Foundry Coffee

September 29, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Posted in Made Locally | 1 Comment
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Sheffield seems to be in the grip of a real coffee revolution, with more independent coffee shops than ever before. However, if you’re after some high-quality, locally-roasted beans for your home-brewed morning cuppa, it’s not immediately obvious where to go. This is the niche Sheffield-based Foundry Coffee are looking to fill.

Formed fairly recently (March of this year, in fact) Foundry Coffee take ethically sourced beans, roast them to order and get them to you in double-quick time via first class post, in packaging that’s designed to fit through your letterbox. For anyone who doesn’t enjoy spending their Saturday mornings in the queue at the Royal Mail delivery office, the latter is an absolute blessing.

So far so good but, of course, it all hinges on the product. Are Foundry Coffee’s beans any cop?

First impressions are encouraging, as the finished product arrives in a packet that boasts a mouth-watering description worthy of a wine menu at a posh restaurant, and you can find out when your beans were roasted, and by whom, on the back of the packet.

It’s this attention to detail, not to mention clear pride and enthusiasm for the product, that puts Sheffield’s independents miles ahead of their big-chain competition.

Of course, Foundry Coffee is far more expensive than the jar of own brand stuff you can pick up at Tesco’s, with prices ranging from £12 to £16 for a bag of beans. However, upon opening the bag I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of beans this buys you.

A hefty price tag, but you do get enough beans to remain highly caffeinated for weeks on end. Foundry Coffee aren’t stingy when it comes to the quantity of beans.

Actually, the smell alone is likely to make you twitchy. Even before grinding, expect to be hit by that delicious aroma of roasted coffee. By the time you’ve ground up your first batch, the entire house will smell of fresh coffee. Caffeine fans will be desperate for a cuppa after just one whiff of the stuff!

After leaving to brew for a few minutes, it was finally time to enjoy the fruits of our labour – and it’s pretty potent stuff! Absolutely impossible to compare to instant coffee, our bag of Rwanda beans produced a strong, heady brew with some subtly fruity flavours, and a vaguely smoky aftertaste. If you’re not already a coffee bean regular, the distinctive taste (and sheer strength!) will take some getting used to but, once you have, it’ll ruin instant coffee for you forever.

If you’re feeling flush with cash then it’s well worth investing in a bumper bag of Foundry Coffee beans. For your cash, you get enough coffee to keep you buzzing for a good solid month, and the freshness, strength and complex taste of the coffee will take your morning cuppa to a whole new level.

Visit www.foundrycoffeeroasters.com to find out more.

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Porter Brook

September 29, 2012 at 8:26 am | Posted in Pub Grub | Leave a comment
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It seems the great British summertime has been and gone without anyone noticing it had arrived in the first place, and we’re already in the depths of winter if the constant rain, plummeting temperatures and dark mornings are anything to go by. But cheer up – now you’ve got an excuse to spend all afternoon holed up in a nice, cosy pub, whiling away the hours with a bottle of wine, stodgy comfort food and some creamy after-dinner tipples (ahhh, Baileys, how I’ve missed you!)

In search of the aforementioned comfort food and calorie-packed booze, we found ourselves in the Porter Brook at the top of Ecclesall Road earlier this week.

The Porter Brook’s exterior has an olde-worlde charm, and the interior has that cosy ‘local boozer’ feel you’ll be craving for the next few months. The atmosphere isn’t a million miles removed from the Nursery Tav at the other end of Ecclesall Road, although the Porter Brook does seem to attract less of a student crowd. Despite the lack of freshers, the Porter Brook was doing a brisk trade when we visited, so much so that even on a wet Wednesday afternoon we had to poke around a bit before we found an empty table.

Once seated, we launched into the drinks menu. Bargain hunters beware, the Porter Brook may share the Nursery Tavern’s welcoming atmosphere, but the drinks are noticeably more expensive. After a quick bit of maths, we realised there wasn’t much difference between a round of beers and spirits, and a bottle of wine, which seemed like a good excuse to order a full bottle (£8.95) and make an afternoon of it.

The Porter Brook’s menu covers all the usual pub staples; there’s burgers, jacket potatoes, fish and chips, and all day breakfasts, all at a reasonable price. However, something more unusual caught my eye – a vegetable tagine served with couscous, at a penny-pinching £3.99. I decided to take a gamble and ordered the Porter Brook’s tagine. Convinced that no £3.99 meal could fill me, I added a side order of sweet potato fries (£1.89.)

I needn’t have bothered with the side order. The vegetable tagine arrived promptly (in under ten minutes) and, it turns out that at the Porter Brook a £3.99 meal can fill you up.

The tagine sauce had a rich, satisfying heat that warmed the pit of my stomach without burning my tongue, making it suitable even for non-heatseekers. Although there was more sauce than veggies, there was a good range of vegetables – onion, sweet potato, chickpeas and courgettes. Soaked in the warming tagine sauce, the chickpeas in particular were delicious.

There were also chickpeas in the couscous, which made my bargain meal even more filling. Couscous is a very easy thing to overcook, but the Porter Brook got it just right and cooked my portion through, without turning it into slop. There were a few lumps of couscous that could have been broken up with a fork before being brought to the table, but when you’re getting a big plate of comfort food for £3.99, having to fluff your own couscous is no big deal. The vegetable tagine left me warm, stuffed and satisfied. The perfect winter warmer, and I can’t wait to have it again!

Although I was full from my main meal, it would have been a shame to waste my side order and so I soldiered valiantly on. At £1.89 the Porter Brook once again get top marks when it comes to providing value for money.

Warm, soft and sweet on the inside, these fries are the perfect addition to a winter warmer feast. They disappeared in no time.

Also arriving at our table was some more traditional pub grub: a Mexican burger topped with pepper cheese sauce and jalapenos. Served with coleslaw, fat chips and two dips for 6.99, the Porter Brook again proved themselves a generous establishment.

The burger was nice and juicy, and the combination of pepper cheese sauce and jalapenos ensured this meal delivered the same satisfying warmth as my tagine. Our reviewer raved about the chunky coleslaw, but the jalapeno dip had a vinegary aftertaste, like it had been made from pickled jalapenos. The runny consistency and murky green colour is also enough to put fussy eaters off. After dunking a few chips into the sauce to try and decipher what the sour aftertaste could be, we gave up and the dip went unfinished.

The Porter Brook is a cosy venue with a welcoming ‘local boozer’ feel that’s often missing from the bustling Eccy Road. It clearly draws quite a crowd and it’s easy to see why, the food is value for money and good quality pub grub (just what you need, in this grim weather.) The drinks are on the pricey side, so it’s worth scouring the menu for deals or sharing a bottle of wine between a table. Sinking a couple of vodkas or pints with your meal will seriously push up the bill – you have been warned!

Highly recommended if you’re after a plateful of good old fashioned comfort food to combat the chill.

Bloo 88

September 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Posted in Cocktail Bar, Restaurants | Leave a comment
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I was a regular fixture in Rise’s beer garden in my uni days, perfecting the art of making a glass of house white last all afternoon, so I was surprised to discover that Bloo 88 wasn’t next door to Rise as I’d previously assumed, but had actually replaced my old haunt on West Street. But is it a change for the better?

First impressions are that the place has undergone a major overhaul: the interior is now all exposed brickwork and rustic tables, but the old open pizza oven is still smoking away in the corner. On the Saturday afternoon we visited, the number of reserved tables caught us off guard. If you’re planning to pop in on a Friday or Saturday evening, you need to book in advance to guarantee a seat. We hadn’t booked, but luckily still managed to score a table, where we immediately launched into the cocktail menu in search of refreshment after the arduous trek here (and by arduous trek I mean the walk from The Wig and Pen around the corner…..)

Cocktail connoisseurs will find all the old favourites at Bloo 88: Mojitos, Cosmos, Mai Tais and Martinis, but there are a few unusual options too, including a Vanilla Laika (named after the first dog in space, apparently!) and a Brazil-inspired Passion Fruit Batida. The cocktails are fairly priced, with quite a few coming in at a reasonable £4.95, with the added promise of two cocktails for £7 if you visit during happy hour.

We settled on a Bramble (£4.95) and a Godfather Sour (£4.95.) Despite being cheaper than many other Sheffield cocktail bars, Bloo 88’s concoctions did not disappoint. My Bramble was sweet and fruity, without being in the least bit sickly, and packed a boozy punch. The garnishings put the city’s more expensive cocktail bars to shame, as mine arrived topped with a juicy blackberry and a fresh black cherry. This sealed the deal and had me running back to the bar for a second serving of Bramble goodness (got to get my five a day!)

Not to be outdone, the Godfather Sour was served in a funky little jar, topped with a whole raspberry and plenty of crushed ice. It tasted every bit as good as it looked.

Expectations high after our lavish, alcohol appetizers, we turned our attention to the food menu. Bloo 88’s speciality is pizza, which doesn’t sound particularly exciting at first, but rest assured even their ‘classic’ pizzas feature unusual toppings like baked egg and pine nuts. If you’re feeling adventurous, Bloo 88 have some speciality pizzas too, including the intriguing ‘Shanghai Surprise’ topped with shredded duck, spring onions and hoisin sauce, or you can throw caution to the wind and build your own pizza from an impressive list of ingredients.

Starved, greed got the better of us and we opted for two twelve inch pizzas – the Mediterranean (£8.95) and Brunch (£8.95.) Our food arrived quickly and, to our delight, we saw that Bloo 88’s presentation skills aren’t restricted to cocktails. Instead of arranging thinly-sliced toppings evenly across the base, Bloo 88 scatter thick, chunky toppings, and then seem to cook them wherever they fall. This gives the pizzas a very homemade, rustic appearance.

Biting into my first slice, I discovered a generous wedge of melt-in-the-mouth, warm goat’s cheese – a perfect pizza, from the very first bite.

As well as goat’s cheese, the Mediterranean toppings included cherry tomatoes which had that delicious, lightly-grilled tang, spinach, roasted garlic and slabs of portobello mushroom. I’d wolfed down half of this scrumptious pizza before it even occurred to me to try adding some sauces. It turned out Bloo 88 did have plenty of sauces to compliment their pizzas, but they were tucked away on a trolley in the corner, along with the cutlery and napkins. The staff hadn’t asked whether we wanted any sauces with our meals (or cutlery and napkins, either) and hadn’t even told us about the trolley. After the bar staff pointed me in the right direction, I returned to the table armed with sauces and cutlery, but this should have been pointed out to us earlier.

After experimenting with a few sauces, I can definitely recommend a few splashes of the Tabasco for hot-heads like myself. Bloo 88’s thin base and fiery Tabasco is a match made in heaven. The rest of the pizza disappeared in no time.

But it wasn’t all about the veggie pizza; the intriguing-sounding ‘Brunch’ pizza turned out to be a bumper meat-feast of parma ham and italian sausage, with the same perfectly-cooked cherry tomatoes and mushroom wedges, but with a baked egg in the centre giving this pizza a real ‘wow’ factor.

Although our reviewer initially complained about the lack of runny yolk, once they’d chowed down on a calorific forkful of baked egg, cheese and pizza base, they quickly changed their mind and started raving about the egg instead. The parma ham had the crispiness and crunch of bacon (and who doesn’t love that?) and the italian sausage delivered a hit of salty flavour. Another massive thumbs up for Bloo 88’s grub.

Stuffed from twelve inches of pizza goodness, we asked for the bill only to discover that classic pizzas are 2 for 1 all day, every day – what more could you want? It’s difficult to pick fault with Bloo 88 – the surroundings are welcoming and rustic, the cocktails are delicious and presented with flair, and the pizzas are cheap, delicious and guaranteed to leave you scanning the menu, plotting what you’ll order on your next visit (Florentina and New Yorker pizzas, in case you’re interested.) The staff could be a bit more attentive and check whether you’ll be needing anything else with your meal but really, fetching your own Tabasco is a small price to pay when the pizza is this good.

If you love pizza or cocktails, then Bloo 88 is your new favourite haunt. The loss of Rise wasn’t such a big deal after all.

Highly recommended.

Spotlight: Tamper Coffee

September 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Posted in Cafe, Features | 1 Comment

You may have noticed that I’m a bit of a fan of Tamper Coffee; Sheffield’s very own gourmet coffee shop on Westfield Terrace. If you’re not already in the know, Tamper Coffee serve up the best coffee in the city (made with super fresh Our Cow Molly milk, no less) alongside a selection of mouth-watering sweet treats, and some of the best smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels you’ve ever tasted (no exaggeration.)

After developing a full-blown addiction to Tamper Coffee’s ‘Kiwi classic’ flat white, we caught up with owner Jon Perry, to find out the story behind Sheffield’s top coffee shop.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, pre-Tamper Coffee?

Jon: I lived In Auckland New Zealand and worked within the coffee industry over there. My wife and mother are from Sheffield, so the UK was not unfamiliar to me.

What led you to open a New Zealand-influenced coffee shop, in the heart of Sheffield?

Jon: Setting up Tamper Coffee in Westfield terrace was very much unknown initially for us. Sheffield is hugely dominated by chains so to set up an independent coffee shop with a very New Zealand theme and influence was a risk, but we believed in our product and felt this type of offering was long overdue in Sheffield.

There’s no shortage of coffee shops in city centers nowadays, and Sheffield is certainly no exception – what do you feel makes Tamper Coffee stand out from the crowd?

Jon: I agree there are no shortage of chains in the inner city. Tamper is very customer focused, and we know our product well and are passionate about it. We try to create an environment where people feel comfortable and enjoy the experience.

You opened Tamper Coffee in Winter last year – how have the past ten months been for you guys? What’s been the highlight?

Jon: It’s been an enjoyable 10 months, hard work but hugely rewarding. We have enjoyed meeting with some amazing and talented individuals, but the biggest highlight is the people that come in and support us daily and weekly.

How does the ‘coffee scene’ in Sheffield and the UK, compare to New Zealand’s attitude towards the coffee shop?

Jon: There is a real cafe culture in New Zealand and the standard of coffee is very high. Independents rule because they stand for quality and consistency. Coffee shops are a very social environment to meet family and friends. The UK produces some great coffee shops and some of the best coffee, but the majority still feel coffee should be served in a oversized cup and boiling hot. The more people experience good coffee through independents, the standard will change for the better.

Learn more about Tamper Coffee at http://tampercoffee.co.uk/

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