I’VE heard they do a pretty good line in pasties at Fusion Café in Arundel Street so I’m on my way there to try one.
Now perhaps it’s because I’ve spent a lot of my life in the West Country, where lunch usually meant a pasty, but I’ve always had a soft spot for this particular food, wherever it turns up.
What is a Spanish empanada if not a pasty? Or a samosa?
Fusion has a Moroccan flavoured lamb pasty which, according to the chatter on the internet, has to be eaten to be believed.
Now Fusion, the award-winning café in the restored 19th century Butcher Works ticks so many foodie boxes it would need a Pickfords van to carry them: home made, artisan, organic, biodynamic “slow food” that comes veggie, vegan, wheat-free, gluten-free or dairy-free, made from seasonal, local produce in an open kitchen
Carnivores need not be troubled by the sheer volume of beans, pulses and greenery served here. They do a bacon roll for breakfast and a meat special daily.
Fusion is the catering arm of the Ruskin Mill Educational Trust and Freeman College, which combines teaching autistic students with providing workshops for local craftsmen, called the Academy of Makers.
The café was given an award last year by Olive Magazine for being “the most compelling reason to pop out to lunch” and for me the compelling reason is those pasties.
And would you believe they’ve sold out? Instead, I’m offered a vegetarian version, 60p cheaper at £3.10.
To be honest I’m pretty pastied off until I sink my teeth into it. The pastry is so soft and short it’s a marvel. And the filling, it’s potato and leek with a mustardy sauce, is – I can’t think of a better word – elegant.
On hearing that I’ve told pastrychef and assistant Kamal Khan (check out her foodie blog thegirlwhoatetheworld.blogspot.com) that I’ve made a special trip for the Moroccan pasty, manager Melvin Jarman brings me a plate of filling.
“This morning it was a leg of lamb from Eyam,” he says. It is delicately and beautifully spiced.
So I’m recommending Fusion’s Moroccan lamb pasty without actually eating one whole, so to speak, but mentally adding the pastry to the filling.
Well, that’s not totally true. I ate one a few days later at a food festival and it had been kept warm so long in the oven it was beyond redemption.
Fusion, kept busy by staff and students from Hallam University and local businesses, plus shoppers who seek them out on Saturdays, is a light, bright airy place with two rooms, bare brick walls and a barrel vaulted brick ceiling.
It’s mainly soups, salads, quiches and cakes, as well as excellent homemade breads, but it’s how they do it which puts them head and shoulders above many other places.
The pastrywork is excellent, not just in the pasty. I have a slice of roast onion, chorizo and manchego cheese quiche (£3.10) which is just as good. All the pastry is made by hand not machine because it gives a better texture, says manager Jarman afterwards.
Buy a slice of quiche and you get a choice of three from six salads. My wife has the daily special, a home cured salmon and asparagus soufflé, with two salads (£7.60), so we pretty much have them all.
Each seems to have a different dressing: they have been thought about, not just bunged together. Puy lentils go nicely with purple sprouting broccoli in a lime dressing, while quinoa, courgette and mushrooms make an excellent combination, bound with a light vinaigrette.
The souffle itself is very light (and also light on salmon) with a foamy interior.
Should none of this appeal there’s Welsh rarebit, filled croissants, toasted sandwiches or you can order a bowl of salad and choose your own toppings.
Cakes are big here, with wheat, dairy and gluten-free as well as vegan options also available.
We had a couple: a really light courgette, lime and mascarpone, plus a rich, moist coffee and walnut (£4.30 the two).
They make a big thing here about serving organic and biodynamic coffee. I once went to a vineyard in France where the farmer planted, pruned and picked by the phases of the moon.
We both ordered Americanos (£1.90 each) and probably expected more from the coffee. It’s pleasant but that’s all.
Melvin Jarman is to be commended for what he’s done here. The quality is first class and it’s obviously appreciated. Tables can be hard to find at peak times.
A new kitchen is planned and theatre teas are promised. You can keep in touch on the website or Twitter, which will tell you the specials of the day.
Butcher Works, 72 Arundel Street, Sheffield S1 2NS.
Tel: 0114 252 5974.
Open Mon-Fri 9am-4.30pm. Sat 10am-3.30pm. Veggies, vegan and gluten-free dishes. No alcohol lunchtimes, Private parties in evening by arrangement. Credit cards. Disabled access and toilets. Street parking.
My star ratings (out of five):