Otto's, Sharrowvale Road, Sheffield

ONE man, two restaurants, so how does Otto Damahi do it?

If it's lunchtime the chances are you'll find him front of house at the Mediterranean on Sharrowvale Road, Sheffield, the place he co-owns with business partner Majid Mrabit.

The Med is famous for fish and tapas and Otto glides the tables taking orders for crispy squid and patatas bravas.

It is a short stroll – or a fast run – to his new restaurant, named Otto's, a few hundred yards up the road. Which is where you'll find him during the evening.

This used to be an Italian, San Lorenzo, and before that something of a local legend on the veggie circuit, Mr BB's, where so many beans always made a great more than five.

"My wife wanted me to call it Mr Otto's," says Otto, who greets us.

There's no point pretending he doesn't know us. But then almost everyone on the local food circuit knows Otto. He works the room like it's his own party.

The L-shaped dining room which seats 56 has been spruced up and by 8pm on a Friday night almost every table has been taken. No sign of the credit crunch here yet. Otto has promised Majid he won't be competing with the Med on the fish although I note that out of 15 starters eight are decidedly fishy.

There's a blackboard menu, chiefly pizzas and steaks, while the menu proper is a quick gallop around the Mediterranean, including a handful of dishes from Otto's native Morocco, and a guest appearance from some crab and prawn spring rolls.

Olives are already on the table and one of the waiters – all of whom seem to be Ottos in the making – brings us a plate of complimentary garlic bread. It's good so that bodes well for the pizzas.

I start with something I've not had before, chicken liver kataifi (5.50) which is Greek. It's a winner.

"I like the way the soft chicken livers contrast inside the shredded pastry which is like a sandwich," I tell my wife as I mop up the cassis sauce.

Otto pops up. 'Do we like the contrast between the liver and the pastry?' he asks earnestly. Who's writing this, Otto?

My wife, too, enjoys her baked goats cheese (5.50), not over-aggressive in flavour, and served with a poached pear and a walnut salad. The cheese is perched on a little crouton.

I hop across to Morocco for my lamb tagine (12.95) which you don't need telling is a lamb stew. There is a generous amount, the meat is tender and gently spiced and there's a fair bit of sweetness from the prunes and apricots cooked with it. What it doesn't need is the sesame seeds showered all over it.

My wife has gone for the seabass fillet (12.95), served here on a bed of lentils.

The fish has been accurately cooked so the flesh is firm and tasty. She particularly likes the contrast between the two major ingredients.

Otto appears as if by magic. He's anxious that Mrs Food and Drink has appreciated the fish v lentil drama on her plate.

This is getting spooky. I feel under the table for a hidden microphone.

The food here is well flavoured in Sheffield portions from a relaxed sort of menu.

Here you can have fillet dolcelatte or steak au poivre but also veal scallops stuffed with cheese and asparagus on a Marsala sauce.

You can nuzzle up to a plate of garlic mushrooms or dish of pea soup or be slightly adventurous with a smoked haddock chowder.

Otto is there again for our dessert. He steers my wife away from the iced blackcurrant souffle which was not, apparently, a great success.

We have the croissant bread and butter pudding, which is OK, and a passionfruit and strawberry souffle has plenty of bite.

Otto has plans for the restaurant. Rooms are to be re-opened upstairs and the roof garden will be restored.

We pay, with a bottle of house wine and coffees, 61.80. Not bad at all.

Food Review


344 Sharrowvale Road, Hunters Bar, Sheffield.

0114 266 9147

Open all week 6pm-11.30pm (Fri-Sat until midnight, Sun until 11pm). BYO option. House wine 12. Street parking.

My star ratings (out of five):

Food ****

Atmosphere ****

Service *****

Value ****

Mediterranean category. Do not compare ratings between places of different style or price..