from Hyderabad (Biryanis a speciality) in Andra Pradesh in Southern India, hence the two influences.

So what’s the difference? My understanding is thatbroadly speaking Southern Indian cuisine is more rice based whereas breads are eaten more in the North of the country. It’s also characterised by the liberal use of coconut for flavouring and thickening and as oil. Sri Lanka by turn also uses a lot of coconut in its cooking but also includes ingredients such as lemon grass and pandan aka rampe leaf  which are also used by Thai chefs. The menu at Dhanistha’s, although predominantly Southern Indian, does feature a few uniquely Sri Lankan dishes which the staff will be more than happy to point out.

dosa and iddly dudeMy favourite starter is a Dosa, a filled pancake (made from rice and urad dahl/black lentils, therefore gluten free) served with a wet coconut chutney (made I think with desiccated coconut, chillies and mint), red chilli chutney and Sambar, a soupy spicy vegetable stew.  It’s typically eaten as a snack or for breakfast in India. Particularly famous in Southern India is the Masala Dosa, so called because the onion and potato filling is fried with a spice mix. They’re quite large so would make a light meal in themselves or could be shared as a starter, although mini-varieties are on the menu too. A well made dosa is a beautiful thing. Also on the starter menu are Idlis, a small steamed bun version of the dosa, using the same batter, and served with the same red and white chutneys.

On my second visit, I celebrated my birthday here with a group of fourteen friends. Normally I avoid eating in large groups as it can put too much pressure on the kitchen, but this didn’t seem to be a problem. Although understandably we had to wait a while, the food arrived at the same time and couldn’t be faulted in terms of preparation. The advantage of being in a large group was that we could all taste each other’s curries, and what curries they were. On the vegetarian front, the Potato Malabar (a region in Northern Kerala, the dish uses tomatoes), Veg Malabar, Brinjal Curry (aubergine), Spinach and Coconut were all absolutely stunningly whereas Avial (a Keralan mixed vegetable curry including ‘drumsticks’ which are the fruit of the Moringa tree) was unusual but still very nice. We didn’t have any meat dishes on this occasion but the winning dish for me was the Fish Moillee, an incredibly fully flavoured soupy curry made with imported Kingfish. My neighbour had Kothu, a Sri Lankan dish of meat or seafood with veg and short broad noodles, all chopped up, which is not the most appealing dish to look at but still tastes very nice. The Coconut and Pilau rices were also perfect and the Green Chilli Paratha was scorchingly good!

Even with a host of Cobras our bill still only came to around £15 a head which sent our gang of hardcore curry heads home very contented indeed. Dhanistha’s is the new queen of the scene as far as I’m concerned. Go and have your mind and taste buds blown.

Nether Edge Farmer’s Market

Posted in England, Nether Edge, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom, Yorkshire with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by gannet39

My choice of a birthday day out was a trip to Nether Edge farmer’s market, my favourite event in Sheffield.

venison vs vegetarianism. only one winner


It has the feel of an urban village fete, with the Sally army band giving way to bhangra belly dancers.

Nether Edgians

Now in it’s second year, the quarterly market has been going from strength to strength with new stalls being added each time.

Zed on the Edge

About 40 stalls and shops sell a fantastic range of locally produced foodstuffs. The top of Glen Rd and bottom of Nether Edge Rd are closed off to traffic from 12-4 for the occasion.It’s best to go early before it gets too busy and the best stalls sell out.

get it down yer neck
My first stop as soon as I arrive is usually for a sausage sandwich from Moss Valley Fine Meats, first stall on the left off the zebra crossing, whose fine pork products have taken several awards at this year’s Bakewell show.

sausage jockeys

Fickle sausage fan that I am, I went instead to their rivals on the Whirlow Hall Farm stall, at the end of the Nether Edge Rd section, for some similarly satisfying porcine pleasure.  I like to load up on quality meats for the fridge and freezer at either of these.

On other such carnival-like occasions, I love to feed up on the Caribbean flavours .

Yabba carribean stall

But with so much other stuff going on I decided to pass this time. The food at Yabba sure looked good though.

Yabba patties
Another choice bite is a fish cake from the new fish stall on Glen Rd. They bring them frozen, but fry them fresh.

fish cakes
For me though, it’s all about that wonderful animal, the pig. I tried to walk past this stall but it was impossible. A hot roast pork sandwich, freshly carved with everything on, is just a bit too hard for me to ignore.

pig out
For dessert, the possibilities are endless. Amateur home-baking maestros were out in force, giving the professionals a run for their money.

Away with the fairies

I was truly blown away by the Pear and Amaretto Crumble Cake from Kate Linderholm, which was beautifully moist and the flavours were just amazing.

Pear and amaretto  crumble cake

Kate bakes this and many other masterpieces in between reading the news on Radio Sheffield. Her stall is the first on the left as you up the drive of the house on Glen Rd.

Saffron peach and apricot cake

Sadly missing this time was the Indian sweet stall, where I can usually procure some beautiful baklava.

Lord preserve us
In between all the grazing, I like to get some shopping in.

cheesy treats

There are so many things here you rarely see anywhere else, like ridiculously strong cheddar and stilton…

steel town stilton

…sourdough bread…

sourdough and spelt…and bizarre fruit and veg, such as these Crystal Lemon cucumbers…

It's a cucumber Jim but not as we know it

…and multi-coloured beetroot.

beetroot rainbow

The orange-skinned Golden Detroit beetroot variety is bright yellow inside and the redder skinned di Chioggia is white with purple rings!

beets of many colours

Perhaps my most favourite stall of all though is the mushroom vendor halfway down Glen Rd. The friendly lady who runs Autumn Harvest Mushrooms is English but her husband is Italian, and a major mushroom head, in a culinary sense that is.

porcini aka ceps


She tells me that when he first came to these shores, he was blown away by all the freely-available fungi, because no-one was picking them!

hopefully psycho inactive

In Italy it’s a major pastime, with pickers protecting their secret sources jealously, and people are literally dying to find them.

boletus family

In the UK, anyone with the knowledge can go and help themselves, with their only rivals being squirrels!  You can see this on the amazing huge porcini in the picture.

funky porcini

The missing chunks are a result of the little furry fungus ferrets having a nibble! As well as wild varieties they also sell cultivated ones such as Portobello and various colours of Oyster mushrooms.

more shrooms

They also have dried and powdered forms, which have a more intense flavour.

Japanese cousins

The owner explained that all the mushrooms are very carefully cleaned so that no soil residue will taint the water they are soaked in, a common problem with some dried mushrooms.

After a hard day pounding the lanes with a full stomach and an increasingly weighty rucksack, it’s time to adjourn to the serene surroundings of the Nether Edge Bowling Club for a few jars of Moonshine.


Usually members-only, the club opens it’s doors to the public only on market days. The crown green is partly given over to the kids for games and general mayhem while the parents look on pint in hand.


From here it’s a short stroll home to the sofa for a nap before the main birthday meal…

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