A return to coffee shop challenges

Two months.

Sixty days.

Eighty seven thousand six hundred minutes since I last posted on this blog.

The blog that has pretty much defined who I am for the last nearly two years. I pride myself on writing about food, being honest about my overwhelming love of cheese, the fact that I screw up very regularly in the kitchen and I have a completely irrational loathing of all things coconut.
The reason that it’s taken me so long to sit and actually pen (well more like type) my feelings is the huge career decision I made two months ago. I left my loving, wonderful, magazine family and dove back in, head first, to the world of hospitality. I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about being back in a restaurant or cafe for months and knew that I wasn’t completely involved in the job I was doing. I needed to be surrounded by the world that I was writing about, I needed to be involved in creating, making and developing food. Whilst I don’t regret my decision the main reason that I’ve struggled to write about this journey is because whilst those who know me best congratulated me, a piece of feedback that just kept cropping up was:
“Well……don’t you think that’s just a bit of a step backwards”

There’s a self deprecating story I now like to tell, normally after a glass of wine, in which I was once told on a date; that was I aware I was “assertive….bordering on bolshy” to which I had very similar feelings. Namely, I wanted to scream and shout “how the heck am I supposed to react to that?!” Do you want me to say “No. No I’m not aware of my nuisances and this one very blunt comment will make me change my entire perspective on myself. Thank you.” Or am I supposed to stand my ground and say “Screw you. I’m happy to be bossy and yes most horrifyingly of all, I’m happy to serve you your croissant and coffee every morning”. In reality neither on those things happened but trust me, I wish it could have been the second one.
When I first sat down to write this blog I wanted to write all about the hilarious things that I’ve learnt since going back into hospitality (Which trust me are many). I stared at the screen for days, sometimes driving myself insane till 4am trying to sound funny and witty, but I couldn’t make light of this transition until I’d expressed this annoyance, and I couldn’t not address the ease of which people told me this was a horrible decision and the judgement of the service industry in general. I guess in their eyes I had it all, I was working with one of the most well reputed, fun, cool companies. I had a “real job”.
The reality is I’ve never been ashamed to be a waitress, or a server, or Front of House or whatever you’d like to label it. I wear my badge of working in hospitality with pride. My job means I get to see customers at their best, their most excited, engaged and most importantly at their worst, at their saddest, most vulnerable and I feel privileged that I get to bring that person a cup of tea or a loaf of bread and see their day brighten. No matter what language you speak, country you come from or up bringing you’ve had I have yet to meet someone who can resist talking about food they love or have a day improved by being given something amazing to eat or drink. 

So, I’m using this platform that I’ve spent two years working on, building up somewhat of a reputation for to ask you, implore you, to remember that your waitress, barmen, manager, baker, butcher and cocktail maker are a human being just like you. We have pride and some of us (Shock- horror) have chosen to make this industry our career. Take the time to remember that whilst you’re spending your hard earned money with us, we’re also putting our heart and soul into your ethically sourced, hand-reared, single origin flat white and yes we do read your trip-advisor reviews and yes they are taken seriously. Some of the strongest people I’ve met have been in the service industry, the first women I worked for and worked with as a waitress is still a constant inspiration to me, it takes true grit and skill to run a successful cafe or restaurant. Ask us our opinion on what you should order, engage with us like we’re people and trust me you’ll get great service and remember we’ve probably been here and been on our feet for many hours, working, just like you. 

I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who love me and I can come home to and scream out my frustrations at, the ones who didn’t roll their eyes at me when they found out I’d got “another job” or taken my massive “bolt back to safety” but the main thing I’ve learnt since returning to hospitality is please remember that you’re not being served by a robot, that person handing you your coffee is a person. 

Oh, and please don’t order a half caff-soy-mocha. That isn’t a thing.

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Mixing it up: The Wick At Both Ends

Small plates are so in right now. They’re so in and cool that after eating some small plates last week I hit peak relevance on Monday night at 6 pm and the rest of a week was a write off after that.
I have to admit I am completely guilty of jumping on the bandwagon of teeny tiny plates of food, I’m not sure if it’s because it makes me feel as if I can eat four times as many because they’re small (that makes sense…right?) or because I’m a habitual food sharer and get ratty if people don’t want to give me some of whatever they’re eating. Sharing is caring people.

Myself and the perpetually patient housemates were lucky enough to be invited to the Wick At Both Ends to try out their latest new menu and we ate them out of house and home. Shockingly.

They’re new menu is catchily called Wick ‘n’ Mix, it’s stuffed full of dishes and price depends on how many you want. We obviously went for seven small dishes (the most they offer in a group deal) for £22 and then because we were scared this wasn’t enough we added another three for £12….and chips….just in case.

We went for:

Venison shepherd’s pie

Why not start with one of the best eh? Rich and meaty this was a dish of pure delight. Topped with perfectly creamy mash this was a stand out dish for us, pretty much faultless

Potted ham with burnt apple and sourdoughwick10

Potted things are always a funny one aren’t they? A bit like a fancy pate really. This one was one a pretty good potted thing, it matched well with the burnt apple puree and was a light and slightly more refreshing option than our others

wick2Tempura cauliflower

The best dish. By a mile. Perfectly crispy and tasty there’s not a right lot else to say about this, except next time I’m going to order four, for me. In fact, please deliver me some, right now. Please.


Red pepper hummus with wick4focaccia

Roll your eyes if you’d like, hummus is just hummus I hear you cry. No, no, dear friend. Hummus can be terribly bland or terribly good, this one was terribly good for example. Ever so slightly spicy the texture was en pointe, kudos, and I could have eaten a loaf of the foccacia.

wick3Garlic prawns

I love getting my hands dirty when it comes to food so serving prawns whole like this is always a winner.

 

 

Pork belly with wild rice and almonds

I forgot about this dish. Sorry, I was too busy drooling over the cauliflower

Celeriac with horseradishwick5

I’m not going to lie I feel slightly betrayed by this dish. When deciding upon our marathon amounts of food I defended celeriac. I pushed for it to be included in our gargantuan line up. Waxed lyrical about how tender and tasty it could be given the chance. However, this celeriac wasn’t great. The horseradish we were promised wasn’t apparent in the sauce and it was under cooked. Needless to say I got questioned on why we didn’t just order more cauliflower

Duck nuggets with rhubarb ketchupwick9

Probably one of my most favourite phrases to say. Go on. Say it out loud. Duuuuuck Nuuugget. Also one of my most favourite things to eat it would appear. Who knew deep friend duck tastes so good.

Musselswick11

Another slight let down here on the mussel front. The housemates LOVE mussels, go nuts for them and these were slightly underwhelming, it’s fine I just wafted the duck nuggets under their noses

Curried monkfish with sweetcorn

Now, I’m probably not the best person to comment on this as I loathe sweetcorn, but the actual monkfish itself was amazing, meaty and slightly spicy, can I have a plate of just the monkfish?

 

wick8

Whilst there were definitely a few slips in the dishes, I’m still a little bitter about the celeriac, overall the food was pretty damn good. They managed to bring out all ten plates of food to us at the same time, all hot and very obviously just cooked so I’m impressed. If I was that chef I probably would have been cursing us. It’s also worth mentioning that our waitress was so lovely it looked like the management had stolen her right out of a Disney film.
To conclude; please make the shepherds pie into a massive sharing dish rather than a small plate, it’s too good to just have a couple of spoonfuls and next time I’ll just have to order more duck nuggets and did I mention the cauliflower?

Silversmiths Review: The battle of the roasts

What makes a great Sunday lunch great? Is it drowning the entire plate in gravy? The delight of slicing into that first crispy fluffy potato? Is it the meat that gets your juices flowing? Or is the only way Yorkshire? As in…pudding.

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy a roast dinner done well. I never actually had roast dinner on a Sunday when I was growing up (I was a deprived child), it was one of the big things when moving out that I attempted to integrate into my life. That and 60p vodka mixers.  Curious about what I should be doing with my roast to keep it ‘en trend’ I’ve posed the question to the masses about what makes a good roast many times and yet whilst we all have very different opinions about what should and shouldn’t be there (cauliflower cheese seems to be a point of contention, plus chicken or beef) it seems to be a resounding fact that nothing beats Mum’s roast. No restaurant can even come close. So, when a wonderful friend of mine put a call of action out on Facebook for a gang of us to join her in trying the new Sunday roast offering from Silversmiths I jumped at the idea that I could see for myself if the homemade roast was the only way.

Silversmiths is one of Sheffield’s more fancy offerings. It’s the type of place that I’d make my parents take me or an anniversary dinner (for those of you who have those anniversary things, currently my longest anniversary is with Taylor Swift songs, ten years Swifty, ten years). So we met at 1 pm on Sunday and gave it a run for it’s money.

I must admit I was hugely curious as I walked in, due to the fact that I knew Silversmiths had undergone a huge face lift that they’d managed to turn around in an inordinately short amount of time. 5 days kind of short. Insanity.
The entire restaurant now looks like a completely different venue in a really great way. It’s light, open and friendly whilst still feeling upmarket and classy. The dark red has been replaced with white and the new table layout is a winner. It doesn’t matter that there are relatively speaking a lot of tables in quite a small area it doesn’t feel horrendously overcrowded and you still have enough room to breathe. It’s now the type of place I can imagine fancy businessmen having important lunch meetings or ladies who lunch meeting for fizz and fancy food.

We were greeted by a lovely server, I think birds may actually dress this girl in a morning she was so lovely and we immediately got down to the hard work of picking a drink. As Silversmiths prides itself on sourcing things locally I had to go for a Yorkshire tea gin (had too, right!? Right). The drinks took a while to arrive but when they did the gin lived up to expectations and was drank far, far far too quickly.

We all decided to go for mains and desserts (not my normal way round, give me a starter any day) but I was desperate to get on with the roast and had spotted a Yorkshire Parkin that seemed right up my street for dessert.
There was a range of styles of roast, from price topping Venison, to pork belly, chicken, beef, veggie, if you wanted a protein as your showstopper Silversmiths probably have it on their menu.
We all ordered, five beef, chicken and a pork. Disney princess waitress (seriously, she was that nice) had to come back and inform us that they only had three beef left (impressive to say that they’d only been open for around an hour) so grudgingly I swapped to chicken (stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes) and our host swapped to pork. It’s selfless acts like this that will guarantee me a seat in heaven. The food wait was I’m not going to lie, pretty long, the man sat next to me started to look pretty tasty, but the food arrived piping hot and there was definitely enough of it. So whilst the wait is forgivable, sadly there were a few things that are harder to forgive. One member of our table had to send the roast beef back, which, to give them their due was handled impressively by owner Justin and was replaced with a lovely looking rolled lamb. The other thing that I am having trouble dealing with is the lack of roast potatoes. Now, I don’t know if this is just personal taste and while I love all forms of potatoes, i’m a bit like all teachers in this regard. I have a favourite. Whether I should or not, I do and it’s roasties. The duchess potato thing was delightful and buttery and the new potatoes were….slightly misplaced and at the end of the day, a new potato, Silversmiths oh Silversmiths I craved a crispy, fluffy roastie to mop up mi’ gravy.

On a lighter note, my chicken was delicious, loved the sun-dried tomatoes and they had managed to get a good caramelisation on the outside. The stuffing was also great, more please. The veg were pleasantly al dente without being raw and the Yorkshires were great in all their Yorkshirey goodness. There was also a good amount of veggies between two which is something I’ve noticed a lot of places skimp out on.silversmiths4

Whilst my main was great, if lacking in roasties (but hey this might be personal taste) it is not a cheap meal by any stretch of the imagination. I do understand paying for quality and for the most part Silversmiths do deliver, but if you’re looking for a place to become a regular for Sunday dinner this may not be it. If the rents are up and you’re looking for some slightly posher grub then go for it! I’m still a fan of cauliflower cheese on my roast though so it’s still in debate if home cooked is the way forward…..

“Excuse me but…”

So, I opened a can of worms. A really large. Really ugly can of worms. Phone calls were made, messages were sent and my phone didn’t stop buzzing for three whole days. I asked a group of people who’s voices are rarely heard to speak up. To raise themselves above the coffee counters and tequila soaked bars. To make a stand and let the general great unwashed know what is unacceptable when placing an order.

Strap in folks. We’re in for a bumpy ride

Things as a person who works in hospitality I freaking hate: 

  • Clicking your fingers
    Genuinely. I will snap your fingers off
  • There’s a large group of you. You’ve all ordered drinks. I bring the drink over……..no-one claims it
    Cue blank stares and an awkward silence. Finally someone pipes up, coffee is now cold

  • Ordering your drinks one at a time, finally ending with “Oh. And a pint of Guinness”
    Seriously

  • “Is it alright if we just move to that table over there?”
    No. NO IT’S NOT. It’s never ok

  • “I couldn’t get in the door”
    That’s because we’re shut. The sign says closed, I don’t care if it’s 9.58 with an opening time of 10

  • Queue…..Queue…….Queue…..”I Still don’t know what I want
    Get out my bar

  • “I’d like a long island iced tea” Made “and another long island iced tea”
    I definitely have enough brain cells to make two drinks at once
  • “Are you serving”…
    No I’m just making my own mojito…
  • Working in a gin bar.. “What gin do you have?”..
    Well I could list the 100+ gins for you but you’re still probably going to pick the house gin

  • Table of 20 covers…..”Can we all pay separately?”
    The worst

  • Half a shot, decaf, soy latte extra hot
    …………

  • Plonking money down on the counter
    Just bloody rude

  • “That pint tasted funny”
    Still drank it didn’t you cheap beggar

  • “It’s so busy in here today!”
    It’s bank holiday. Want to swop?

  • “Could I try the elderflower martini?…….Oh no that’s awful  could I have a smirnoff and coke?”
    I hate you

  • “How long does it take to make an omelette?”
    About four minutes but I also have everyone else’s food to cook  too

  • “Please be careful this plate is very hot” Grab. Pain.
    I did tell you

  • Sitting on the only dirty table in the café. Staring expectantly
    Just leave

  • “I’m so sorry we’re so late, I know the booking was around an hour ago but we’re here now. We’re also 12 instead of 8, that’s ok right?”
    No

  • “Keep the change”
    Thanks for the 5p. Mate

  • Children
    Just children

  • Could I grab your WIFI Password?
    Only if you promise not to sit here for the next 8 hours nursing a pot of £1.80 tea furiously demanding more hot water to fill it it. Go write your ‘bestseller’ somewhere else
  • Carries tray over, customer grabs drink off tray. Drink ends up all over customer. Get off my tray

  • I’ve been waiting for like 20 minutes
    Well. You haven’t though. Have you?

If you think of anymore feel free to harass me at erin_lawlor@hotmail.co.uk