IF it had been a Saturday afternoon we could have popped into Maggie May’s to bop to a bit of Northern Soul. You heard it here first, it’s going to be the next big craze.
“Our customers are over 40,” says chef Lee Vintin diplomatically. “The deejays are in their 60s,” he adds, less so.
“People listen to the music, have something to eat and drink then catch the bus home and can be in bed by ten.”
That’s the trouble with young ‘uns like Lee. They think anyone over 50 is decrepit.
Maggie May’s, on Trippet Lane, is a music bar with food, where the music starts in the 1960s and ends in the 1980s, which is more or less when pop lost its way.
Although some say it started earlier with the Archies’ release of Sugar Sugar in 1969.
That’s not some old fuddy duddy talking. It’s official.
In my paper today it said that scientists had worked out with computers that popular music has become samier and louder in recent years.
The volume on our Friday afternoon visit was reasonably high but not half as bad as the deafening boom at a family wedding disco I attended recently.
The venture, in what was the short-lived Alibi bar, is being bankrolled by Sheffield United’s stadium announcer Gary Sinclair, who will doubtless be hoping Lee gets the metaphorical ball in the net more times than the Blades.
As you walk in, the Beatles section is to the right while the rest, to the left of a display cabinet featuring a space hopper and old Beano annuals, is broader musically. We sit under a Michael Jackson Thriller poster on the wall, along from the one of Rod Stewart singing Maggie May. There are old LP covers on all the tables. Ours is an Abba. Next door has a Sound of Music soundtrack album.
Lee has been hired to supply the food, “nosh-talgic meals served in a basket,” which is supposed to recall the chicken in a basket hey-day of the Fiesta nightclub.
Now it so happens that I have with me a Fiesta chick from the Sixties. “You’ll be able to compare the chicken in a basket with then,” I tell her.
“No I won’t, I always asked for scampi,” says my wife.
Someone has had the not so bright idea of putting the menu on old LPs and it’s not easy to read. I hadn’t been able to find the website, thinking it was Maggie Mae as on the Beatles Let It Be album, rather than Rod’s version.
There isn’t one on the Facebook page, just a photo of the menu which I tried to zoom in on, not easy when the dishes follow the grooves.
And only then, when you have ordered, do you discover a specials board up by the stage which houses those bus pass-holding disc jockeys.
Lee is the chef who got the Devonshire Arms at Middle Handley its gastro pub of the year awards in last year’s Eat Sheffield awards and he has also cooked at Bramall Lane.
You don’t really need to be too clever with food in a music bar but Lee goes some way. The burgers are made with either organic water buffalo, salmon or chickpeas, while there’s also a choice of pulled pork in burger bun, scampi or chicken and chips, and various pizzas and wraps.
“I see it as a totally different challenge. It’s not always about putting nice food on plates but what people actually want to eat,” he tells us later.
The buffalo (it’s £7.95 with fries and all the trimmings, £3.95 as a ‘slider’ or mini version, £5.45 with chips) is surprisingly good, helped along by the fact that Lee has added fat, in the shape of vegetable suet, for extra mouthfeel. Buffalo is low in fat.
The pulled pork, a dish which is becoming very fashionable, is how it should be done. Lee uses pork and leg meat, slow-cooked, until the meat tears easily apart. It’s run through with a good barbecue sauce and tastes rich and piggy. A couple of pieces of crackling are thrown in. It costs £6.25.
Sadly, the scampi (whole tail, not reformed, and “lovingly crusted by hand with Japanese panko breadcrumbs” says the menu) was off although Danny Szurko from Sheffield fishmongers J H Mann arrived halfway through our meal with the missing ingredient.
So the Fiesta chick settled for chicken and chips (£8.95) in a basket much bigger than the Sixties original and thought, like me, it was far too spicy. “Although it’s nice when you get under it,” she says.
We finish up by sharing a knickerbocker glory (£3.75) gratifyingly full of raspberries.
For real ale fans the only decent beer is Moonshine (£2.80 a pint), although not particularly well kept.
We paid £30.60 for food, drinks and coffees (we got chips with everything but I probably didn’t make myself clear).
Well worth a visit. Check out the music of the day on the Facebook page.
The Dawes verdict
23-27 Trippet Lane, Sheffield S1 4FG.
Tel: 0114 276 0640.
Open: Mon-Sat from noon (until 11pm Mon & Tue, until midnight Wed & Thur, until 1.30am Fri & Sat). Credit cards. Music. Disabled access and toilets. Street parking. www.maggie-mays.co.uk