A DICKENS OF A NIGHT: a cost at Silversmiths in Sheffield. Pictures: comes with
HE first time I was in Arundel Street was in the late 1980s as part of a film crew making a documentary for Yorkshire Television about the last of the Little Mesters. The selfemployed craftspeople who for centuries had forged, ground, buffed and finished the silver of Sheffield’s famous cutlery.
Those workshops were straight out of Dickens. Dark foreboding buildings of mucky redbrick set around cobbled courtyards with rickety staircases, peeling paintwork and blackened windows – buffing is a filthy job.
They’ve all but gone now, swept away in the face of cheap imports, consigned to become exhibits at the Kelham Island Industrial Museum, but the buildings and old workshops, some of them grade II* listed, have been buffed up themselves – and beautifully – to form part of Sheffield’s cultural industries quarter.
At No. 111, the former George Ellis silversmith works, is Silversmiths a smart bistro-style restaurant rebranded after Gordon Ramsay got his hands on it in Kitchen Nightmares and told them to ditch the nightclub and get back to basics. They’ve done that and more and picked up a host of awards: Best Informal Dining at the recent Eat Sheffield awards, runner up in the Observer Food Monthly awards and a mention in the Good Food Guide 2013 all of which makes acquiring a table for dinner on a Saturday night harder than procuring tickets for Centre Court at Wimbledon – the only spot available was at 5.30pm, that’s tea time where I come from – but even then the place was buzzing and by 7pm a large room was full.
It looks good. Industrial lamps hang over distressed wooden tables. Rough wood panelling runs the length of one wall with the word Silversmiths spelt out in white assay marks. Proper Sheffield plate cutlery on the table? Of course. A menu of local and seasonal produce to go with the regeneration chic? Of course.
There are seven starters, 10 mains and an awful lot of meat: wood pigeon, brisket, venison liver, venison heart, pork belly, sausage, duck breast – gutsy, robust dishes with a sprinkling of fish and couple of vegetarian options. A tasty potted mackerel comes in a miniature Kilner jar served with homemade bread, which being kind is heavy duty. The cauliflower and Yorkshire rarebit tartlet is offered