Archive for the Sheffield Category

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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