Baslow Road, Totley, S17 4AE. Tel: 0114 236 0204. Category:Gastropub.
Star ratings out of five:
You could tell it was coming up to Christmas.Not because of the decorative lights or two Christmas trees in the open plan interior of the Cross Scythes in Totley, though they were a bit of a giveaway.
You could tell it was Christmas because the four wise men were sitting at the bar. All four with the well-fed sheen of maturity, worldly, warm-hearted and nursing a pint apiece.
They chatted about hotels, holidays and memorable meals as the long-trailed ‘weather bomb’ (we used to call it winter) was blowing itself to bits outside.
OK there were three wise men in the original story but they like to go one better in Totley. The barman who was friendliness and bonhomie itself, greeted us warmly and showed us to our table.
Nice start to a meal in the Baslow Road Pub that comes with a pretty big reputation, AA recommended, award winning and with a kitchen containing Eat Sheffield young chef of the year Ailidh Carr. As it happened the AA had already bailed us out that evening, rescuing my daughter and her stranded car from Sainsbury’s car park on Archer Road.
So we were starving and a little frazzled by the time we got there. We needn’t have worried, the Moonshine was on top form and smoothed out the early wrinkles, at least for me.
And it got better when the food arrived.
The place is 250 years old and the walls of the dining area are lined with evocative old photographs of the district.
It’s comfortable and tastefully done-out though the fire would have been better lit for a bit of ambience and extra warmth.
The Yorkshire Tapas with Yorkshire pud and roast beef, battered fish and mushy peas, mini pastie, rarebit and pork pie was extremely tempting as a shared starter but we decided to go independent. I ordered corned beef hash fritters and I’m glad I did.
Three good-sized fritters came with a poached egg, bacon and a barbecue-type sauce. Simple comfort food but beautifully cooked and presented and full of flavour. The bacon was streaky, thicker than usual, top-quality, smoked and nicely crisp.
The poached egg looked like an old fashioned cartoon ghost with a round head and trailing white skirts, dusted with salt and pepper and with a gloopy, runny yolk. The corned beef hash fritters, rolled in oats, were crisp on the outside with corned beef and potato inside. Top notch and perfect for a weekend breakfast but not on the breakfast menu.
My daughter had pressed ham hock terrine with homemade piccalilli, parsley dressing and foccacia, again excellent.
The terrine was packed with tender, salty pork and the piccallili was an absolute treat, sharp and rich, with pickled veg with a bit of crunch. They should be selling it in jars.
The wind was still howling outside as we pulled a couple of Christmas crackers and giggled at the terrible jokes, at least I did. For our mains I went fowl and Hannah went meat.
Confit duck leg is great when it’s done right and a huge disappointment when it isn’t.
This one was spot on.
Served French style with braised red cabbage, spiced apple and raisin jus, I went for roast potatoes and a glass of one of the eight house reds, in this case a decent cabernet sauvignon.
The duck was gloriously tender and, the slow-cooked caramalised skin and fat crisp and delicious. The cabbage and spiced apple was sensational, a great combination of textures and flavours with a piquancy in the jus to complement the deep flavours of the meat.
The roast potatoes weren’t quite up to that standard, a little dry and lacking the fatty, crumbly crunch of the best roast spuds. Our other main course Pig In’t Garden consisted of pulled pork, homemade bbq sauce, croutons, almonds and garden salad.
It came with lots and lots of fragrantly herby pulled pork, plenty of salad leaves and home-made croutons exactly as it said it would, but the dish lacked a bit of oomph.
The Mille-feuille – layers of puff pastry with homemade mincemeat and clotted cream in a seasonal version – though I had no idea how to pronounce it, ‘O’ level French only goes so far.
We also chose the white chocolate terine with raspberry and mint compote and chantilly cream which was lovely to look at and delicious, rich and sweet and with an unusual, gelatinous texture.
The Mille-feuille (how would you say it?) was a little uninspiring. The pastry was light and flaky but the homemade mincemeat, though very good, would have been better warm for me.
The clotted cream, though providing a subtle undertone to the sweetness of the mince meat, needed lots more of it to make its presence properly noticed.
I had a pleasant Americano in a cute little cup and we considered the evening a great success after a sticky start. The AA got it right again. The four were still holding convivial court at the bar with full pints when we left to step out into the blasted weather-bombed night.
Wise men indeed.