Working Lunch at Eten hits the spot

review - Eten Cafe
review - Eten Cafe
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Having made my resolutions I should be thinking lettuce leaf and a carrot for lunch. But it’s the first day back at work after the New Year break, and comfort food is needed.

Where best to go for nurturing fare that is also befitting of a speedy working lunch with a PR contact and won’t break the bank?

Eten café & tearoom. Not only is it just a skip away from the Star’s offices, there’s parking close by on Campo Lane AND it specialises in food that feeds the soul.

Nestled in old buildings by the side of Sheffield Cathedral, the venue has had a chequered history; to my recollection it’s been Pollard’s, Yorkies and Cafe Piazza. But it has gone by the peculiar name of Eten for over two years now. Folk have even started to understand what Eten means (it’s old English for ‘to eat’).

It’s run by two chefs, Lee Vintin and Paul Gill, and a former hotel inspector. Head chef Lee has cooked in kitchens from London to Paris and once fed Sir Elton John and David Beckham, and locally at the Walnut Club in Hathersage and the Devonshire Arms at Middle Handley. Paul’s speciality is pastries and it’s his partner Geraldine Williams who is the hotel inspector.

The trio serve up everything from breakfast to bistro fare two nights a week. There’s a function room upstairs and a sofa-filled lounge area at the York Street side.

There are several salads that sound healthy enough for the NY diet, yet are naughty enough to give comfort - smoked salmon Nicoise and goats’ cheese with beetroot, for example. But blue cheese, walnut and pear (£8) wins.

It doesn’t disappoint. Contrasting crumbles of strong, salty cheese, soft, sweet pear and the crunch of bitter walnuts are plentifully laced through a pretty salad of dainty leaves and fine shavings of veg. The drizzle of sweet, fruity dressing is too scant but on requesting more, it instantly arrives in a vintage cut-glass milk jug.

My PR contact doesn’t need to diet and plumps for pulled turkey sandwich with barbecue sauce from the blackboard of specials. It’s £5.95 and brilliant value; a big, toasted bun stuffed with succulent, shredded bird in a rich sauce is accompanied by a mountain of proper chips and a side salad.

He follows with a £5.95 Knickers Eten, a take on the knickerbocker glory. It’s expensive, but looks like one in a Disney cartoon. Ice cream balls, chocolate sauce, marshmallows, hunks of sticky brownie - it has the lot.

Sadly, the house favourite, the most heavenly rice pudding I’ve ever tasted, is not on the menu today, so I opt for a scone with butter and jam. It’s only £1.50 and a wee bit dry but a £2.10 pot of smoky loose-leaf Darjeeling from the extensive tea list (which features local supplier Birdsyard) solves that. The tea arrives in a vintage tea pot paired with a flowery teacup, saucer and milk jug.

The PR’s £2.22 latte brings the bill (which also comes on vintage China) to a reasonable £25.65. Lunch took 20 minutes longer than the allocated hour. The friendly waiters are very efficient, but they can only work as fast as the food comes out of the kitchen. You have to allow for the fact, though, that virtually everything is freshly made for each and every customer - and the quality you get is worth the wait.

Eten café & tearoom, 2-4 York Street, Sheffield S1 2ER tel (0114) 2730 658

Marks out of 6: Food 5, Service 4,Value 5, lunchtime vibe 4.