Over-egging the pudding. So many menus are guilty of it.
You start to read the flowery descriptions; your mouth waters in anticipation. But then what arrives on your plate fails to meet expectation.
It happens a lot. But not at the Shoulder Of Mutton in Worrall.
The quaint little village pub had stood empty and forlorn for several years, but thanks to two sisters who used to go there for lunch as children, it is the heart of the community again.
And if I said the food is good, that would be a deliberate under-egging. Which is a bit like the effect the menu has. You read it – lasagne or fish pie for £6.95, pasta, Caesar salad, steaks and pies – and assume you’re ordering a straightforward, honest plate of pub grub.
But what arrives far exceeds this; it’s restaurant standard cooking, beautifully presented, I’d say. And well worth travelling for. At the moment it’s pretty much villagers who are tucking in, but I suspect once word spreads soon they will be fighting for tables with folk not from round these parts.
Sisters Claire Cinnamond and Katy Edgeley, who took over in December, grew up in the licensing trade. Mum and dad Norman and Sheila Cinnamond owned Middlewood Hall in its heyday. “When we were little our parents used to bring us here for lunch,” says Claire. She and Katie, who had a baby two months ago, are striving to make it both the heart of the village and a gastro food destination.
Judging by our Saturday night visit, they are well on their way with both.
The cooking is done by talented Sheffield chef Richard North, who trained in pastry at London’s Park Lane Hotel and worked under chef Christian Kemp at Chesterfield Road’s Blue Room Brasserie. Richard is from a culinary family. His dad Chris was training chef at Sheffield City College.
At the Shoulder of Mutton, the emphasis is on quality dishes with locally-sourced, freshly-prepared ingredients. The fish is done in Farmer’s Blonde beer batter (the pub keeps a very good pint of the brew made down the road at Bradfield), slow-cooked lamb shank is regularly on the menu (£12.95 with root veg and minted jus), along with quality steaks from Bakewell at a very reasonable £11.95 for a 10oz sirloin.
In fact, we thought most of the prices were very reasonable. Maybe a pound could be shaved off some of the starters, but you couldn’t fault them for quality or quantity.
From the choice of eight, I chose French onion soup (£4.95). It tasted a little on the greasy side, but never mind; it was laden with soft, sticky onions and deep-fried croutons. It came on a board with big isosceles triangles of holey, toasted ciabatta (a nice touch) and a little pot of butter.
My husband had gone for the £5.95 baked Camembert, an easy-peasy dish but it looked a treat. It had been baked in its little round box with the paper open so it had singed to golden. It was on one of those boards, with more of that holey ciabatta, plus a pot of fabulous sweet onion chutney.
We were in the pub dining room, which is not as pretty as the pub, which has beams and a flagstoned floor, but I’d recommend you eat in here because its comfier – and if there’s a band on, you don’t get jostled or geed up to finish.
It’s a pleasant room, with fresh flowers on every table, a tartan carpet and Farrow & Ball-painted tongue and groove panelling. I wish the girls would change their jaded flowery curtains, though. They don’t go.
All around us, villagers of all ages are dining including a couple celebrating their Diamond wedding with friends.
There’s a £3.95 children’s menu and several nights a week there are food offers on.
We’re enjoying a drink – a large glass of house wine for me, a dense, fruity Shiraz at £4.30, and a £2.80 pint of Farmer’s Blonde for him – when the uber-smiley and efficient waitress arrives with the main courses. She had told me the Asian sea bass dish on the specials board was stunning, and she was right. It was so pretty. On a roundlet of what seemed like posh bubble and squeak rested a lovely piece of pan-fried fillet. Prawns in a sweet chilli mango sauce surrounded it. Every mouthful came with hits of sweet and sour; lemon grass, lime, chilli, sweet mango... Delicious – and only £9.95. The husband’s steak and ale pie was hunky, beefy love under a blanket of perfect pastry. It came with hand-cut chips neatly stacked and seasonal veggies, nicely cooked, for £7.95. There are pubs charging a heck of a lot more than that for far less impressive offerings. The most expensive thing on the menu here is the £14.95 mixed grill, which is a veritable Atkins feast – an 8oz rump steak, gammon, chicken breast and speciality sausage.
We shared a £4 pudding – raspberry creme brulee. And again, a little work of art arrived. Caramel-topped creaminess in a ramekin was accompanied by a fancy tuile of dark chocolate and a little teacup filled with fast-frozen fresh raspberries. Very clever, those berries; the iciness seemed to enhance their flavour.
As we paid the bill (£39.90) the monthly Saturday night band – Three Men, Two Guitars and a Little Drum – struck up. They were brilliant. Villagers were dancing and the atmosphere was so good we ended up staying and singing along until closing time. All in all, a great night out.