Serving Up A Mester Class

The former industrial area of Kelham Island is best known for its traditional pubs and real ales…
The likes of Kelham Island Tavern and The Fat Cat have put the increasingly in vogue city location back on the map for its real ales. Hell, even a Sauvignon Blanc and Martini (gin, dry with an olive if you're making one) floozie like myself has been known to partake in the odd evening of ale supping…
Despite Kelham Island’s popularity for drinking venues, up until now The Milestone has pretty much had the monopoly of decent eateries down there though. That's no bad thing – their food is damn fine, but things seem set to change with the arrival of brand new steak restaurant, which will shortly be setting up shop there alongside a rumoured Italian restaurant…

Already up and running, however, is café-cum-bistro Little Mesters. I'd already heard good things about their breakfasts and their lunch menu looks nice enough with lasagne, vegetable mousaka and a tasty selection of sandwiches including Wensleydale and carrot. However, I was intrigued by their bistro menu (£18.95 for two courses, £24.95 for three) and I popped down one Friday night (with Mr. Clare's Food Blog) to give it a try.

Located in the heart of Kelham Island, slap bang next to the museum, Little Mesters is hidden away in a nice quiet location, tucked away from some of the more intimidating industrial buildings in the area. Having never been down there before it took us a little while to find it, but once we did we were both pleasantly surprised. Given that this is a café by day, I was surprised to find absolutely pristine table cloths and chair covers along with some elegant cutlery and glassware. The room was decked out with flickering candles and Moorcheeba plied their soothing triphop in the background. A beautiful setting – and with the girders, big metal windows and pictures detailing memories of our industrial past, this wasn’t a case of style over substance. Little Mesters recognises and celebrates Kelham Island’s history (indeed, the café’s name is a term used almost exclusively in Sheffield to describe the master craftsmen who worked on a small scale producing small items such as cutlery in the Kelham Island area).

We were warmly welcomed and given the option of having a drink at the bar before sitting down to dinner. As there wasn’t an option to have a glass of wine rather than a whole bottle, we declined, but there is a choice of spirits and bottles of Kelham Island beer (of course).

Seated, we ordered a very tasty bottle of St Emilion, something that I only ever buy when it’s on offer as it’s a pricy wine. Seeing it here for about £27 made it an affordable treat and one I had to have! We then had some olive ciabatta with some good olive oil.

Starters didn’t take long to arrive and I was impressed by my platter of smoked fish. There was plenty to keep me occupied; smoked salmon, sardines and a very fresh looking piece of mackerel. It was simple, but effective and it was good to have the lemon dressing served in a dipping pot, so that I could add as and when I pleased. The bread too was surprisingly good; perfectly toasted.

The husband had gone with chicken livers. The ample serving was served on a bed of rocket with a balsamic dressing. Livers were cooked rare; something that will upset my cautious mother, but something that didn’t offend either of us. They were soft and tender and tasty. Again, there was no messing about with this dish and its simplicity let the ingredients speak for themselves.

Onto mains and I had the duck breast stuffed with cranberries. This was a let-down to be honest. The dish looked a bit of a mess, the duck was overcooked and the skin lacked the crispiness we all love on a duck breast. The husband fared better with a shallot tart tartin with Yorkshire Blue. This was delicious thanks to the puff pastry and generous dose of the blue cheese. A simple rocket salad and tomato compote kept the dish fresh and light and the husband was perfectly happy with his choice.

Purely for the blog (believe me it certainly isn’t for the good of my waistline) we both had desserts. He had the amaretto cheesecake, on recommendation, but sadly it wasn’t anything special as it was difficult to pick up the flavour of amaretto. Having said that, he still cleared his plate!

I spotted chocolate mousse on the menu and as I will generally order a chocolate or a lemon/lime dessert over anything else, I went for it. The mousse was huge and quite dense, but deliciously rich and chocolately. Sadly the raspberry shortbreads served on the side were far too soft in texture so these were left on the side, but given the size of the mousse it was going to be impossible for me to leave feeling hungry.

Given that the café has only been open since June and they only started doing the bistro nights a couple of weeks ago, it’s hardly surprising that there were a few teething problems with the food. And, everything else had been spot on. Service was good, the décor was beautiful and the ambience was just right (although it was quite quietly populated – something that will hopefully change). I couldn’t help thinking how perfect the place would be for a private dinner party or even a formal evening wedding reception.

As for those teething problems you’ll be pleased to know that these guys are actively seeking feedback from their customers and a chat with them after the meal told me that they are committed to the business and
ready to be flexible in order to ensure that they are the best that they can be.

Little Mesters they may be, but give them a bit of time and this promising eatierie could become a firm favourite.
Visit their website here or follow the official restaurant Twitter feed here for more information.

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