The Kitchen, Ecclesall Road
Now, i’ve thought long and hard before writing this blog/journal. I may be setting myself up for a massive fall but, if life aint about taking risks then fuck knows what it’s all about? I was once a chef, of dubious ability, and after a hiatus of 5 years I find myself back on the front line of service. I was lucky; I was one of those guys who fell into catering & hospitality and was rather good at it – there arent many, believe me.
Even with all the ups and downs this industry has to offer I still love the bones off it! For those of us who work in it, it’s hard to explain to our friends and loved ones just how and why we get up in the morning after fourteen hour days (nine days straight) and still turn up to work, early, with the same enthusiasm as a teenage boy virgin about to pop his cherry!
There are a legion of reasons, but I’ve always maintained that it’s because, if you’re a pro, you cannot bare the idea of letting the man/woman beside you down. The only other job or vocation I can think of that inspires such loyalty and camaradarie among those who work in it is those who decide to join a sector such as the armed forces, police service and nursing; that and a deep rooted sense of pride.
It becomes your spouse. If you’re good it is your only love, passion and soul mate. The harsh mistress of hospitality is an unforgiving lady but, my god, she is worth it! It’s an all consuming love of which you’ll never be able to fully explain to those which have never experienced a single, fucked up, ‘dans le merde’ service. Anyway, enough of the Anthony Bourdianisms! My reasons for attempting to write this are three fold;
To give a voice and perspective to those of us who are/have been in and love the trade and want honest, respectful feedback. And to share this insight with regular folk who simply love food and eating out but managed to get a 9-5 instead, because I am sick and tired of reading online self prophesised ‘experts’, bloggers and Trip Advisor knob heads who, while they have an opinion which may have some validity, have no real understanding of the trade, from their 9-5 armchair supporting safe seat, and the effort which goes into producing a dining experience but think they do based purely on the basis they eat out a lot and cook some recipies from Jamie Olivers latest shite ‘any commis worth his weight in salt can do’ cook book.
I wanted to see what people thought of my opinions. See, that old chef arrogance never really dies! And also to get some feed back from your perspective, see what you think; did you have a similar experience, could you see where I was coming from? Or thought I was way off the mark and a little out of order?
I will try and review as many restaurants, bars, pubs, coffee shops and hotels. Basically anywhere that is classed under the hospitality umbrella as is possible, and also talk about various other elements of the industry which come up in my day to day job which I want to share.
(N.B. I would like to say that this will be weekly and give a set date every week but owing to my trade I cannot make that guarantee, I hope you’ll understand?!)
Also suggestions and recommendations would be most welcome so please feel free, but dont expect me to ‘check out the new Nandos on Eccy road’ as you probably wont get a response! As well as longer reviews I plan to write a few shorter pieces in the interim, in which I plan to discuss general day to day issues which I feel are relevant topics for discussion. Examples may include: ‘Side orders: rip off, or valued meal accompaniment!?” or “What warrants a tip?” In general these are topics that get discussed an awful lot by past and present colleagues but are insights I think people who have not cooked or served for a living may find interesting.
Back to the meat of it…
So, I’ve been lucky the last few weeks and eaten some fine food but I wanted to write my first blog about The Kitchen on Ecclesall road.
Now if you’re like me, Eccy road/Sharrow Vale is one of my favourite places in sheffield city centre. However I have noticed a very annoying and disturbing influx of repetitive, shite, same old same old chain restauarants popping up left, right and centre.
I mean why, oh why, is there a need for 4 sodding Pizza Expresses in the whole of Sheffield? Yep I have no idea either…So to find a tidy little independent restaurant a little way up past Endcliffe Park was a dream.
Obviously being into my food I had heard about this place through its recent award for value from the editor of the Good Food Guide, so I thought I would check it out.
I’ve dined here 4 times in total now, why? Well it is my opinion and belief that I cannot give a completely rounded opinion of a place unless you have tried it more than once. Which is why if a place is dissapointing first time round I think you should always re-try. After all, if you grow to like a place and visit often one shite meal isn’t going to put you off going based on one bad experience is it?
I’ve eaten here both at lunch and evening and, in my opinion, I prefer the lunch. It feels more relaxed, less hurried. Again, just my opinion, you, on the other hand, may have a completely different experience. What struck me first was the obvious care and attention to detail. A small but well rounded food, wine and drinks menu. In my opinion a good sign. It’s a marker, they are saying ‘what we’ve got is good and we dont need to go crazy or punish the kitchen with an excessive work load.’ Those of you who cook for a living will appreciate the sentiment in that im sure!
The front of house guy, whose name escapes me, is a cool customer. He doesnt flap, is controlled and takes obvious pride and satisfaction in serving his customers. His knowledge when called upon is not bull shit designed to please the masses a la chain service, but he’s obviously educated in his food and drink and his passion for it shines through, something you may have guessed, is a MUST have quality.
Those of you who have worked a floor will know that a lunchtime service can be boring as tits with cleaning jobs galore if excessively quiet however it can also go mental if your on your own and all of a sudden you have 6/7 tables walk in within 10/20 minutes of each other, which is what ALWAYS happens, (so for those of you not in the industry, this is why you may wait an extra few minutes for your coffee or for your order to be taken so dont click your fingers as most waiters can fucking work a section and already know the next 7 or 8 jobs they need to be doing!) You’re basically in the shit straight away. Now i’ve seen this guy work the floor on his own, with a team, during quiet and busy shifts and he can hold it together so kudos to him.
Also, any waiter/ress who can keep a straight poker face when a table of 8 brings in Tesco’s Cava (it was a birthday party!) and 3 bottles of Blossom Hill rose to a bring-your-own-wine night deserves my respect. If it was me, it would take all my self control to keep the food snob inside me to not roll around on the floor in hysterical laughter! I mean you are saving money, so buy a nice bottle of bloody wine, another example of moronic customers! (Also, people keep in mind that most servers would pass this knowledge on to the rest of the floor staff, after all it’s in there interests to look after you, the guest, even if you are a moron.) Yes you may say ‘its not their fault’ or ‘they just need educating’ Both equally fair points I agree, to an extent, but when you’ve served hundreds and hundreds of people you learn to read people and some people just cannot be educated so they are logged in the lost cause customer section!
On to the food;
I’ve sampled quite a few of the dishes now and have to say it is remarkably consistent. I dont know how strong the brigade is or how many are in it, I’m guessing 5 maximum, but what they do they do it well and in a very small environment. (The disabled toilets are obviously the chefs changing room!) Not a critiscm, I kind of like it, it adds a certain human quality to the restaurant.
Dishes such as trio of pork are cooked very well. No need for over elaborate presentation or garnish each cut of meat sat beautifully cooked on its garnish. The belly atop a potato puree was tender and crisp where it needed to be. The fillet rested perfectly, still pink, (yes, pork loin/fillet should most definitley have a pink twinge to it for those who just freaked out about ‘raw’ meat) sat on what I hope was homemade black pudding ( I didnt ask as I was (A) to busy eating and (B) forgot to ask when I was cleared as I had a happy food smile/belly on!). Again, delicious. The cheek was perfectly braised and trimmed, sticky, but not oversweet and well seasoned.
My only critique of this dish was that I should have ordered some sort of side as the dish itself was extremely generous with meat. This isnt a critiscm of The Kitchen menu, but of me. Again, the waiter recommended but I said I would be fine. His good, my bad. Listen to your server people he/she is not on sodding commision (tips are not commision before you start) they want you to have a good time. Three times now i’ve eaten the bread and each time it was excellent. Served with different butters and, more importantly, warm!
Other dishes i’ve eaten or shared include the duck confit, cooked, seasoned and executed perfectly well served with a white bean and tomato cassoulet.
I’ve tried 3 desserts. The Valhrona Chocolate mousse; rich, good texture, generous portion size and simple. The other two were Paris Brest, again well executed choux pastry and the Praline Cream. All in keeping with the clear Kitchen ethos of simply cooked classic food.
I refuse to mark any restaurant out of ten or give it a star rating but what I will do is provide a recommendation. It is with this in mind, and based on my experiences so far, that I can’t recommend The Kitchen enough.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading and will be posting again soon.