Straight from the horse’s mouth
Back in January, Ecclesall Road’s newest bar The Dark Horse opened its big green doors to a wave of optimism from locals and judging by the fact that it was standing room only when we popped in (on a random Wednesday night, no less!), it appears to be going down rather well. We caught up with co-owner Andy Grice to find out the secret to their success…
Photography: Main image: Ross Jarman
“The support has been overwhelming.” says Andy, “We’ve already surpassed our expectations in terms of the amount of people coming in and it just keeps getting busier. We open from 11am to 11.30pm every day and we’ve got people coming throughout the day for lunch, and then in the evenings we’re absolutely packed to the rafters! It’s been really good.”
“We’ve had lots of positive feedback for the quality of what we do, as well as for the aesthetic, and people are coming back time and time again. We’re starting to see regular faces which has been kind of humbling.
“We wanted to do something that’s not currently being done around here. There are places that serve cocktails within a short distance of us and there’s obviously plenty of sports bars in the area now, and craft ale pubs or micro pubs, but we wanted to do something that just kind of fits into a different slot.
“It’s definitely more of a bar than a pub, even though it kind of looks like an old pub, it’s got a traditional vibe with a modern twist.”
The interior, as well as the name, give a nod to the building’s previous tenants, Lloyds Bank, who occupied the space for over 30 years. The green theme that runs throughout uses the Lloyds green from their branding and the bar’s name, The Dark Horse, refers to the black horse in the bank’s logo.
Fortunately, you won’t need a bank loan to sample the drinks on offer and whether it’s a steady pint, an extravagant cocktail or a glass of carefully selected wine from Sheff favourites Starmore Boss, they’ve got you covered with two rotating cask and ten keg lines, and a bespoke cocktail menu that is soon to feature a specials menu, chosen by their knowledgeable staff.
Another major draw (and a bit of coup) is their partnership with Slap and Pickle, the hugely popular burger brand who built up a huge following over lockdown, and already have a kitchen in Kelham Island brewery and bar, Heist.
Andy told Exposed: “We were really passionate about having a good food offering, and we were just very fortunate, I think the star’s aligned, when we were approached by Slap and Pickle.
“They’re incredibly popular in Sheffield, in fact, one of the most popular burger joints in the city during the pandemic with Deliveroo quoting them as having the biggest selling product on their platform during that time, which is amazing.
“It just goes to show the quality of what they do and how popular it is, so we were very, very happy to have them on board and it’s been a winner ever since. They’re fantastic.
“People come in specifically to try their stuff and obviously while they’re here, they’re getting to experience what we do in house as well, so the contrasting aesthetics really work well together.”
Now that the dust has settled on opening, Andy and the team are all ‘very relieved’ with how well it’s going so far, particularly given that there was a nervy wait to see if they would even get open in the first place.
Andy said: “I’ll be honest, we were planning this and going through the legal stages through the thick of the winter lockdowns, so it was nerve wracking to think, ‘are we ever going to exit this lockdown stage and what’s the world going to look like for hospitality?’
“We feel very fortunate that everything seemed to ease up when we opened in January 2022 and people’s confidence in going back out was increasing, so it just came at a perfect time. I think that’s added to our momentum and we’re running with it.”
The trick now, as far as Andy is concerned, is to harness that momentum. Over the coming months, they are looking at events and offers, with a freshly instated weekly quiz every Tuesday night, and plans for a monthly ‘Meet the Maker’ style evening, where one of their suppliers can come in and talk about what they do, as well as potential live music nights featuring acoustic acts.
Whether you’re after a pint, a cocktail, or a bit of Slap and Pickle (we strongly recommend the vegan duck loaded fries), judging by the bustling bar we encountered, it’s probably a good idea to get booked in soon. For more info, chuck them a like on socials here.