I'M used to mints or After Eights as a little gift when you get a restaurant bill but our waitress at Sheffield's Old House brings us custard cream bikkies.
Go on. Does she do that often? "It depends what there is. On a good day it's chocolate bourbons," she says with a lovely smile.
I'm going to use lovely a lot in this review because there is something lovely about the Old House, part of the group which includes the Forum and Common Room, all of which are on Devonshire Street.
The bar, two rooms divided by a deep, recessed entrance, says welcome from the moment you walk in. Perhaps it's the old LP covers and discs stuck on the walls, the list of Belgian and Continental beers displayed prominently, the grown-up music (it's Sixties and Seventies on our night) or the smile at the bar itself.
"The atmosphere is fun and you won't find a single inch of attitude - instead you'll be welcomed, offered hearty fodder and great drinks," it says on the website and it's absolutely true.
I first came across the Old House, previously the Halcyon Bar, a few months back when, intrigued by the menu, I went inside for its homemade sausage with barbecued baked beans, coleslaw and corn on the cob with chips (5.95). And the beer!
The sausage was a great whorl of Cumberland that seemed to go on forever.
I didn't need a lot of tea that night. I made a mental note to come back another lunchtime but have left it until now.
I was slightly apprehensive when we called back early one evening. At lunchtime the clientele had included businessmen and shoppers. Were we going to look out of place as the oldest ones there?
Far from it. True, the students hadn't then come back but there was a wide age range - youngsters out for the evening, families, businessmen eating tea and one old boy on his own.
We looked at the menu over a glass of Duchesse de Bourgogne and lovely Floris passionfruit beer.
You don't have to queue at the bar. As in Belgium, it's table service.
If you want a bit more than a sandwich - they cure their own ham here as well as make their own sausages - there is the Old House's Scotch egg or soup.
Mains run from Barnsley Chop and haddock and chips through to quiche and sweet potato crab cakes.
Sadly, the last two have sold out so we order the butternut squash and ricotta lasagne (5.50) and the chargrilled chicken (7.25). Both are worth the wait because the kitchen is being hammered by people who want their tea so we chill out to Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel.
The squash flavours ring out clearly in the lasagne, a very nicely put together dish, while my chicken has been marinated in paprika and lemon and comes in three juicy and tasty portions on a bed of greens with sauteed potatoes with a rasher of super crispy streaky bacon.
What do you think of it so far? I ask my wife. Lovely, she says.
The Old House is fast coming up to its third birthday and I feel mildly guilty not checking it out before, But the food came slowly, says general manager Tim Taylor. "We started with things like cheese on toast and burgers. Food plays a big part in our turnover and here it's homely. We like to say we're home from home."
The head chef here is Richard Podd and he's responsible for a you-can-taste-the-alcohol apricot and bourbon cheesecake and a sturdy treacle tart, both 3.50.
There is a full slate of bottled beers including the Floris. You can smell it across the table. I have a gutsy beer but am so won over by the Floris that I go all girlie and order one for myself.
My wife, meanwhile, is studying the cocktail menu and has discovered the Old House does a Singapore Sling. She'll be back with her girlfriends to try it.
We pay 21.75 for food, 14.20 for drinks,
"Have a really lovely day," says the girl on the switchboard when I ring the next day.
The Old House
113-117 Devonshire Street, Sheffield S3 7SB.
Telephone: 0114 276 6002.
Food served Mon-Thu & Sun noon-10pm, Fri & Sat noon-8pm. Credit cards. Music. Street parking. Website: www.oldhousesheffield.com
My star ratings (out of five):
Pub food category. Do not compare ratings between places of different style or price.
Got a view? Leave a comment below.
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