LET’S start with a confession: I don’t go to The Showroom Cinema as much as I probably should.
That’s not because I don’t appreciate the independent, intelligent and globally diverse screenings it offers up, it’s just I appreciate watching, for example, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids on video more.
It’s pretty shameful.
You don’t support places like that you end up losing them. Then you end up living in an identikit Odeon town. Then you end up with nowhere to go when you want to watch a Japanese feature-length about the country’s complex legal system (I Just Didn’t Do It showing Monday, film fans).
Support your local Showroom.
So that’s why we’re there tonight supporting our way through a lamb dinner.
Well, you’ve got to do your bit, haven’t you?
That’s the way the cafe bar’s new head chef Simon Ayres sees things.
He did his bit for Kelham Island by transforming The Milestone – a pizza and pasta place when he took over the kitchen – into one of the country’s finest gastro pubs, impressing both Gordon Ramsay and, more pertinently, this writer’s parents along the way.
Now the 30-year-old is looking to transform the fortunes of The Showroom’s eaterie too.
There’s an argument it’s needed.
Its reputation right now is more function than fine dining; a place to grab good but quick grub before a film. But bosses reckon with the right menu, it can be transformed into a destination venue in its own right.
It’s got the location and it’s got the ambition – there are already plans for a rooftop herb garden, allotment and smoking house.
So, can the chef Ramsay dubbed ‘the cagefighter in the kitchen’ deliver?
Short answer: Yes.
We went on Valentine’s evening, for which we paid a specially set price of £25 per person in advance, and then got three courses (plus a bread and coffee) included.
We were seated with a sparkling wine and canapes, given a small specially-created menu to choose from and then the only thing which added to the bill was additional booze we ordered.
And it’s good.
Small niggle: the piano player. Too loud and too much Brian Adams.
And the room – we were sitting in one of the complex’s function suites rather than the cafe itself – could be more inviting. Its clinical white walls, ceiling spot lights and wilting pot plant has more than a hint of doctor’s waiting room about it.
Overlook those quibbles, though, and you’re rewarded with some of the finest food being served anywhere in Sheffield right now.
I started with confit of belly pork which, with no hyperbole, was one of the most perfect starters I’ve had the good fortune to tuck into.
Served with a blackpudding lollipop and a splash of gravy and apple puree, it was arguably worth the £25 alone.
Her lime pepper cured salmon couldn’t compete but its fresh zestiness ticked all the right boxes.
For mains we both went with the roast lamb rump, garlic and sweet herb mash and a port and butter emulation.
The meat was pink and juicy, as lamb should be, while the mash complemented the dish with a smooth kick all of its own.
The chocolate brownie with walnut whip which followed was small perhaps but perfectly formed, rounding things off nicely.
Staff were friendly and efficient throughout.
And afterwards? Well, it was Valentine’s night – we couldn’t resist one of those films.