Spotlight: Real Ale Trails

December 11, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Features | Leave a comment
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REAL-ALE-TRAIL

Launched at Sheffield’s very own MADE Festival this year, Real Ale Trails is on a mission to introduce even more people to the wonders of Sheffield-produced real ale (not to mention that old favourite: a pie and pea supper!) by organising tours that take in some of Sheffield’s fantastic local breweries and pubs. We caught up with Real Ale Trails co-founder Austin Macauley, to find out what makes Sheffield the real ale capital of Britain and to get his recommendations on some of Sheffield’s top local pubs…

Can you give us a short intro to Real Ale Trails?

Austin: Real Ale Trails is all about building on Sheffield’s growing reputation for great pubs and local ales by making it easier for people to experience what the city has to offer. We take people around some of the best watering holes, sample lots of local ale and introduce them to people who have helped turn Sheffield into Britain’s beer capital.

What inspired you to create Real Ale Trails?

Austin: Every week there seemed to be something new happening in Sheffield – a pub brought back from the brink of closure and refurbished, new breweries opening, local ales winning awards. We just felt there was an ‘ale experience’ that could be created out of so many great pubs and breweries – and were surprised no one else was already doing it. Although things have improved, the UK still doesn’t make enough fuss about its real ale scene. If this was France the world would never stop hearing about it…

What can people expect when they join one of your tours?

Austin: A typical itinerary will involve a brewery tour, visits to 4 or 5 pubs across Sheffield, pie and peas at one of the stops, a drink at every stop along with lots of samples of local beer. Better still, it’s a trail with minimal walking – just hop on and off our mini bus at each destination. Perhaps when the weather’s better we’ll incorporate a bit more walking. It’s a great way to celebrate a birthday, unwind with colleagues on a works do, make new friends and network.

What do you think makes Sheffield such a great destination for the real ale enthusiast?

Austin: It’s the range of pubs and beers on offer. We’re fast reaching the point where it’s odd to find a pub that hasn’t got real ale on offer, and more often than you’ll find beer that’s locally brewed. There aren’t many (perhaps any) other cities that can say that. There are now something like 14 breweries in the city. It creates a snowball effect: the more people see local ale in pubs, the more they expect to see it (and demand it). All the breweries we talk to are flat out trying to keep up with demand.

As real ale enthusiasts, you must know your way around Sheffield’s pub scene! Can you recommend some little-known gems that we should be visiting?

Austin: They’re not exactly hidden gems and are known to many, but here are a few that don’t always get the plaudits they deserve: The Harlequin on Nursery Street; New Barrack Tavern on Penistone Road; The Blake Hotel in Walkley; and The Hillsborough Hotel.

And finally, what are you plans for Real Ale Trails in 2013?

Austin: Other than running as many tours as possible we’ll be adding new pubs and breweries to our growing list of destinations. We may even branch out to nearby towns and villages to see what they’ve got to offer.

You can find out more about Real Ale Trails at www.realaletrails.co.uk

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The Chimney House

July 21, 2012 at 10:52 am | Posted in Private Dining | 1 Comment
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Available for weddings, parties, functions and what must surely be the BEST corporate meetings in the world, The Chimney House is one of Sheffield Eats’ all-time favourite venues-for-hire. Clearly, we’re not the only ones loving a bit of The Chimney House, because it recently came second in a list of the ‘World’s Most Creatively Designed Boardrooms,’ beating venues in Berlin, Sweden, Cape Town and Baltimore, to name but a few. So, we were ecstatic when the lovely Chimney House folk invited Sheffield Eats to their Summer House Party. A night of being wined and dined in a world-beating venue? Needless to say, we were a tad excited about this one.

The Chimney House is a building with a rich history. The grade-listed building, located in Kelham Island, was rescued and restored by Sally Clark and Tim Hubbard, who used recycled material from salvage yards and reclaim sites to create a quirky party venue that remains true to its roots. With its towering red-brick chimney and unique ‘industrial-chic’ vibe, The Chimney House is located next door to the Kelham Island Museum, surrounded by cobblestones and factories – it’s a striking building in a very fitting location.

We arrived fashionably late to The Chimney House’s soiree (and through the wrong door!) but the eagle-eyed hosts soon spotted us and brought our before-dinner cocktails: champagne flutes packed with a fresh raspberry puree, and a morish cocktail of gin, mint leaves, a hint of what tasted like prosecco, and more fresh raspberries. Even better, the lovely Chimney House folk were only too happy to keep our glasses topped up with this summery punch. We even spied them popping into the back and fetching glasses of beer for those who didn’t share our unquenchable thirst for cocktails, and mugs of cloudy ginger beer for anyone not on the sauce.

The Chimney House’s reception room offers a peek of what this world-class venue has to offer: a combination of homely charm and artistic flourishes.

When it was time to eat, we were shown upstairs to the main function room – which didn’t disappoint.

The room was dominated by a farmhouse-style table, heaped with eclectic decorations that ranged from Italian gunpowder barrels crammed with fresh flowers, to vintage teacups that served as tea-lights, to champagne flutes topped off with a single rose-head.

I’m sure you’ll agree, that The Chimney House’s attention to detail and artistic flair turns a simple dinner into a work of art.

There was just enough time to marvel at all the beautiful fresh flowers and flickering candlelight, before our hosts told us to tuck into the grub – we needed no more encouragement. The food, provided by local company Coco Catering, took the simple notion of a pie and pea supper, and did something magical with it. Served in big, farmhouse pots, the mash was seasoned to perfection, and so rich it could only have been laced with butter and cream. Our party simply could not get enough of the mash, ladling second and third helpings onto our plates. We could have eaten a plate full of the mash on its own, and probably would have, if the pie hadn’t been equally amazing.

The Chimney House had thoughtfully provided both vegetarian and meat pies. Instead of the vegetarian pie feeling like an afterthought, this spinach and ricotta treat had even the carnivores at the table helping themselves to a slice. The pastry was light and crispy (which left room for more mash – win!) and packed with indulgent ricotta and tangy spinach.

The meat option was just as good. The crust was slightly heavier, but it had a lovely, oven-darkened top and the meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender. Whether you’re a veggie or a carnivore, Coco Catering can provide the pie of your dreams.

To offset the guilt of heaping on the mash and helping ourselves to a second slice of pie, we squeezed some veg onto our plates. Somehow, Coco Catering’s culinary wizards managed to make peas and carrots a taste sensation.

Throughout our meal, the hostess herself kept our glasses topped up, and both the red and the white options were delicious. With our glasses never running dry, I have to admit we overindulged – but we had multiple helpings of peas and carrots, so this still counts as a healthy meal, right?

We were jokingly wondering ‘what’s for dessert?’ when The Chimney House crew called our bluff and brought out the dessert trays. Our couldn’t-eat-another-bite horror evaporated when we saw the perfect, bite-sized sweet treats.

The first was a cube of chocolate brownie topped off with a fresh blackberry. Blackberry and chocolate brownie isn’t a combination I’ve encountered before, but the juicy blackberry delivered a sharp tang that took some of the edge off the dark chocolate. How good was it? Well, I was completely stuffed before I had my first brownie, but I still found room for a second one…..

The other dessert on offer was a light scone base topped with a dollop of cream and a strawberry. These little puffs of air were the perfect contrast to that decadent chocolate brownie.

To finish off our meal, The Chimney House folk brought around bowls of marshmallows; a fittingly quirky way to end an amazing meal.

The only criticism I can level at The Chimney House is that it isn’t a pop-around-whenever venue, because this is one of those places you’ll want to visit again, immediately. Instead, we have to wait until the next birthday party, or corporate function gets booked there (boo!) The Chimney House and Coco Catering are a match made in heaven – a stunning venue, lavishly and uniquely decorated, paired with food that is both homely and absolutely rave-worthy. Judging from our night at The Chimney House, munching on Coco Catering’s grub, I honestly can’t think of a reason why you’d book an event anywhere else.

Disclaimer: we ate and drank (a lot!) as guests of The Chimney House.

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