HERE’S a little culinary poser. I have before me a gratifyingly large Bakewell tart, a jug of custard and a spoon. Is it on
(a) a dish
(b) a plate
(c) a piece of slate?
All those who answered ‘slate’ have obviously been to the Inn at Troway for this is how it came when I ordered it.
I suspected I might have difficulty if I poured the custard on to the slate because it could run off on to the table and perhaps my lap. But how to eat it?
I cut a bit of tart with my spoon, dipped it in the custard jug and popped it in my mouth. Not very elegant.
Afterwards, when I paid the bill, I asked why they had chosen this method of serving dessert.
“We tried it today and the custard is thick so it doesn’t run,” I was told.
That might have been the case that afternoon but by the evening the custard in my jug was runny.
The place is a big estate pub (between the wars, I guess) built for an estate which never happened, on the edge of Sheffield.
It’s now one of the constellation of venues in the Richard Smith – Thornbridge Brewery’s pan-Sheffield eating and drinking empire.
I last came here when it had been converted from the old Black-a-Moor pub in 2008 and a Rule Britannia cum cor blimey menu installed, everything from cockles in vinegar and London Particular soup to boiled beef and carrots, potted shrimps and syllabub.
People said “yes, very traditional” but still ordered fish and chips.
My meal, from then head chef Michael Kulczak, was excellent. Since then, chefs have come and gone. The current man in charge, Wayne Rodgers, who took over last year, also believes in the best of British and rustic dishes.
Where other chefs see a pig and muse on stuffed pork loin or a roast, he wonders what to do with its lights.
Like many a chef, a breed who seem to be born with a suitcase in one hand and a map in the other, he’s rattled around quite a few kitchens, from Bluwater on Victoria Quays to the swanky Cavendish Hotel in Baslow and the Druid Inn at Birchover, to name just three.
As diners we’ve followed him around and like his honest, earthy style of cooking although sometimes we are baffled how to eat things, as when he cooked us a deconstructed bouillabaisse you assembled yourself. So you can take it we are fans of Wayne’s culinary world.
The pub’s new menu looked delicious: slow-braised ribs with Boston baked beans, chicken casserole with dumplings, rabbit and mustard pie and, the clincher, brisket with croquettes made from the cheek, tail and tongue (see what I mean?).
What we didn’t realise was that our night was the launch of the new menu, although it had been on the website for several days.
It meant the inevitable teething troubles and I think the gods of food and drink were having a laugh at our expense: what could go wrong did.
We started brightly enough, good breads with a mix of butter, hummus and chorizo-flavoured ‘dripping’, pungently punchy (£2.50).
My wife ordered smoked haddock and leek tart with a Welsh rarebit topping and a poached egg (a hefty £7.25). She liked the filling but something was missing: the egg.
We consulted the menu, then the waitress. The egg arrived late on a saucer when the tart was mostly eaten so she’d missed the simultaneous ‘hit’ of fish, leek, cheese and egg.
But we started to hit trouble with my country-style duck pate (£6.75). It looked like a slice of liver sausage and had an identical texture, although there wasn’t any liver in it.
Wayne, as he explained later, used confited duck legs so it was 100 per cent meat. But to me it didn’t work. Some dishes, I guess, are like Marmite: you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. It comes on a hot slate with a fried duck egg and slices of bread fried in duck fat.
My main, the brisket (£14.50), was very much a case of the supporting acts outshining the main event.
I didn’t think the large tranche of beef had much flavour (even though it had been brined and slow-cooked) unlike the crunchy little croquettes of offal.
The vegetarian ‘cottage pie,’ an elaborate construction of aubergine, tomato, sweet potato and feta, is a popular survivor from the previous menu. It’s interesting, although both of us failed to register the promised cumin spicing. The tang of the feta rang through clearly, but at £13.75, this vegetarian dish was dearer than the chicken and mushroom pie.
Not our night, was it? But these things happen.
We were back on surer ground with the sweets. The Bakewell tart (£5.50) is pretty large and tasty and also comes with a scoop of ice cream in a tuille. Sherry trifle (£5.75), again large, is fun.
The menu, the first Wayne can call his own here, is full of tempting dishes, such as Barnsley chop with hotpot potatoes, belly pork with glazed pig’s cheek and Indian-spiced whitebait.
There’s a kind of all-day breakfast with bacon chop, sausages, oatcakes, beans, bone marrow and much more for £17.50 or a selection of platters with home made delicacies.
There is one change if you go there, which I hope you will. The Bakewell tart is now served safely in a dish.
“Customer feedback,” says Wayne.
Service is friendly and warm.
We paid £54.75 for food, £11.75 for drinks and coffee.
The Dawes Verdict
Inn At Trowey
Snowdon Lane, Troway, Sheffield S21 5RU.
Tel: 01246 290 751.
Open 11am-12pm every day, food served noon-9.30pm. Vegetarian dishes.
Disabled access and toilets.
Large car park.