And the table at which I’m eating my rather good sausage roll, gratifyingly more meat than pastry, is a sawn-down chemistry bench from Silverdale School. Who knows what stinky times it witnessed?
Even the chef at the Grind Café in Kelham Island has been recycled. Kelly Boss has previously been seen in the kitchen at Bragazzi’s, West 10 and Malcolm Schooling’s Wig & Pen and Platillos.
You may not have heard of the Grind. “Even though we’ve been open since December people still don’t know about us. I feel we’ve been hiding our light under a bushel,” says Kelly.
If you’re a pop fan, you might know the sausage rolls better than the café. The Arctic Monkeys, local lads keen on local food for local people, ordered them as refreshments for the crowd (along with Kelham Island beer) for their concerts at Don Valley.
“Those sausage rolls have taken on a life of their own,” muses Kelly, who is boss by job title as well as by name. At Don Valley they were sold as the Boss’s Rolls.
The Grind is an extension to Cornwall Works, at the corner of Alma Street and Green Lane. Through the large plate glass windows I can see the works of a couple of good old Sheffield brands, Miba Tyzack and Kutrite – “scissors at factory prices.”
The area now is a mix of surviving factories, trendy apartments, offices and more than decent pubs and restaurants. The Grind forms one corner of a quadrilateral taking in the Milestone gastro pub and award-winning boozers the Kelham Island Tavern and Fat Cat.
Kelly and Co, a band of willing waitresses, can hold their heads up in such exalted company. Owners Howard and Amanda Wade, who run a property management company, wanted the café to reflect the ethos of Avoca, a chain of stores in Amanda’s native Ireland which has stylish, ambitious cafes.
A first, exploratory, visit is rewarded by a fine chickpea broth (£4), served in a big bowl on a board with two hunks of bread and butter. The vegetarian soup has a tomatoey base, is full of vegetables and is tasty and fragrant.
I round it off with a slice of substantial, nicely sticky cheesecake (£2.50), made for Grind (and a couple of other places) by a local artisan baker called Jill.
I spot the sausage roll too late and make a mental note to book an appointment with it when I return. This time it is with my wife.
The blackboard still shows the specials of lasagne, Portobello mushrooms with halloumi, salmon fillet with a herb oil and artichoke, pecorino and sunblushed tomato galette, although the soup has changed to green Thai cauliflower curry.
The sausage roll (£6 with salad) has a great deal of sage and is really meaty. The pastry, wisely, leaves the filling to be the main feature.
You might say this dish nods to the area’s past although there are no Little Mesters or Buffer Girls taking lunch today. That is not to say the Grind only attracts pen pushers and young professionals. My wife is about to tuck into her galette (£7 with salad) when she’s distracted by a workman at the next table suffering from a bad case of builder’s bum. “Why can’t they make men’s trousers big enough?” she mutters but is quickly diverted back to her dish.
She likes the light, bright combinations of flavours of the topping and the flaky pastry base.
The salads are not the usual sort: there are cold roast potatoes with rosemary (yes, it works), grated carrot with an orange dressing, briefly blanched broccoli with feta and cherry tomatoes in a mustard dressing, and green beans.
Cake follows, a big portion of moist, light carrot cake (£2.50) and a high calorie square of tiffin (£1.75), again from Jill. “She’s our food hero,” says Kelly.
Most of the food is made in the Grind kitchen (there are also sandwiches and breakfasts until 12.30pm, all day brunchy affairs at weekends) or produced locally, and that goes for the ingredients as well.
For as long as Kelham Island has been a working area there have been cafes keeping the workers fed. The Grind continues that tradition although these days people expect more than a cup of tea and a wad with a tomato dip.
We finish with intense, full-flavoured coffee made to the café’s own recipe. That is where the place’s name comes from, rather than a reference to the instruments grinding Sheffield steel.
It’s nice to see people determined to do things properly.
THE GRIND CAFÉ
Cornwall Works, 3 Green Lane, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S3 8SJ.
Tel: 0114 272 3929
Open Mon-Fri 8am-5.30pm, Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 9-4pm. Credit cards. Street parking.
My star ratings (out of five):