Island Life: Visiting the artisans with Kelham Island Food Tours
Exposed Mag heads out with Kelham Island Food Tours to get a taste of the bakers, makers, breweries and indie retailers making up the thriving local scene.
It’s no big secret that the Kelham Island Quarter has gone from an eternally touted ‘up-and-coming area’ in Sheffield to very much ‘arrived’ as a food and drink haven. Each month it seems we’re devoting fresh column inches to a new restaurant, bar, cafe, or event that has taken up residence in the city’s former industrial powerhouse.
Of course, it’s not just trendy new hangouts that have made the area of interest. Kelham Island is a key part of Sheffield’s proud manufacturing past, housing some of the many proficient steelworks, cutlery works, workshops and factories that gave us the Steel City moniker. That combination of rich history and modern-day innovation is what has come to define Kelham Island – and on a wider note, the city itself – which means there’s now an appetite (forgive the pun) for guided food and drink tours to combine the old and the new in a celebration of the neighbourhood.
That combination of rich history and modern-day innovation is what has come to define Kelham Island – and on a wider note, the city itself
Sophie Barber set up Kelham Island Food Tours in 2019 to showcase the artisan food and drink businesses in the area. As the area’s offering grew, so did the tours. Today there are three different options available – Taste of Kelham Makers, Taste of Kelham Food Tour and Kelham Beer & Food Tour – while private tours are also on offer, which can be customised to suit the group’s tastes.
We were invited on the Taste of Kelham Makers tour, taking place on Saturdays and including a visit to six venues, showcasing everything from an artisan chocolate factory to a subterranean bioponic farm. But first things first: good coffee and a sweet treat to kick things off.
The tour began at Island Café, a modern dining space overlooked by the popular Kelham Island Museum, which serves specialty coffees, brunches, lunches, and divine vegan-friendly bakes by local company Scoffingtons. The latter’s sumptuous Oreo cakes were our first sample of the day before we took a stroll to our next destination via the achingly modern Little Kelham estate.
Sophie was joined by a tour guide in training, Peter, and as we followed the route through Kelham both served as fonts of interesting knowledge and anecdotes about the area. For example, did you know that the River Don Steam Engine in Kelham Museum was featured in the Titanic movie? Or that some of the steel used to build New York’s Brooklyn Bridge was pressed in Kelham? Perhaps you’ve heard of Lizzie the elephant who’d regularly be seen transporting machinery around the area in the early 20th century?
Brimming with fresh local knowledge, we moved onto Burton Road’s Gaard Coffee and tucked into their very popular (you can see why) vegan sausage rolls. Next up was a short stroll to Sheffield’s first artisan chocolate factory, Bullion Chocolate, where their in-house chocolatier (legit job title) gave an insightful talk on the company’s story and the integral bean-to-bar process before we tried – with varying degrees of success – to successfully describe the tasting notes on several of the Bullion range. The visit was an impressive experience and served as a great example of what can be achieved when producers find an exciting niche and combine a strong ethos with some entrepreneurial spirit.
If you want a perfect example of the foodie culture in Kelham, head to Peddler Market on a Saturday. The place was bustling as we entered the courtyard; people of all ages were basking in the sunshine and sampling the various street food on offer. The rising popularity of the 92 Burton Road location has seen a number of eateries, producers and a bar take up residence in the space. Our next port of call was Factory Floor, an industrial drinks spot situated in a former spring factory and serving drip-infused cocktails and fresh tank beer from the adjacent Neepsend Brew Co. We whet our whistles with a drink or two from their unique menu, learning as we sipped about how they were the only place in the country currently doing drip cocktails, which essentially combines a large laboratory-like apparatus where the spirits rhythmically drip from above into the mixture below. There the mixture remains for several hours to infuse and extract maximum taste before being served.
Our penultimate stop saw us crossing the courtyard to Leaf & Shoot, a vertical bioponic underground farm creating 100% organic and vegan produce. Owner Liam spoke passionately about how they combine traditional composting methods with hydroponics technology to sustainably produce nutrient-dense food. It was a thought-provoking glimpse into how farming is evolving – and a small underground vault in Kelham is leading the charge!
An enjoyable afternoon was brought to a close with an unbeatable combo: burgers and beer. There’s not another place in the city that brings the two together in a more harmonious fashion than Heist Brewery. After a brief tour of the brewing kit, we settled down in the taproom for some of Slap & Pickle’s lauded smashed burgers alongside a trio of Heist’s finest beers to taste – a suitably indulgent end to the tour. A huge thank you to the KI Food Tours team for filling us up with knowledge and some of the finest local scran about. We’ll certainly be back for another visit soon!
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