It’s not every day you get to share a meal with a comedy hero, well, half of one.
But Graham Fellows, aka comic creation John Shuttleworth, was arriving in town to see his sister and was available for interview and, as it turned out, dinner.
We met in the Broomhill Tavern for a Guinness livener and a chat about John’s current Wee Ken To Remember tour.
It should have been Weekend To Remember but Ken Worthington, John’s sole agent, spelled it wrong and now the posters have been printed, John is contractually bound to revolve the whole show around Ken.
We mull over these and other issues after dropping in to the Thyme cafe just up the road and told the very helpful front-of-house man Carl Grayson that we would be back in half an hour.
There is no booking at Thyme Cafe, you wait for a table or you go for a drink and come back later.
Thyme has been around for more than a decade and was seen as a casual version of the Richard Smith’s original Thyme Restaurant in Crosspool.
It’s a Tuesday night and it’s fairly busy, most tables are full.
Designer-label casuals and trendy haircuts abound with the occasional conspiratorial huddle of intimacy at the bigger window tables punctuated by heads-thrown-back gales of laughter.
The atmosphere is excellent, as is our greeting, and the aroma from the kitchen.
We are greeted and seated like old friends and given a carafe of ice cold water, always a good start.
But Graham has a Shuttleworth moment...
“Look, he says. “There are church pews in here, I normally go to an early bird carvery somewhere and I’m not sure I agree with pews, and all these blackboards, it’s like being back at school!”
John’s tongue-in-cheek panic moment aside the specials boards are large and list some nicely detailed dishes.
We choose olives, hummus and bread for an appetiser which comes with chilli oil and balsamic vinegar.
The olives are good and the hummus is home-made, coarse-grained and sensational.
But there is an issue with the bread, good quality though it undoubtedly is. The loaf must have been used earlier because one of the pieces was hard and dry on one side. Someone should have thrown away the top slice.
For starter I order roast butternut squash, Feta, parsley and Parmesan risotto which comes a lovely golden colour, rich and full of flavour with the rice nicely cooked.
My dinner guest chooses whole prawns, shells on, but he’s not happy and invites me to taste one. He’s right. They are mealy, soggy and have a more than usual fishy odour.
We decide they are not right and tell Carl who is charm itself and apologises profusely, immediately offering a replacement dish.
“Between you and me,” he says, on the quiet. “We buy them in frozen and these were obviously not a good batch.”
The issue could not have been dealt with better or with more humility but it inevitably coloured our view of the meal.
For main course I had beef brisket with mashed potatoes, green beans, peas and spiced red cabbage.
The meat was flavoursome and melt-in-the mouth tender and there was plenty of it with good rich gravy. The mashed potatoes light and well-seasoned, the greens crisp and glossy.
But the red cabbage stole the show. Spiced, sweet and aromatic with just enough crunch. Lovely.
Reluctant vegetarian Graham had the pumpkin, courgette, aubergine, and chickpea curry with naan, fragrant rice, toasted almonds, coriander and yogurt.
Quite a mouthful. And that’s just the description.
It looked beautiful but Graham thought the rice a little dry on top and the curry a bit thin.
After tasting I agreed. It was pleasant enough and full of interesting ingredients but lacking in any real depth of flavour.
We were spoiled for choice with dessert and Graham, in Shuttleworth mode, was pondering having an ‘expressio’ or a ‘Late’: “I had a ‘Late’ once but it arrived at the same time as the other coffees so I couldn’t understand that,” he said, in John character.
Then in a moment straight from BBC radio show The Shuttleworths, John frets over asking for an ‘expressio’ coffee poured over vanilla ice cream – called an affogato, he’d heard about Ken having one once in an Italian cafe in Malta.
“I don’t think expresso is good value, you only get a bit in the bottom of the cup.”
He was worried he might be charged full dessert price. He wasn’t. We were charged for the coffee and £1 for the ice cream. Nice touch.
I had panacotta which was rich, wobbly and delicious and came with a nicely tart berry compote, a very smooth vanilla cream and biscotti.
All excellent, as was the gutsy Americano ordered with it.
I said goodbye to Graham on a Broomhill back street and watched him wander off into the night with his cagoule hood up and rain bouncing off his backpacks under the streetlight.
For three courses, two glasses of very drinkable house wine and coffee we paid £64.75
Thyme Cafe, Glossop Road, Broomhill, Sheffield S10 2QA.
Open Monday to Friday 11am to 3pm and 5pm-9:30pm, Saturday 11am – 10pm, Sunday 12 noon – 8pm. Coffee and Cakes Weekdays 11am – 9.30pm
Star ratings out of five:
out of five: