Transformed Abbeydale Road restaurant a big hit with food blogger Clare

Chef Charlie Curran and his partner, and front of house manager, Kelly Ware have worked together for many years at restaurants including the Samuel Fox in Bradwell and The Beauchief in Milhouses. But now they are stepping out on their own with new venture Peppercorn Restaurant which occupies the old Moran’s premises.

It’s always sad to see a good Sheffield restaurant go and I’m sure that our city will mourn the recent loss of Moran’s restaurant. But with Charlie and Kelly in situ, I think that the 289 Abbeydale Road South address will remain a real favourite on the Sheffield food scene.

On approaching Peppercorn on a dreary Friday night (it was the Friday that Mother Nature remembered which season she was in and quickly flicked the switch from stonking summer to abysmal autumn) I was a little bit taken aback by the exterior. I had forgotten about the Porta Cabin feel to the place, the car park and the fact that you felt as though you were walking through a bike shop as you entered. Once inside, however, I soon forgot about the location as we returned to the more familiar.

The former Moran’s restaurant has been spruced up a bit; the previously beige walls are now white, as is the snug seating area next to the bar. A pale blue floral wallpaper adorns some of the supporting posts and a couple of the walls and although Kelly was a little worried that it may have been too garish, I think it adds a good splash of colour to the place. The restaurant is fuss free, but smart with classic tableware and I was quite glad to see Kelly’s personality dotted around the place as I recognised a few of the paintings from the Samuel Fox (there’s something about those oil painted, rainbow coloured, cows).

Our visit commenced with pre-dinner cocktails (or aperitifs, if you will) in the snug where we perused our menus. And, of course, it is here where Charlie’s personality shines; fans will recognise dishes such as the main of slow braised shoulder of lamb with savoy cabbage as well as the liquorice and blackcurrant combination in the dessert menu. The wine list has a lot of personality too, especially in the white section. Along with the pretty standard Pinot Grigio (priced at an affordable £13.95) there are a few favourites of mine including an Albarino and a Picpoul de Pinet. However it was the Australian Riesling (£25.95) that won the vote tonight and I’m glad to report that it did not disappoint.

Moving onto the food my starter of ham hock tortellini with a pea mousse and mustard cream (£7) was a good way to serve the classic pea and ham flavour combination. Beautifully presented, the dish lived up to expectations; the pasta had bite, the ham hock was soft and yielding and the pea mousse and mustard cream offered contrasting flavours.

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The husband went for tuna sashimi with oriental salad (£7); something we’ve seen on one of Charlie’s menu before. We think the tuna had been cured in soy which added a good saltiness whilst enhancing the flavour of the fish. The salad added texture to the smooth and tender tuna and it was a good start to the meal.

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Onto mains and the husband let his heart rule his head and went for the least adventurous dish available; rib-eye steak (£20). Rib-eye is his (and our) favourite cut and here it was simply served with chunky chips, a mushroom & a tomato and a deliciously creamy peppercorn sauce on the side. It was a good choice; steak was a good size, cooked to his liking and flavoursome as well as tender. In fact, the husband was rather pleased with himself!

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Resisting the temptation of that lamb dish, I went for another classic pairing of sole stuffed with crab (£18). Here the rolled fillets were delicately cooked and served with sag aloo potatoes and cauliflower. The Indian style potatoes were just as delicate as the fish, in terms of their spicing, and the cauliflower looked like it had been roasted giving texture and a slight smokiness to the dish. The light and fresh flavours worked well with our choice of wine and, despite the fact that I had an enormous chunk of meat staring at me from the other side of the table, I was happy with my choice.

The main advantage to choosing a light main dish is the fact that there is always room for dessert. Being a lover of all things savoury my top choice is cheese and biscuits (£7), but I don’t get to indulge anywhere near as much as I would like (I tend to go for meaty mains leaving little room for anything more than a sorbet). Stilton, hard cheese and brie were served in ample slices with delicious handmade oat biscuits and a good chunky chutney along with the usual grape and celery accompaniments.

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The husband, who has a real sweet tooth, had a difficult time choosing dessert. The chocolate mousse with textures of chocolate and the frangipan tart were crying out to him, but it’s hard to resist a favourite once you’ve spotted it, especially when it’s one you don’t see that often. And tiramisu (£6), the classic Italian dessert, doesn’t come under our radar that often. Served in a large glass, the tiramisu had been layered up, ensuring that every mouthful contained every element of the super-rich and delicious dish.

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The food had been faultless; everything was executed perfectly. I know that we will return and there are a couple of things I would like to try (the smoked goat’s cheese salad starter and the belly pork main) but the menu is quite safe and I’m looking forward to seeing what innovative creations Charlie pulls out of his hat once he’s settled into his new surroundings.

Service had also been very good. Kelly is known for her welcoming demeanour and it was great to see her looking relaxed and in control of her restaurant. Of course, she has inherited some excellent servers from Moran’s and I cannot criticise any one aspect of our experience that evening, which, given that the restaurant had only opened a week ago, is pretty good going.

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