Ambulo gaffer: “It’s a space for a slap-up dinner and an Aperol Spritz.”

A collaborative effort from co-founder of the Rockingham Group (the team behind Public, Picture House Social and Gatsby) James O’Hara and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders opened the first Ambulo all-day café opened in the Millennium Gallery earlier this year. Following the success of the first venue, the team have now launched a second based inside Weston Park Museum. Here’s a small taste of what you can expect…

What made you want to open a second Ambulo?
It was always the plan to have two sites with Ambulo in Sheffield but we obviously wanted to get the first one done before embarking on a second. We were always really excited about the Weston Park site as it brings back a lot of childhood memories for us all. I think everyone in Sheffield remembers seeing the polar bear at Weston Park as a kid!

How is this Ambulo different to the first one? Is there a new menu?
Actually, the menu is almost identical. We wanted both of them to have the same feel – we didn’t want one to be seen as better than or much different to the other. They are two very different spaces so it was a challenge to make them both feel like Ambulo. I think the colour scheme and the flowers from Swallows and Damsons have really become a part of our brand – they make it Ambulo.

Image: India Hobson

How important is maintaining a family-friendly ethos at the venues?
Yeah, that was one of the main things we wanted to do with it. We’ve always opened businesses that fit where we are in our lives, really. When we were in our mid-twenties, we did Gatsby and then a few years later we did Public. Now we’re a bit older and we wanted to create somewhere that we could take family and friends, our mums and dads or young kids. It’s a really important part of Ambulo. We felt like there weren’t really enough family-friendly places in Sheffield.

Naturally, the museum setting ties in with the family day out feel too.
Absolutely! We’ve had some really nice moments in there, especially when it’s raining and it’s the kids’ holidays. We’ll get a family walking in with kids looking relieved that it’s somewhere they can relax and give their kids a healthy meal while they eat and drink something nice too.

What sort of food can parents expect from your children’s menu?
We wanted to create a menu that kids would love but that’s also not unhealthy. Almost everything has a low salt content, is bought locally and cooked on-site. It isn’t going to be just your standard chicken nuggets and chips. Our head chef Ronnie has a young family and everything on the menu is there because it’s something he would feed to his kids.

Image: India Hobson

Why did you want Ambulo to be an ‘all-day’ café?
We wanted it to be a space where you could come at any time for a slap-up dinner and an Aperol Spritz, or if you just wanted breakfast with a coffee you could get that too. Also, I think drinking habits are generally changing. People aren’t going places just to get tanked up, everyone’s drinking less, and we’re a bit more health conscious – even us – so it made sense to do it at this time in our lives.

Are there any plans for a third venue in the works?
Things are very busy at the minute – we are working on launching a picnic basket scheme in Weston Park. It’s such a lovely park and we’re getting quite busy in the café so we don’t really feel like we have enough tables. We want to do something where you can pre-book for a family, get a takeaway picnic basket for four people and go and sit in the park with a blanket.

So that’s a maybe?
Another venue is definitely something we’re thinking about – the reaction has been lovely, especially from parents thanking us for opening somewhere they can take their kids and make sure they’re looked after but still enjoy a good meal. So I think it’s definitely something we would be interested in doing more of in the future, whenever that may be. But we’ve done two this year… That’s probably enough!

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