Food's got Proper – Back of House, Ecclesall Road
With a strapline of ‘Food’s got Proper’, Back of House (or BOH), Ecclesall Road’s newest restaurant has caused a bit of a stir amongst some Sheffield foodies. What is this ‘proper’? Why have we not had it before? Rather, does BOH not know that we already have ‘proper’ food?
Instead of getting bogged down in semantics, I took this strapline to mean that BOH was going to offer British food done well and without any pretence. Yes, of course we already have this in Sheffield; The Milestone do it particularly well in fact, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have room for another, and so what if they want to use a strapline that tries to set them apart from others?
With this in mind I was delighted to manage to bag myself (and the husband) a table on their launch night and on seeing their menu for the first time, I was glad to find that the food was, indeed, ‘proper’. It was only when Thomas Robjohns (bar specialist and joint owner, along with chef Richard Bucklow and Jaye Taylor) told us to expect the unexpected explaining that dishes wouldn’t be quite as they seemed from the menu that I started to question the BOH concept. How could a dish be ‘proper’ but also not what it seemed?
Thankfully the food was more of the former than the latter and there were no nasty surprises; just good grub with a couple of twists here and there. Starters of Mackerel Scotch Egg (£7) and Wild Mushrooms (£7) were a good starting point. My mackerel encased egg was good and soft, rather than runny, allowing me to enjoy the flavour and texture along with the salty fish (egg and salty food is a real favourite food pairing for me). The watercress pepped the dish up a little whilst the apple sauce added a good sweet contrast to the rich fish.
The husband’s Wild Mushrooms (£7) were served with polenta, samphire and quails egg. Samphire wouldn’t be my obvious choice of ingredients for this classic Italian dish, but it added salt and a crunchy texture to the otherwise rich and soft plate. Here readers will be glad to know that the egg was soft AND runny, and the yolk coated the mushrooms nicely. The polenta was also well prepared.
Onto the mains and I had the Panfried Gurnard (£13). This beautiful looking dish was both delicate and light with perfectly cooked fish served with fennel, some cubes of slow cooked squid and a black olive butter. The strong flavours of the fennel had subdued somewhat thanks to some slow cooking and it was both soft and delicious, adding a hum of aniseed to the delicate fish, rather than overpowering it. My only criticism was that it was a little on the small side and I think the addition of some sliced new potatoes layered in with the fennel would give some bulk without ruining the presentation.
The husband went for Belly of Pork (£14), mainly, but not purely, because it was from Sheffield’s own Moss Valley and I’m pleased to report that BOH did it justice. The meat to fat ratio was just right and the meat was tender and flavoursome. Better still, the crackling was simply some of the best we had ever tried and a portion of soft glazed ham hock sealed the deal. The twist here was the pairing of pork and rhubarb, something I hadn’t thought of trying before, and although the husband didn’t really like the fibrous texture of the chunks of rhubarb with the pork, he did approve of the rhubarb sauce. Sides of buttered greens and chips (£3.50 each) were well executed, if a tad pricey for Sheffield.
Simply described as Strawberries and Cream (£6), my dessert was actually a strawberry brulee with a scoop of strawberry ice cream, a strip of strawberry jelly and a good ol’ dollop of cream. With a few white strawberries added to the plate, this was strawberries and cream done in a variety of ways; a clever play with tradition and a pleasing way to round my meal. The husband went for the Duck Egg Custard Tart (£7) which was served with strawberry ice cream. Sadly the pastry bottom was a little undercooked, but the filling was creamy and rich thanks to those duck eggs.
With food this, (dare I say it?)… proper, I know that I will return to BOH again and again. I’m pleased to say that there’s proper wine too and I don’t know if I was just in a particularly enthusiastic mood, but I thought that the Featherdrop Hill Sauvignon Blanc (£21.95) was stunning. Hailing from THE sauvignon blanc region of Marlborough, it packed a gooseberry punch and I adored every mouthful. There’s also some interesting cocktails on the list including the rather delightful sounding Porch Swing No. 762 (£7) which is Pimms, Tanqueray 10, cucumber, rose, strawberry, lemon mint and ginger; perfect on a hot summer’s day.
Service was very friendly and attentive throughout (if a little slow – this was their opening night after all) and it’s clear that BOH have a good team on board. Those of you who remember the days of Kitchen will immediately notice the change to the décor. It’s become slightly busier in an eclectic, rather than fussy, manner. And, in my opinion, the new bar is a great addition to the space as I think it will add a little atmosphere whilst encouraging diners to stray away from the wine list and try a beer or a cocktail with their meal.
There was a lot of hype surrounding the opening of BOH, and I’m pleased to say that it seems to have lived up to it with good reviews and tweets from diners praising the food. Give it a try – I just hope you enjoy it too.
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