Exceptional food in a stylish and warm setting at this Sheffield city centre cafe
The new venture on Cambridge Street makes a second home for the independent business underneath the HSBC offices in Grosvenor House, as part of the council-led £470 million Heart of the City II regeneration scheme.
Owners of this much-loved local brand are married couple Clare and Tim Nye who started the original on Norfolk Street eight years ago when Tim retired from the police.
The characterful logo represents this partnership, Tim said: “Clare’s favourite animal is a polar bear so she’s the bear and I’m the bike taking her to where she wants to go.”
Three of their four children are also in the family business.
Walking into Marms’ – as it is affectionately known to many – is like coming home to relax in your living room. It has that same warm feeling of comfort and homeliness but with more beauty and style than most living rooms could ever hope to have.
Everything, and I really can’t stress this enough, from the huge neon logo backdropped by cascading theatre curtains to the wall decorated with pictures – each with its own personal meaning – was chosen with an exceptional attention to detail, which Tim said is down to Clare. He added: “It drives me mad but when you see what she’s created you can understand why she does it.”
Just as much passion and care is put into what they make, like the speciality coffee that comes in flavours including cherry cola and bubble-gum; strawberry, plum and milk chocolate and orange sherbet, caramel and berries.
The offering is different to the original Marms as they cannot have a full kitchen due to a lack of extraction but the high quality is just the same.
Matt Duggan-Jones, head chef, previously said: “We’re going to do a lot more take-outs. The kitchen is smaller than the one we have at the moment, but I think that constraint is going to push us to do more interesting plated stuff. I’ve got a few good ideas.”
Eggs in particular are big on the menu, including Tim’s personal favourite eggs and soldiers. He said: “We try to do simple things well: ethically sourced, good ingredients, good chefs and you don’t have to be too fancy. The customers seem to be happy and we’re happy and if people want a full English breakfast, it’s only 300 yards away.”
They are also looking to expand their vegan and vegetarian offering and have exciting plans for a new bakery on Ecclesall Road where they will make their own fresh bread, which is due to open by May.
It’s no surprise that Marmadukes has captured so many of Sheffielders’ hearts over the years and it is not just locals who love it, Tim tells me they keep a list of stars spotted in the original cafe including Stacey Dooley and Sir Ian McKellen and that certain snooker players like Steve Davis visit so often they have favourite seats.
The new spot has only been open for a few weeks but it is already filled with happy customers.
We visited one rainy Friday for the first of what I’m sure will be many visits.
Out of a delicious menu we went for the banana bread with Jade Tips green tea and eggs benedict with hot chocolate.
We took seats on the top floor and were given a beaker-slash-table marker filled with drinking water – another great touch.
As we waited for our brunch, I saw, to my delight, a fluffy dog sitting on the floor next to their owner as a waiter gave them a bowl of water and some treats. Tim and Clare are dog owners themselves and insisted Marmadukes be a Fido-friendly place.
Tim said: “If people object to having dogs in here then I’d rather have the dog than them.”
The vibe at Marms is very friendly, welcoming and relaxed. The friendliness in particular is something Tim is very keen on: “It’s really nice to go a place where people will talk to you and engage with you. Just chatting to people is a really important part of why people come.
“That coming together of people in cafes goes back to the 16th century, it’s an important part of the human experience. I just worry sometimes that people don’t do it properly, they think you can just throw a few chairs in and some crappy coffee but people know. That’s why you need people like my wife.”
It wasn’t long before our drinks arrived followed by our food – presented beautifully and with purple petals which gave an extra special touch.
The banana bread had a crunchie outer surface and soft, toffee-flavoured middle and with it came with a generous sprinkling of fresh banana rounds.
The eggs benedict looked just as gorgeous and got a big thumbs up too.
My Jade Tips loose leaf green tea was divine and refreshing, the waiter also encouraged me to ask for the pot to be refilled with hot water if I wanted.
The hot chocolate was ‘proper’ – made from real chocolate rather than powder and came with optional marshmallows and cream.
Before leaving I bought a peanut butter and jelly brownie for the road that I’d been eyeing up since we walked in, and it was without a doubt the best brownie I’d ever eaten.
Overall, the bill came to a reasonable £25.70 for two brunches and two hot drinks.