FOOD REVIEW: Jaipur Arms needs more atmosphere - and gravy

Jamie Fulwood serves up food at the Jaipur Arms, Cutlers Hotel, Sheffield.
Jamie Fulwood serves up food at the Jaipur Arms, Cutlers Hotel, Sheffield.
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You’ll know the Cutler’s Hall. But the Cutler’s Hotel?

If you’re scratching your head, it’s on George Street, a pass-through from High Street to the Crucible.

There are some lovely Georgian and Victorian listed buildings here, but you tend to walk through without looking up. The hotel, a Best Western, looks unremarkable but the central location makes it popular with business folk.

Its restaurant has just undergone an image change; it’s now the Jaipur Arms, with Thornbridge beers on tap, a host of “happy hour” offers and a lunch and dinner comfort food menu they hope will entice guests and non-guests alike.

Pictures of Sheffield F.C. and old Sheffield - those of the hole in the road being the stars - line the walls. But there’s no atmosphere, no music. The three single people (hotel guests at a guess) and ourselves dining all end up staring at Sky sport on the telly.

The former manager of one of Sheffield’s finest restaurants is at the helm. But on our Thursday night visit, ex Rafters man Jamie Fulwood is not present and it shows.

For starters, there were the starters, which we had a while to wait for. Soup of the day, £3.95, was, according to the waiter, who had a thick foreign accent, St George’s fish soup. It was actually a delicious, creamy and smoky Cullen Skink, the smoked haddock and potato soup which hails from Scotland. St George had nowt to do with it. It came with a warm bread roll but no butter, incidentally.

The husband expected more of his nachos, £3.95. A big stack of tortilla chips had been topped with melted cheese and jalapeno peppers. The salsa, clearly from a jar, was in a ramekin on the side and there was no soured cream. It must have taken two minutes to compose.

It was a Thirsty Thursday - all pints are £2.50 and buy two large glasses of wine to get the rest of the bottle free. Though the only reason we knew this was because we’d got a flyer; the waiter never mentioned it. Nor did he come back to us when we were one pint and a £4.10 large glass of Merlot in to ask if we wanted more drinks. A marketing opportunity missed.

The mains took a long time in coming, too. Thornbridge pie, peas and chips (£9.95) features Thornbridge’s own pies in a choice of three fillings. The husband had selected steak and Lord Marples ale. The meat was lean and succulent; three was a tang of beer and the pastry was good and crisp; but this was a dry pie. It needed gravy, either under the lid, or in an accompanying little jug. The frozen peas were frozen peas, the stack of hand cooked chips looked the part but were soft and tasted a bit oily.

Beef hotpot £9.20, was nicer than it looked, seeing as it was presented in a shallow soup bowl with a colourful side salad and a scattering of big, fat chips.

Salad and gravy do not go together, but the hotpot was lovely - lean meat slow-cooked, plus turnip and baby carrots in a herb-infused, very tasty sauce.

The table mats say: ‘Good Friends, Good Food, Good Times’ but in reality, the Jaipur Arms can only claim the middle one - and then only at a push.

If you’re a hotel guest, then great; you’ll get a comforting, homely meal. Ditto for a city centre lunch. But despite Jamie’s best efforts, I suspect this will never be an evening destination for diners.

Our bill, including £6.60 for drinks, comes to £33.65. It’s not steep, but we could have gone for an Early Bird at one of the city’s top-notch gastro pubs, with lashings of atmosphere - and gravy - for that.