Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Vittles Cafe, Sheffield - Bistro Nights

Vittles Cafe has been open in Broomhill for over 20 years. Previously purely run as a daytime cafe since 1991, new owners Mick and Paula have given the place a new lease of life since they took over in December 2012. The menu has been extended, the cafe has been refurbished and it's now open as a night-time bistro on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Far from a new concept, but one that, I feel, can be difficult to pull off sometimes.

Wanting to spread the word about these new bistro nights, Mick kindly invited Gav and I for a meal. And so we, along with a trusty bottle of red (Vittles is licensed, but Mick and Paula allow you to bring your own with no corkage charge), made our way up to Broomhill one Friday evening. The cafe was quiet, but there were a couple of other bookings which meant that we were not dining alone.

Although Vittles is first and foremost a cafe, some thought had been given to the atmosphere. The bright lights of the daytime cafe had been switched for candles on each table and calming music was playing in the background. I know from chatting to Mick that he has a background in IT and he's only recently moved into the hospitality world. But he's passionate about food and he was in the kitchen cooking on the night we visited, whilst Paula was front of house.

We kicked off with starters of Vittles Smokie (£5.95) for Gav and the Salt and Pepper Squid (£5.75) for me. The smokie is smoked haddock, topped off with a cheese sauce and breadcrumbs, then baked in the oven. It was spot on; creamy and rich, there was just enough to satisfy and it's easy to see why the dish is one of Vittles' best sellers. It was also great to see the dish served with enough toast. I see far too many pates, cheese boards, and the like served with insufficient toast/bread and it was noticed that Vittles got it right here.

I could have been jealous of Gav's smokie, but my perfectly cooked squid kept any feelings of envy at bay. Well cooked and tender chunks of squid meat were coated in a lemonade batter which was thick enough to attract my attention, but not to overpower. A vinegary and sweet chilli dipping sauce was a nice addition, as were the lemon slices, but I did think that the side salad was a bit too much - it could be reduced by half or scrapped altogether, I think.

Onto mains and Gav went for the sirloin steak (£11.95). It's probably the least adventurous dish on any menu, but it's a good tester. And here the steak was as it good as it should be; tender and flavoursome with some good chips and a fresh side salad. He was happy with his lot, and I was just as happy with mine...

Steak and Cheese Quesadilla (£7.95) was delicious. I do have a 'thing' for quesadillas anyway, and I was glad that this didn't disappoint. The tortilla was light, crispy and packed with strips of steak, chorizo and oozing cheese. There was also a side salad of tomatoes, olives and chorizo and some good (skin on) chips. Simple, but effective and just the ticket for me that night.

Moving onto desserts and Gav had the Pan fried Apple and Walnuts with Vanilla Ice Cream (£4.65) which was warming thanks to the inclusion of a few spices in the apple and walnut mix. Again, this was a simple but effective dish - these flavours always work well together. The addition of vanilla ice cream offered the cool contrast to both the heat of the apples and warmth of the spices and Gav quickly cleared his bowl.

I had Honey and White Wine Syllabub (£3.95) which was delicious and creamy and rich... and just a bit too much as it was quite a large portion. Perhaps the addition of some tart citrus flavours would help or, as we heard another diner suggest, a biscuit base to add texture.

We were both impressed with Vittles; Mick and Paula seem to be working well as a team as we could find little fault in either the food or the service. We also liked the fact that there wasn't a set menu with a set price - instead you can pick and choose from a range of dishes which vary in price. I'd certainly go back.

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