New Sheffield cocktail bar inside food hall hits all the right buttons as a stylish date night destination

Jewel toned, subtly romantic, decor – check. A carefully compiled cocktail list – check. Table theatre and high quality food from across the world? Check and check.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 10:50 am

Oh yes, date night destinations don’t come much finer than this.

Aria, located inside the Kommune food hall at Castle House in the city centre, opened just last month as the city’s latest cocktail and wine lounge bar. It also serves food from vendors at the hall as well as its own kitchen.

It’s a stylish place to walk into. Tucked away at the back of Kommune, where an art space used to be, it feels removed from the hustle and bustle of communal dining next door and has a grown up interior with proper table settings.

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The drinks menu is huge – much bigger than the food equivalent – and some real thought has gone into its compilation. Aria specialises in negronis, a popular Italian cocktail featuring Campari, and its name is said to be a nod to the spirit. Another section of concoctions have been matched to go with certain dishes.

I was tempted by the Naked and Famous drink (when in Rome!) but opted for the French melon margarita, a zingy and refreshing twist on the tequila classic, instead.

We had barely ordered when the manager Paul Robertson arrived bearing a tray of free shots – bear with me though, this was no ‘swallow it and wince’ sambuca.

Tiny glasses of limoncello and Campari were scattered with cinnamon and set on fire at our table in an unexpected piece of table theatre that provided a fun talking point too.

Food arrived fast. From the teeny menu – which Paul said afterwards is kept small for simplicity, but will be changed seasonally – I could have ordered anything, or indeed one of absolutely everything.But it had to be the food from new Vietnamese trader Hanoi 75 that triumphed in the selection process. We shared the vegetarian dumplings, perfectly crimped and filled gyoza straddling just the right tightrope between crispy and soft, as a starter. Chilli, lime, soy and garlic jumped out from the dipping sauce.

My soft bao buns, one sticky chicken, another a very peppered rump steak, were also beauties to behold. More of the sticky sauce – I think it was a spicy mayo – would have been welcome.

The husband’s tastes lie closer to home, so it was a toss up between the lamb belly and sirloin steak sarnie for him. Pizza specialist Proove also have some dishes on the current menu.

The sarnie was a very decent portion, with plenty of burnt onion puree and wholegrain mustard adding some punch to the bread and meat combination. Not a fan of marbling, he’d have liked leaner meat, though.

The service is seamless and our plates were cleared, with a chilling bucket swiftly brought for a beautiful New Zealand white wine that tasted like sweet nectar.

There are only two desserts available currently, so it was easy to choose. My whipped sweet cheese with candied walnut and miso apple, plus burnt white chocolate, was akin to a deconstructed apple pie with an exotic twist. The range of textures made each mouthful interesting afresh.

His sticky toffee pudding was a fine example of the classic, rich and decadent, but the whipped sweet cheese on the side confused a man of traditional tastes, expecting ice cream.

We left relaxed, happy and with room for a nightcap, just as a date night should be.

Our bill came to £86.

Aria, at Kommune in Castle House, Angel Street, Sheffield city centre, is open Thu-Saturday from 4pm. Book via their social media accounts or designmynight.com.