Quality food, great early-bird price - until bill makes dessert wait less than sweet
It’s the most atmospheric of pubs overlooking one of England’s most beautiful squares.
With rooms on three levels, the Wig and Pen stands high over the glorious Georgian cobbles of Paradise Square.
Cobbles that saw 19th century clashes between troops and Chartists, 18th century sermons by John Wesley and political speeches of every shade.
They’ve also seen a crockery market in the early 1800s and have been the site of some of the best pub names you’ll ever hear.
Three Cocks - Old, Golden and just plain; two Clowns, a Monkey and a Horse - not to mention the Q In The Corner.
According to sheffieldhistory.co.uk they are: The Clarence Hotel, The Clown and Monkey, The Cock, the Old Cock and the Golden Cock plus the Yorkshire Clown, The Old Nag’s Head and the Clarendon Hotel.
The square’s first buildings date back to 1736 and the name is thought by historians to come from the ancient use of the word paradise or parvis as the name for a garden or enclosed space near a church.
Enough history already, what about the food?
We went to the aforementioned Wig And Pen on a Thursday night to catch their Early Bird Special that goes from 5pm to 7pm.
First impressions of the Wig And Pen are good with low ceilings and tiny windows at Hartshead level - the servants’ bit in the old days - and the classically scaled windows at the rear - where the toffs would have lived overlooking the square.
We booked for 6pm and were taken straight to a table in the posh end – the Wig and Pen has assorted spaces, crannies and landings where diners and drinkers can find a perch.
They have their own branded Wig and Pen Best Bitter and a Wig and Pen Pale Ale. I had the bitter and it’s one of the best I’ve had. Rich, malty, full of flavour with just a hint of hops, glorious stuff and at £2.50 a pint in happy hour, worth remembering for after-work gatherings which brings in much of the pub’s trade.
It’s made in Gainsborough by Grafter’s brewery.
For starters I had a pork and apple sausage roll and my daughter Hannah had a Thai chickpea and spinach curry.
The sausage roll was stunning. Crisp, short and light pastry encasing a meaty, salty, savoury sausage meat – beautiful.
The curry was a bit hot for Hannah so we swapped half way through. The curry was a little warm but nothing to put most people off.
It was aromatic, delicately spiced with nicely tender chickpeas, some crispy noodles and coriander.
While I was boozing bitter Hannah had a Forest Fruit Fling, that’s a virgin cocktail which was exactly as it sounds - but minus the fling.
Service had been very attentive and helpful so far and when the main courses arrived they looked the part.
Hannah’s Swiss mushroom burger was stacked high between two halves of brioche bun and she thought it delicious. A well cooked beef patty – although they don’t ask you how you like it to be cooked – with salad cheese an mushrooms.
I don’t recall the last time I ate gammon, maybe in a Berni Inn in a previous life – and ordering it with eggs recalled a certain John Shuttleworth song. We chuckled and sang the chorus, thankfully without wind accompaniment.
The gammon was good, cut thin but tender and not too salty. It’s sourced, as are all The Wig and Pen meats as part of the Milestone group along with Craft and Dough outlets in Kelham Island and on Ecclesall Road, from Sheffield’s LSA meats.
Mine came with good, twice cooked chips, crunchy outside and soft within and two soft-fried eggs .
Hannah’s burgers came with thinner-cut french fries that were disappointingly soggy and greasy but we did have some delightful courgette fries on the side, spears of courgette in a light crispy batter.
Then came our wait, though staff did come over twice to apologise.
We ordered the dessert sharing platter and assumed it would be part of the Early Bird deal as it was the equivalent of one dessert each but it isn’t - though what the difference is between two desserts at £5 each and one between two for £10 we couldn’t fathom.
What would have been a bargain £33.50 for some lovely food became a bit of an irritation at £43.50.
I didn’t mind waiting half an hour but the extra tenner stung a bit. I asked about it when we paid and got fairly short shrift.
I spoke to manager Jason Kidman-Steele afterwards who thought the menu made it clear that the sharing platter is not included in the early bird deal. It doesn’t.
“That’s an oversight on our part – we’ll have a look at that,” said Jason, who also explained that our wait was due to two large parties ordering their food in another part of the restaurant.
That aside the desserts were divine with the best apple and rhubarb crumble you could imagine and perfect home-made custard. A beautifully gooey and chocolatey brownie, vanilla ice cream and a small but perfectly flavoured sticky toffee pudding. Rich and with a beautifully caramelised outer, it was a delight.
Historic, you might say.
For three courses, a pint, a virgin cocktail and a side dish of courgette fries, our bill came to £43.50.
Star rating out of five:
* The Wig and Pen, 44 Campo Lane, Sheffield, S1 2EG
* Tel: 0114 272 2150.
* Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Web: The Wig and Pen
* Food, Monday-Thursday: noon-10pm; Friday-Saturday: 11am-10pm.