Feliz Cumpleaños La Mama!

Long before Abbeydale Road had a city-wide name for trendy independent restaurants and bars, a selection of hardworking, independent businesses were laying the foundations for what would eventually become something of a foodie haven in the Steel City…

Chilean-inspired tapas restaurant La Mama is one of them, having recently celebrated their tenth year anniversary with a bash raising £1,035 for the Red Cross – no mean feat for a small restaurant that can hold circa 35-40 diners at a push.

But what the venue may lack in size, it more than makes up for in character. It’s a cosy, colourful space that reflects the warmth exuded by the small team of staff and owner Daniela, who’s been part of proceedings since the restaurant first opened in 2009. It hasn’t always been easy – they’ve had a recession to contend with and plenty of changing food trends over the years – but by sticking to their guns and offering an authentic taste of South America (none of the bland dishes you’ll find repeated on menus at most chain joints), they’ve managed to establish themselves as one of the best tapas experiences in the city.

The new menu shows what they’re about: bold, uncompromising flavours and dishes passed down through generations of Daniela’s Chilean family for a real flavour of Latin American cuisine. Ingredients are sourced to ensure it’s the real deal; even the sugar used is organic Columbian panela right through to the cranberry beans used in traditional countryside stews. “It’s a real team effort. I taught our head chef Andy the dishes on the new menu and he’s been able to add his own twists too, which is fantastic,” says Daniela.

Popping down one evening to sample taster dishes taken from the new menu, we were instantly enamoured by the Pastel de Choclo – a traditional Chilean dish made with beef, onions, raisins, olives and basil before being topped with sweetcorn and caramelised in the oven. It was effectively a Latin American shepherd’s pie and just as comforting as it sounds – a perfect dish for chilly Autumnal evenings. The Cachete de Chanco was another highlight, with succulent braised pork cheeks in a spicy sauce with delicious chunks of chorizo – another indulgent delight.

The vegan and vegetarian options are plentiful too. Personally, I’m not usually an aubergine fan, but when they’re oven baked and covered with melted goats cheese in a tangy salsa sauce, I’m more than happy to tuck into the Berenjenas al Horno. For a tasty light bite we’d also recommend the Croquetas de Batata con Espinacas, which were a tad bhaji-esque and a twist on classic croquettes wrapping up a mixture of sweet potato, spinach and cumin.

Pescatarians, too, are well catered for with some of juiciest prawns I’ve had in Sheffield (and delightfully easy to deshell) alongside the Pulpo Rico for those looking for something slightly more adventurous in the form of fresh baby octopus marinated in garlic and served with salad. All of this, however, is just a snapshot of a varied menu designed with genuine affection and tastes for all palates. The longstanding efforts of small, committed teams behind independents such as La Mama have paved the way for the vibrant food scene Sheffield enjoys today, so why not wish them many happy returns by popping in and trying out their latest offerings for yourself?

238 Abbeydale Road //

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