It feels such a sinful way to be wiling away a Saturday afternoon. Tucking into a huge plate of fish and chips... Naughty, but so nice, writes Jo Davison.
Appropriately, our guilty pleasure is being taken at was once the infamous Omega Sauna in Attercliffe.
In its heyday, the venue was reputed to be the place of many a hot and steamy carry on.
Now it’s the scene of hot and steamy carry-outs and satisfaction comes on a plate in the restaurant at the back - with bread and butter, curry sauce and a splash of gravy the only extras.
The brothel, seized by the Serious Organised Crime Agency in 2004, became a fish and chip takeaway and restaurant last year. The only sauce going on is a dollop of Heinz and if you want to get up close and personal, you’ll have to make do with a pot of tea for two.
Richard Pearce, a third generation fish-fryer born and bred in Attercliffe, is delighted with his 70-seater premises, which he bought from the crime squad.
Police raided the Omega in 2004, made 13 arrests and rounded up illegal immigrants suspected of working as prostitutes, though were unable to prosecute owners John Barrett and Edward Kirby-Dorsey for conspiring to live off immoral earnings, after a judge ruled police knew sex was for sale and had turned a blind eye.
But the pair were fined and jailed for tax fraud and the Serious Organised Crime Agency brought a civil action, seizing money and the sauna - which then lay empty for years.
“I never went in when it was open, ” he states for the record. “I bought it because it’s such a good location. It’s right by Don Valley Stadium and only five minutes from Meadowhall.”
Richard, whose dad was known as Chip Shop Tony and opened his first Sheffield establishment back in the Fifties, carried on the family tradition.
He had been running the Robin Hood’s Bay Fisheries lower down on Attercliffe Road since the Eighties and had built up an empire on the back of fried potatoes with Brenda’s at Woodseats, Castle Chippies and Rob’s at Greenhill still under his fryer’s apron
But he had fancied the boarded-up brothel for some time and when the lease ran out on the Robin Hood’s Bay shop, he asked police if he could make them an offer.
“There were quite a few raised eyebrows when I told people where I was moving to, ” he laughs. “Everybody’s heard of the Omega - although no-one ever admits to going there.”
The sauna had been stripped but Richard had to gut the building: “There was a lot of work to do – there were little rooms all over the place, ” he says.
“The downstairs sauna and steam room are now my stock rooms and we built the fish prep room over the old swimming pool.”
We’ve taken a nice navy leatherette booth in what was once the “gentlemen’s lounge”. Now it’s a spankingly-clean restaurant. All light and airy. Cath Kidson-style spotty oilcloth tablecloths add to a Fifties vibe. Keeping abreast of the times, though, the cafe has free Wifi - and air conditioning (so there’s nothing to give the game away as you exit on to the street).
There’s a regular clientele – mums and daughters taking a break from Meadowhall shopping, and elderly couples and families with young children are greeted like old friends by the friendly and attentive girls who pop out from behind the fryers to take orders.
We discover why when we pick up the menu; the most expensive thing on it is £5.05 - and that’s for a full haddock meal. Richard prides himself on his quality and prices.
Deliveries of fresh cod and haddock arrive daily from the coast and Frymaster makes its own traditional Yorkshire fishcakes – a slice of fresh fish between two slices of potato – and its own mashed potato and fish rissoles.
That menu is small and simple, but perfectly formed.
Cold drinks run to 80p shandy and good old dandelion and burdock and 40p cartons of squash for the kids.
For those who like it hot, there’s coffee at 80p, hot chocolate at £1 and that teapot for two is just £1.30.
Children’s meals cost £2-£3. You can indulge yourself with a chip butty for £1.55 or go for a meal - anything from pie, scampi, plaice, roe, sausage and rissole comes complete with bread and butter and peas, beans, curry sauce or gravy from £3.
He opts for the £4.60 cod meal with mushy peas. Extravagantly I go for the haddock version, a whole 45p extra. We’ve barely sipped our cuppas (the only quibble was the pot was on the stingy side) before our plates arrive. Talk about good service.
The bread and butter is thin-sliced as you’d expect and the chips what I’d call proper ones - they look like your grandma made them; big ones and little ones, each perfectly golden-brown and crisp.
The home-made mushy peas are just fabulous; they have that savoury, almost meaty taste to them that you remember from chip shops of your childhood and they are not glow-in-the-dark green.
But the fish - oh, the fish. We’re both in ecstasy. Portions are so huge they overhang the plate, the batter overcoats are light, crunchy and without a trace of grease. Frying is a skill which runs in this family and it shows.
The haddock is so fresh it tastes like cream. It’s moist, bone-free; a delight. The husband’s cod, that denser, meatier fish, is equally as good in its own way.
There’s no dessert, but who needs it? We leave perfectly satisfied, having forked out the grand total of £10.95.
FOOD REVIEW: Frymaster, 653 Attercliffe Road Attercliffe, S9 3RE
* Tel:0114 3272303
* Open: Monday-Saturday 11.30am-2.30pm
* Cash payments only
* Parking: Small car park close by
My star ratings out of five: