We’re supposed to swan off for a romantic restaurant meal a deux tonight - but the reality is most probably Valentine’s in front of the telly with an M&S meal deal.
It’s too difficult to get a table, let alone a babysitter - and usually too expensive. So tuck this review away for another time... The restaurant at Sheffield’s new boutique hotel, Brocco on the Park, is the ideal place to get lovey-dovey.
It’s where Picasso stayed when he attended the Sheffield peace convention and created his famed Dove Of Peace image. It became known as the Peace Guest House but later became DHSS accommodation and then fell derelict. The Brocco Bank Edwardian villa was in a sorry state for years until Tiina Carr snapped it up and transformed it. The mother of two, former director of Nether Edge design company The Workstation, has created eight stylish en-suite bedrooms and a restaurant, the 52-seater Brocco Kitchen, which is open every day from breakfast to dinner.
It’s a haven of calm. Cool neutral tones and limed wood are the backdrop for little flourishes of Scandi – Tiina originates from Finland – and a flurry of bird images, inspired by Picasso’s peace dove, which he designed on the back of a napkin in a cafe on Sheffield’s Broad Lane. At night, golden pools of candlelight and the glow of fairylights beyond windows to the terrace overlooking Hunters Bar roundabout add glamour.
The food is modern British and European, with a ‘clean’, healthy vibe and dainty twists. Numerous dishes are meat, gluten or wheat-free. One couple is sharing a great-looking £16 Picnic Platter basket, laden with cured meats, olives, artisan bread and pickles. We sip the stunning house white and red (large glasses at £5.40 and £5.70) and as the starters are taking a long time, order some very good bread and oil. Kind of wish we hadn’t; the goat’s cheese, kale and pumpkin tart (£9) and smoked chicken breast salad (£7) are worth the wait, but are huge. These dishes can be ordered as lunches; maybe they could be pared down in size and price for serving as starters
The tart’s pastry is light and its filling is a delicately flavoured delight - no small feat when goat’s cheese is in the mix. The chicken - a whole, tender, sliced breast - comes with contrasting puddles of pureed Jerusalem artichoke and pesto and soft, pungent wild mushrooms.
My lamb main from the specials was on the money (£20); tender, pink, herb-crusted hunks on chive mash with sweet baby carrots. But alas, we had to send back the overpoweringly strong tomato and saffron fish stew (£16). Mussels, king prawns and the white fish were all fine, but the broth was fishier than a trawlerman’s waders.
How restaurants handle a situation like this is key to whether you ever go back. Brocco got it right. The waitress was deeply apologetic. We asked for an explanation and head chef Leslie Buddington, whose experience spans London, New Zealand and Sheffield’s Curator’s House, came over to apologise again and tell us he had checked all the fish and could find nothing wrong. There was no charge for the lamb and staff insisted we had free puds (normally £6). The daintiest, vanilla-infused spiced plum crumble and a rich chocolate and orange cheesecake finished with an intense spike of candied zest sweetened the experience so much so I have no hesitation in recommending Brocco.
My star ratings out of six: