Food Review: Blue Moon

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2 St James Street, S1 2EW. 0114 276 3443. Open Monday to Saturday, 8am – 8pm www.bluemooncafesheffield.co.uk

Sheffield city centre isn’t the kind of place you’d expect to find the Blue Moon Café.

Abbeydale Road or Walkley maybe, perhaps areas of Sharrow, Fulwood or Ecclesall where some tastes may be a little more bohemian, but not slap bang in the middle of town.

With it’s green, community-hub feel, arty ambience and nod to hippy chic in a beautiful old building it’s more ’70s San Francisco than central Sheffield.

And the Blue Moon and the city are all the better for that.

Blue Moon’s vegetarian earthiness adds much-needed left-field breadth to a city centre food offer that with a few exceptions can be said to be pretty safe.

It was an alternative venue when it opened on Norfolk Street in 1995, when it moved to St James Row in 2001 and still is today.

That whole area is alive with history – the Cutlers Hall and Stonehouse to the left, cathedral to the right and straight ahead the Blue Moon in the former Eadon Lockwood and Riddle building – a former auction house – with its huge skylight and cavernous 30ft ceilings.

On a bitterly cold January night we were warm as gluten-free toast as the seven radiators did their thing – presumably on a green or eco tariff of some kind.

The height and grandeur of the room hits you first, it really is an impressive space which allows the walls to be packed full of cool photographs, paintings and huge notice boards without making it feel claustrophobic.

It also has mission-control style clocks set to Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster time.

Blue Moon offers space for ads, flyers and leaflets from individuals, businesses and good causes, notices too personal for newspapers and too whimsical for online.

As with much-loved ‘card in the tobacconist’s window’ references from Tony Hancock or Hattie Jacques there’s everything from life- drawing classes and aromatherapy to Zag Yoga, Woodcraft Folk and one offering ‘A Road Map Through Relationships’.Enough to make anyone hungry.

The Blue Moon operates a counter service and on this occasion – a pre-theatre meal – there are three hot dishes to choose from.

Kumara bake – there are those Kiwi sweet potatoes again – with red onion in a creamy spiced sauce. Mediterranean bake with roasted veg – red and green peppers, courgette and aubergine to name a few – in a rich tomato sauce and finally the gluten-free North African stew with chickpeas, mushrooms and coriander.

We went for the Kumara bake and Mediterranean bake. With main course plated we move to the left, naturally, to the ‘salads’ area with on this occasion a choice of six. Rice, chopped tomatoes with herbs, green salad, a purple cabbage slaw, pasta with pesto and kidney bean with green pepper and celery. We had some of each which made a good looking plate of food and plenty of it all for £6.65.

We also had a portion of homity pie to share and ordered dessert – a chocolate torte on a biscuit crumb base and a lemon madeira cake.

In the spirit of dry January no drink was taken but water. A large glass of Rioja would have been £3.15.

After we’d ordered I spot the Sheffield pattie which contains pearl barley, root vegetables and Henderson’s Relish. Next time.

The place is busy with a mixed crowd and a few veggies from central casting – lots of walking gear and one middle-aged, professional-looking couple scowling silently at sections of their shared Guardian.

There were one or two asymmetrical haircuts and a few more delicate piercings than you might have found in Tuckwoods.

But life moves on, and it moves on at the Blue Moon very nicely.

If there is a criticism it is that the wooden tables and chairs are a little close together, so when people leave and don’t push their chairs under the tables it’s tricky to negotiate to a seat when carrying a tray of food and drink – vegan or otherwise.

The food however is delicious. The hommity pie – a baked cheese, garlic and potato creation is savoury, creamy and beautifully textured.

My Mediterranean bake was a rich and flavourful conglomeration of the silkiness of roast red peppers, delicate aubergine and the subtlety of courgette in a hearty sauce, really nice.

The spiced Kumara bake was rich with coconut milk and aromatic with spices, lovely stuff.

The desserts were equally impressive. The chocolate torte had a real cocoa kick and the lemon Madeira cake with creamy lemon topping was one of the lightest and best cakes you’ll get in the city. A hit of lemon tartness would have made it perfect.

If it’s meat and two average you’re after then this obviously isn’t the place for you.

If you enjoy something different at a great price with a whole earth feel in very civilised surroundings then the Blue Moon is well worth a try.

With one coffee our meals came to £26.70.