Success is sweet and savoury

Some of the cakes available at Fancie Cafe's, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield.
Some of the cakes available at Fancie Cafe's, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield.
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‘Let them eat cake,’ Marie Antoinette reputedly once said.

Supposedly, it was her insensitive solution to a bread shortage among her peasants.

When Sheffield’s cupcake queen Amanda Perry opened her latest cake cafe in December, it was a case of: Let’s see if they’ll eat bread.

She had intended her Ecclesall Road shop and eaterie to be a bigger version of Fancie, her dinky cuppa and cake place on Sharrow Vale Road. The three-storey premises, a former wedding shop, were also meant to house her bakery, too.

But a mix-up with the electrics meant the giant ovens from her bakery on an industrial estate at Parkwood couldn’t be fitted in time for the opening.

If only cake was on the menu, there would be a shortage. “So we improvised with savoury dishes - and they took off,” says Amanda, who has Fancie stalls in Meadowhall, the Winter Garden, Doncaster and Barnsley too.

“Customers now come here for more than just great cake – there are pies, soups, salads and daily specials to tempt the tastebuds.”

A trained pastry chef, Amanda hit on the luxury cupcake concept four years ago. She started the business from the kitchen of her Hillsborough home, found she’d hit Sheffield’s sweet tooth and opened her first shop and tearoom in Sharrow Vale Road in April 2009.

I am an ardent Fancie fan. There are 16 different flavour combos to keep your appetite whetted and I’d envisioned arriving for lunch and demanding cake at every course.

I’d also imagined a chintzy pink palace of a place. But the style turns out to be as far-removed from a kitsch retro cupcake parlour as you can get.

Exposed pipe and brickwork, rough, tough wood panelling, industrial lighting, a mishmash of chairs and tables and not a bit of bunting to be seen, it’s factory chic.

It’s been knocked on Tripadvisor, but I love it. Especially the window displays - piles of pink and white marshmallows cascade from old wooden crates.

The cafe is big - and on a Friday lunchtime, it’s packed with young mums with prams and pals, couples cozying-up over hot chocolates and mums and daughters taking a shopping trip breather.

We wait by the counter, which groans beneath a mouth-watering mountain – scores of cupcakes, plus hand-made raised pies, frittatas, giant sausage rolls, macaroons...

We tell the waitress we’re on our lunchbreak and in a hurry. She promises us all will be fine as she hands us the menu and points out the blackboard specials.

True to her word, within minutes she’s found us space at a table. The husband parks his bum on a cushion-strewn, wooden-planked window seat and I pull up an old kitchen chair.

Amanda scoured salvage yards for the decor and furnishings, including the huge, school-sized blackboards that list the day’s specials and the old hospital trolleys that hold the Catherine’s Choice chutneys and preserves.

There will soon be more space. Upstairs, where Amanda has her offices, is set to open as an extension of the cafe and a venue for cupcake-decorating parties and workshops in a couple of weeks. Eventually, the cafe could boast its own roof garden.

The coffee arrives swiftly but is too weak. Our attentive waitress whisks them away to have extra shots added and the latte (£2.20) and American (£1.85) come back buzzing with flavour,

From all-day breakfasts, sandwiches on freshly-baked bread, chunky soups, some interesting salads (one with strips of grilled steak sounds good) and nursery-style favourites, he decides on pie plus Fancie Bits - side of potato salad and a green salad, which were £1 each.

It arrives swiftly and it’s a cracker; a chunky hunk of an old-fashioned, raised pie crammed with sweet, roasted peppers, salty feta cheese and herby pesto. The pastry is pleasingly thick and perfectly-cooked - though TOO thick on one area. Great value, though, for £4.95 - and it came with so much side salad, there had been no need to order the extra dishes.

I’d gone for cheesy potato cakes, £6.95. Crisp on the outside, soft and sticky on the inside, the pair are huge and topped with a fried egg apiece and accompanied by a nicely dressed leaf salad. It’s simple, delicious comfort food.

Then calamity - we’re too full for cupcakes. However, it’s at this point that Fancie comes into its own. Its takeaway boxes come out and in go our cakes - one Victoria, one Raspberry and Almond, plus peanut butter and jam and a lemon macaroon. They’re £2.20 each, which is pricey, but we head back to work on-time deciding to have them for tea.

At 6.30pm I practically rip open the box. The macaroons, big and peasanty rather than Versailles-delicate, are fabulous. Oh no, though, the cupcakes are not as I remember. The frosting is stiff. So stiff we cut the heads off with a knife. And... my Victoria has no mini chocolate flake.

Have Fancie changed the recipe? I ask Amanda. Full of apologies, she assures me her toppings are indeed still soft and light and reckons there may have been an issue during transportation from the bakery.

I’m hoping she sends me another batch as proof of the pudding!

* My star ratings (out of five):

Food ****

Atmosphere *****

Service *****

Value *****

Fancie

* 359- 361 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, S11 0PF

* Tel: 0114 266 3311

* {http://www.fancie.co.uk/|Fancie|click here|

* Open: Mon-Sat 9am-7pm, Sun 11am-5pm

* All cards accepted.

* Parking: Some meter parking on main road and side roads