Fancie Cafe

January 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Posted in Cafe | Leave a comment
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When I heard that cupcake connoisseurs Fancie were opening a new cafe along my daily commute, I was excited at the prospect of calorie-laden cupcakes and frothy coffees as an end-of-the-working-day treat (and, let’s face it, a pre-work pick-me-up.) However, Fancie’s new establishment at 359 Ecclesall Road isn’t just about the cake; Fancie have branched out into the brave new world of savouries and cooked breakfasts.

The new cafe is a change from Fancie’s previous pink, cupcake-centric image; it’s a very rustic affair of exposed brickwork, pick-and-mix furniture and mismatched timber cladding. There’s Catherine’s Choice preserves behind the counter and delicious-smelling omelettes flying out of the open kitchen. Even the logo has been given a grown-up makeover. This is a new direction for the Fancie brand but fear not: there’s still plenty of their trademark cupcakes for those with a sweet tooth.

This new incarnation seems to be going down a storm. When we visited on a Saturday morning we had to perform a lap around the venue before we found an empty table. The cafe appears to be a particular hit with young families, with a tangle of pushchairs leaning against the central pillar that dominates the cafe (and, annoyingly takes up a lot of potential seating space.) It’s bustling and noisy, but with a pleasant, family-friendly vibe. Factor in some quaint flower arrangements, vintage crockery doubling-up as sugar bowls and the olde-worlde, greaseproof paper menu, and you have a charming and quirky new cafe.

There’s a limited lunchtime menu, but the food menu is focused on breakfast, with a selection of traditional cooked brekkies, omelettes, homemade granola and bread with jam or butter. The menu is currently missing a veggie cooked breakfast, but it does include a vegetarian sausage roll at a penny-pinching £2.10, so this isn’t a major problem.

But, before the food, it was time for that old favourite: a brew. Fancie go the extra mile when it comes to the humble cuppa, particularly with their herbal infusions. The green tea arrived with an entourage of teapot, tea strainer, tea bowl, a quirky mismatched vintage saucer and a neat little egg timer that ensures your drink it always brewed to perfection. The egg timer is a lovely, thoughtful touch that makes a simple cup of tea feel extra special. However, at £2.80 for a one-person serving of green tea you do pay extra for the showmanship.

green tea

After seeing the green tea I almost regretted ordering a plain old cup of Yorkshire tea, but for the bargain price of £1.10 I got a bucket-sized mug of the good stuff, served on a lovely vintage saucer with a generously-filled milk jug. Fancie sure know how to make a good cuppa!

tea

The food arrived shortly afterwards, and again I was left feeling like I’d snagged a bargain. My veggie sausage roll was stuffed with tangy cheese, lashings of delicious spinach and flavour-packed tomatoes, all wrapped in thick pastry. I’m not a massive fan of pastry as a rule, but this was nothing like the thin, crispy, greasy stuff I’ve had before. At £2.10 this is a bargain that, thanks to the wedge of pastry, left me completely stuffed.

sausage roll

At the other end of the table, the Petit Breakfast’s (£4.50) motto was clearly ‘quality not quantity’ with two rashers of thick-cut bacon, a grease-free local sausage, buttery mushrooms and fluffy scrambled eggs laced with black pepper making for a tasty breakfast treat. A wedge of homely-looking brown bread and a generous pat of paper-wrapped butter bulked out the meal a bit, but at £4.50 the cooked portion of the breakfast did feel a little on the light side.

petit brekkie

So, have Fancie successfully made the leap from cupcakes to full-blown cafe? The new Ecclesall Road venue is a rustic, family-friendly place with bags of character and a great atmosphere. The flourish they give the humble cup of tea is second to none and, although I’m not entirely sold on their cooked breakfasts, they do serve up some tasty snacks, delicious-looking sarnies and sweet treats (which goes without saying, really.)

The perfect spot for a truly indulgent cuppa, a light bite and, of course, the best cupcakes in the city.

three-and-a-half

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Bungalows and Bears

November 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Posted in Pub Grub, Restaurants | 2 Comments
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I’ve frequented Bungalows and Bears on Division Street for drinks a number of times, and have always enjoyed the atmosphere. It’s an aircraft-hanger of a venue, but some clear effort has been put into creating that cosy, intimate feel. The tables are arranged so there’s plenty of private little nooks if you’re looking for a quiet meal out, not to mention big, comfy three-seaters for when you really want to relax. This, combined with Bungalows and Bears’ penchant for keeping the house lights turned down, creates a far more relaxing, laidback atmosphere than you’d expect from such a large, city centre venue (although, it goes without saying that this doesn’t apply on Friday and Saturday nights!)

The atmosphere and decor have always been a big hit, but I’ve never actually eaten at Bungalows and Bears. So, when I spotted that they’d had launched a 2-for-1 deal on gourmet burgers every Tuesday evening, it was all the motivation I needed: it was straight from the office to 50 Division Street, with double-cooked chips and burgers in mind.

Bungalows and Bears’ burger menu puts other pedallers of gourmet burgers to shame. It’s split into three sections – beef, chicken and vegetarian. While the chicken section is restricted to just two burgers, beef-lovers can top their meat with everything from chorizo and grilled halloumi, to smoked bacon, goat’s cheese, and avocado. With three (!) equally impressive veggie options on offer, I had a tough call to make. After much soul searching, I decided to save the Shroomaloomi burger (flat mushrooms and grilled halloumi) for another day, and went all out on the Hippy Deluxe (£8.55) which came topped with field mushrooms and emmental. At the other end of the table, it was a similiar no-holds-barred burger-fest of beef topped with avocado, blue cheese and bacon.

At nearly £9 per burger, Bungalows and Bears isn’t cheap, especially if you like a tipple with your food. However, building on our 2-for-1 savviness, we ordered a bottle of reasonably-priced Chardonnay (£9.95) that lasted the entire meal. The wine arrived extravagantly presented, in an enormous bucket packed with ice, alongside our cutlery and a wire wrack containing an impressive array of sauces. I’m a bit of a chilli head, so I was excited to spy three hot sauces mixed in with the usual mayo, mustard and ketchup: standard Tobasco, a green jalapeno sauce and a chipotle version.

So far, so good, but when our just-shy-of-nine-quid burgers rolled up, my confidence was shaken. They were served in plastic baskets and, even at a glance, I could tell both burgers were super-greasy. Confidence was restored when I took my first bite – sure, the burger didn’t look as appetizing as I’d expected, and okay, it was one of the messiest, greasiest burgers I’ve eaten recently, but it tasted fantastic.

The patty itself was a satisfying mix of nicely-cooked lentils and tasty mushrooms, topped with tangy cheese. Experimenting with some of the hot sauces sealed the deal. If you order a veggie burger at Bungalows and Bears, be sure to slather it in Tabasco!

The burger came with a very generous portion of double-cooked chips, a few of which had scraps of crispy skin still on. Personally, I prefer my chips a bit chunkier, but they were delicious nonetheless.

At the other end of the table, the beef burger was similarly messy (this certainly isn’t first date food!) but again it delivered where it matters: the taste. Despite being a little dubious to begin with, it turns out that a thick wedge of melt-in-the-mouth avocado, salty bacon and super-strong cheese is a match made in heaven.

Again, the burger came with a mountain of double-cooked chips. Combined with the thick meat patty, filling avocado and lashings of blue cheese, this belly-buster was impossible to finish. Defeated and stuffed, we both left half of our chips.

Despite a few niggles, Bungalows and Bears’ burgers are delicious, and there’s enough variation to make return trips a necessity. However, considering the price of one burger (most clock in at around £8) I will definitely be returning – but only on 2-for-1 Tuesdays. This too-good-to-be-true offer turns a rather pricey burger into an absolute steal.

So, visit on a Tuesday, save a few quid on the burgers, splash out on a bottle of Bungalows and Bears’ wine instead, and make an evening of it – because this is the sort of venue where you’ll want to take your time.

BB’s

November 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 2 Comments
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As someone who enjoys both a tipple and a meal out, a restaurant with a BYOB policy is my idea of heaven. While these places may be far and few between, there are a couple in Sheffield, and even one that’s smack bang in the middle of the city centre.

Squeezed between The Old House and Fusion on Devonshire Street, BB’s may look pokey from the outside, but inside it’s a two-storey warren of tables that’s always absolutely buzzing with enthusiastic customers. And, depending on preference for atmosphere, herein lies a possible deal-breaker: BB’s is a noisy, boisterous, knocking-elbows-with-your-neighbour sort of place. If you aren’t seated next to the door, this cosy Italian can get incredibly stuffy, and if you’re seated near one of the many birthday or hen parties that pile into BB’s every Friday and Saturday night, then things can get rowdy.

This was definitely the case when we visited over the weekend. We were seated next to the door, and so got a good idea of the crowd BB’s attracts: basically an endless stream of people clutching wine bottles in one hand and gift-bags/hen party favours in the other. We were actually seated next to one of the hen parties, and halfway through our meal they cracked out the pink whistles and fluffy head boppers (not to mention an inflatable – but the less said about that the better!)

You’ll either see the noise, rowdiness, and flaming Sambuca shots that are dolled out to birthday girls and boys, as part of BB’s charm – or good reason to never, ever frequent the place. Personally, I love the atmosphere but just be aware that if you’re after a peaceful evening, then this place isn’t for you.

One of the great things about BB’s, is that it’s graced with some of the friendliest, most genuine waiters and waitresses you’re ever likely to encounter. Greeting regulars with hugs, and finding the time to get to know non-regulars like us, they’re also very eager to please. At the end of our meal, we inquired about BB’s selection of after-dinner liqueur coffees, only to be assured that they’d whip us up whatever we fancied. This is the sort of fantastic, second-to-none customer service that turns first-time diners into loyal regulars.

But, before the after-dinner drinks came the dinner itself. Seated next to the hen party and with the BYOB wine already flowing, it was time to size up the menu. BB’s menu is all about serving up traditional Italian dishes, but with plenty of variations on these old favourites. There’s a whopping nine variations on steak, six chicken dishes, and all the usual pasta dishes are present and accounted for: spaghetti, lasagna, tagliatelle, gnocchi and penne pasta.

BB’s also has a large selections of hot and cold starters, so we decided to kick off the dining experience with a portion of bruschetta (£6.20) When the starter arrived, I immediately regretted opting to share one plate. The bruschetta dish was two slabs of lightly-toasted bread piled high with heavily-seasoned, juicy beef tomato chunks and fat cubes of gooey cheese.

Maybe a little peppery for some people’s tastes, but as a lover of strong flavours, I found the heavy-handed seasoning absolutely delicious. The bread had absorbed just the right amount of fiery seasoning and tomato juice, turning it a little soft without being at all soggy. The staff offered us oil and balsamic vinegar, but the bruschetta was so good that no further seasoning was necessary. Highly recommended, just don’t make the same mistake I did – be sure to order a portion all to yourself!

Next, was a main meal of Pescatore pizza (£9.00) a mixed seafood pizza, featuring olives and love-them-or-hate-them anchovies. Although the pizza only had a couple of toppings per slice, the focus was on quality rather than quantity: full squid rings, and entire mussels and prawns. The anchovies had been shredded and carefully spread across the pizza, so the taste was never overpowering. In fact, the sharp, tangy anchovies perfectly complimented BB’s choice of cheese. The cooking process had also infused the surrounding pizza with some of the anchovy oil, which was somehow even more delicious than the anchovies themselves.

For myself, it was a Tagliatelle Al Salmone (£8.75) that, after too many dodgy homemade pasta bakes, reminded me just how amazing pasta can actually be.

The tagliatelle ribbons were perfectly cooked and tasted like fresh, homemade pasta. Doused in a surprisingly light cream-based sauce and heaped with fresh coriander, it hardly needed the smoked salmon. This was fortunate, because the salmon in my smoked salmon dish clearly wasn’t smoked, as was stated on the menu. What I ended up with was flakes of cooked salmon and, although tasty enough, it lacked the strength of flavour you get with smoked salmon.

Full marks for the delicious pasta and tasty sauce, but the dish was sorely missing a standout flavour to bring it all together.

Although we hadn’t planned on dessert, the waitress cheekily brought us the dessert menu anyway. On top of the usual pies, chocolate puds and ice creams, BB’s serve fruit sorbets in hollowed out coconut shells, oranges and lemons. Vowing to give these intriguing-sounding desserts a whirl next time, we opted for the aforementioned liqueur coffees.

With the whole bar to choose from, we ordered a Bailey’s coffee and a brandy coffee (£4.00 each) BB’s aren’t stingy with the measures, the brandy coffee in particular contained so much brandy that it completely changed the colour of the drink. My Bailey’s coffee was deceptively coffee-coloured, but still packed a stomach-warming punch. However, this hot brew was oddly finished off with a chilled layer of foamed milk, which made my first sip a bit of a nasty surprise. That minor niggle aside, the liqueur coffees were delicious, piping-hot boozy goodness and the perfect way to end the meal.

Without wine bumping up the bill, BB’s is value for money, and serves up homely Italian cuisine in authentic surroundings. The lively atmosphere (especially on Friday and Saturday nights) makes BB’s feel more like a night out than dinner. A fun, friendly, pocket-friendly evening complete with some very traditional Italian grub.

Same time again next week, BB’s?

Wick At Both Ends: Sunday Lunch

October 27, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Pub Grub, Restaurants | 2 Comments
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There are few things in life as comforting as a Sunday lunch, and The Wick at Both Ends on West Street really big theirs up, with the claim that they do a Sunday roast “as good as your Nan’s.”

For those not already in the know, The Wick at Both Ends is a quirky West Street venue kitted out with mismatched armchairs and some of the comfiest corner booths you’re likely to find in a pub. The bar is decked out with fairy lights the whole year round, there’s plenty of arty graffiti on the walls, and table decorations fashioned out of peacock feathers, flowers and old liquor bottles. There’s also a stash of oldschool board games, if you fancy whiling away an afternoon playing Bizzy Bizzy Bumble Bees or Connect Four. This cosy West Street venue clearly has bags of character, but are the food and drink up to scratch?

The Wick’s menu is a three-headed beast of main courses, tapas and Sunday roasts. The main meals and tapas in particular offer a quirky take on standard pub fare; tapas-lovers can enjoy a Carpaccio of Smoked Venison, soup served in teacups or Bloody Mary Stuffed Mushrooms, while the main courses include a fresh take on that old classic Ham, Egg and Chips. However, we visited on a Sunday, so it only seemed fitting to give their roasts a whirl.

At £7.95 for the meat option and £6.95 for the vegetarian alternative, the Wick are pitching at the upper end of what you’d be willing to pay for Sunday lunch, but with a menu that boasts “real” Yorkshire puddings, lashings of gravy and locally sourced meat, it promises to deliver. Carnivores get a choice of meats, whereas veggies have just one option for their Sunday roast. This is pretty standard, but is worth bearing in mind if your party includes a fussy non-meat eater.

In addition to its offerings of tapas, roasts and main courses, the Wick at Both Ends has an exhaustive cocktail menu. Even cocktail experts should be able to find something new and exciting on the menu (a tipple made from thyme, apricot liqueur, gin, lemon juice and egg white, anyone?)

Cocktails may not be the traditional Sunday dinner aperitifs, but I couldn’t resist and ordered myself a Tow The Lime (£6.00)

This refreshing cocktail puts a fresh slant on the Moscow mule by adding homemade lime liqueur and freshly-squeezed kiwi juice. A Dark and Stormy (£5.00) was also on the cards, which was topped off with plenty of fiery ginger beer. Just what the doctor ordered on a gloomy Sunday afternoon!

The Wick at Both Ends has an enviable cocktail menu, and many of the cocktails utilize a long list of fresh fruits and herbs. If you’re a cocktail fan, you’ll be happy to spend whole afternoons and evenings working your way through the Wick’s menu. However, it is worth noting that many of the cocktails – especially the fruity ones – aren’t particularly strong. If you’re used to getting headspin from a single cocktail, then you’re better off sticking to the less extravagant options, such as the Dark and Stormy.

Halfway through our cocktails, the Sunday dinners arrived at the table. Initial impressions were mixed, for the price we’d been hoping for a belly-busting mountain of food. Both meals came with carrots and spinach, a couple of roasties, a homemade Yorkshire pud and gravy, but we agreed that the plate was missing another Yorkshire pudding, or even a few more roasties. Still, you can’t knock the Wick’s Sunday dinner for taste: the carrots in particular were delicious, tasting as though they’d been cooked in butter (you need a little fat in your Sunday lunch when it’s cold outside!) then rubbed with cracked black pepper and sea salt. Possibly the most unhealthy veggies in the world, but they were gobbled up in no time.

Now, it’s clear from the photo that the Yorkshire pudding didn’t look particularly appetizing. I was expecting a puffed-up, lumpy homemade Yorkie, but what I got was a deflated curl of batter with a suspiciously dark crust. But, never judge a Yorkshire pud by its sad, deflated cover, because the Wick’s Yorkies are delicious. A little on the burnt side, and not the prettiest of puddings, but when soaked in a little gravy the batter melted in the mouth and had that satisfying, homemade taste.

But onto the real star of my Sunday dinner – the veggie wellington. I’m not a massive pastry fan, but the Wick’s pastry was light and crispy, and soaked up oodles of flavour from the gravy. The filling was a stodgy, gut-busting blend of cheese, spinach and mushrooms. It looked a little grey and unappetizing, but the filling was actually chock full of flavour and settled in my stomach, a warm wodge of calorie-laden comfort food. I usually avoid pastry dishes, but I scraped up every last bit of gravy-sodden veggie wellington. Even if you’re a carnivore, I can heartily recommend the Wick’s vegetarian wellington.

If you’re craving some animal protein you’re in for a treat too, as the meat-eaters’ Sunday roast comes with the same buttery carrots, spinach, crispy roasties and homemade Yorkshire pudding plus, of course, hearty slices of meat (in this instance beef.) The roast beef had been cut in thick, generous slabs, and arrived at the table tender and tasty. Although a little pinker than some diners would like, there were no complaints from our table.

The Wick is a fun, distinctive venue with friendly staff and plenty of atmosphere. There’s always a few people in the cosy corner booths even on weekday afternoons, and it’s easy to see why. The cocktail menu is one of the most diverse in the city and, with three different menus to choose from, it’s not just on the cocktail-front where you’re spoilt for choice. The Sunday roasts are a little pricey, but that’s understandable when you take into account the clear quality of the grub. Hearty, tasty, and satisfying comfort food – perfect for the long winter months.

A Sunday roast where even the carrots and spinach are delicious, who’d have thought it possible?

Cross Scythes

October 14, 2012 at 11:47 am | Posted in Pub Grub, Restaurants | Leave a comment
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Approaching the Cross Scythes on Baslow Road in Totley, it’s impossible to miss the ‘Sheffield’s Number 1 Gastro Pub’ banner proudly wrapped around the building. A heady accolade, and a little digging reveals this establishment was not only a finalist for Favourite Pub in the 2011 Eat Sheffield awards, but in the 2010 awards too. So, how’s it faring in 2012?

From the outside, the Cross Scythes ticks all the boxes: it’s a pretty, olde-worlde stone building with outdoor seating around the front and the back, and meticulously pruned greenery adding to the quaint, country pub vibe. Inside, the Cross Scythes has plenty of rural charm, but with a refreshing modern twist – think lots of dark wood, amber lighting and black-and-white prints of the local area back in the good ol’ days, but with a swanky cocktail menu and staff immaculately turned out in white shirts and black ties bringing the place bang up to date. It’s not a million miles removed from the ‘rustic wine bar’ atmosphere of the Wig and Pen.

As we were visiting on a weekday afternoon, we had no problems finding a seat. In fact, a quick head count revealed that the total number of occupants didn’t even stretch into double figures (and that’s including the staff!) If you like a bit of atmosphere with your meal, you’re better off visiting during peak times – from the looks of it, the Cross Scythes doesn’t do much trade during the day.

Undeterred, we got stuck into the drinks menu. Unsurprisingly, booze is pricey at the Cross Scythes – the price of spirits and wines in particular is eye-watering. By comparison, the cocktails are roughly the price you’d pay in town, so we opted for a couple of Long Island Iced Teas (£5.90) Our drinks came nicely presented in tall glasses with a fruit garnish and, despite the reasonable prices, they packed quite a punch. The Cross Scythes aren’t stingy with their measures, even when you’re ordering something that contains half the bar, like a Long Island Iced Tea. Definitely a cocktail worth checking out, if you fancy something potent with your meal.

Starving, we ordered a side of bread, olive oil and vinegar (£1.80) and requested it to be sent out as a starter rather than a side order. Our waiter was only too happy to oblige, and within a few minutes a big platter of bread arrived at our table. For £1.80, the Cross Scythes spoilt us with three different types of homemade bread: a light, fluffy sliced bread, a weighty brown roll, and a few slices of toasted bread, which arrived at our table still warm. As someone with a taste for sharp flavours, I was disappointed that the oil and vinegar arrived as an already-mixed portion in a little pot on the side. However, a few minutes later our waiter returned with the oil and vinegar bottles, and told us to help ourselves. Perfect! At £1.80 this is an absolute steal, and an impossible-to-fault side order/makeshift-starter.

We were still working our way through the delicious homemade bread when the mains arrived. For me, it was the Tomato Risotto with pine nuts, rocket, parmesan and a drizzle of tangy balsamic vinegar (£8.75) with added smoked salmon (an extra £2)

When it comes to presentation, the Cross Scythes is absolutely faultless.

More familiar with stodgy cream-and-mushroom risottos, I was pleasantly surprised by how light and refreshing this risotto was. The tomato gave the rice a fruity, fresh flavour I wasn’t expecting from a risotto, not to mention a beautiful colour. Topped off with a splash of green rocket, this dish is a real treat for the eyes.

The pine nuts gave the risotto a nice crunch, but the real star of the show was the smoked salmon. For an extra two quid, the Cross Scythes had flaked a good quantity of delicious smoked salmon into my rice, and a forkful of this salmon, mixed up with refreshing tomato and crunchy pine nuts, was absolutely delicious. Despite being full, I couldn’t stop myself cleaning my plate – and then taking some of the bread from the platter and mopping up the dregs of the risotto sauce, just to make sure my plate was doubly clean. A surprisingly light rice dish that tastes every bit as good as it looks. Highly recommended.

Also arriving at our table was a truly gourmet cheese burger (£9.75) served with Sheffield’s own Henderson’s Relish, real dripping chips, and chunky tomato chutney, on yet more homemade bread (those Cross Scythes bakers have been busy!)

Although dubious about paying just short of a tenner for a burger, when it arrived the price tag made perfect sense. The burger was a thick patty of melt-in-the-mouth meat that had a consistency more like steak than a processed burger, and was pink and juicy in the middle, topped with homemade-looking chutney. A slice of strong cheese and a slosh of Henderson’s Relish, not to mention some fresh salad and the homemade bread cob, made for a truly five star take on a fast food favourite.

The side of chips was almost a meal in itself. As they’re cooked in dripping, they were saltier and greasier than your average chip, but then, you don’t order dripping chips if you’re trying to be healthy!

The Cross Scythes is one of the pricier local eateries, especially if you like a tipple with your grub, but this becomes a moot point when you take into account the swanky, gastro pub atmosphere, the quality of the food, attentiveness of the staff and, of course, the escape-from-the-hustle-and-bustle location. A trip to the Cross Scythes feels like a real treat.

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