The Library Cafe owner on his new venue, the Sheff music scene and the future of Attercliffe
Tapas, jazz and oozing with charm, the Library Café in Attercliffe is one of Sheffield’s hidden gems.
The Library Café on the corner of Leeds Road in Attercliffe is your perfect example of a hidden gem. It’s just the right amount of distance away from the city centre (seven minutes in a cab, to be exact), owner Justin pops in and out of the kitchen to chat to staff and customers, creating a warm and familiar atmosphere and, unlike other venues in Sheffield, it is the home of jazz, blues and folk nights – three huge genres of music that, arguably, are under-represented in the city.
Despite its recent renovation, the venue’s history as the oldest library in the city is abundantly clear. So too is Sheffield’s heritage. A steel sign emblazoned out front, a Pete McKee book (amongst many others) sits on a bookcase and in the corner two guitars are propped up against a 110 year old piano, donated to the venue by a local who used to frequent the library as a kid.
We catch owner Justin Brooks on one of his regular laps of the venue as we arrive. Opening the big doors to the venue, you get a sense of the space in just a few seconds. There’s a well-stocked bar over to the right with the former-librarian office now occupied by the Library’s chefs. Straight ahead is the stage, with a hanging disco ball in front of a back drop of fairy lights. Over to the left, the sun breaks in through the windows and casts shadows across the wall where the piano and Justin’s antiques objects sit. It’s impressive, to say the least.
The peculiarly warm weather outside had us pondering whether it was too early to have a pint. “Never!” Justin whips us up two pints of Asahi and some bread, olives and sundried tomatoes within minutes before slipping us the Librarian’s Choice menu – a selection of the day’s specials. As I was in a pretty millennial mood, I opted for the smashed avocado and chickpea sandwich on ciabatta bread – delivered fresh every morning from Bakewell Bakery. An excellent vegetarian choice. Our photographer went for the jerk chicken and rice dish (which according to Justin has flown out since introducing it to the menu) which, again, went down an absolute treat whilst listening to the gentle hum of a jazz version of the classic song ‘Blue Moon’.
Aside from the specials menu, the Library is known for its tapas menu. It’s easy to see why after sampling a classic patatas bravas dish, mushrooms in garlic (which were dripping in flavour) and broccoli and green beans in a lemon dressing. After topping us up with another pint, Justin takes a seat at our table and we spend a good half hour chatting away about his plans for the future. “The word is starting to get out about this place. Our jazz nights are rammed and the first folk night was a big success. There are a lot of kids into folk in Sheffield but don’t have anywhere to go see it.”
Attercliffe doesn’t have, perhaps unfairly, the best reputations in Sheffield. That’s something that doesn’t concern Justin. “There’s a lot of development going on around here though. A couple of Hallam buildings are going up, offices, the NHS have bought a couple of buildings down here and there’s the Sheffield Eagles stadium down the road.
“I saw this place advertised on Facebook and took it on. I trained as a chef and worked on the cruise ships and had a bit of money in the bank so I thought, why not? I’ll do what I know I’m good at and that’s throwing parties! Or partying…” No quiet nights at this Library, then…
The Library Café // 10 Leeds Road // thelibraryvenue.co.uk