Food & Fine Wine, 760 Ecclesall Road.

"CHEESE", says Adrian Walsh to his partner Mark Sutton, who is busy talking to a customer.

Monday, 15th October 2007, 2:43 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th October 2007, 11:48 am

“Yes. Comes from animals with four legs, called cows,” says Mark, deadpan.

I’m only half listening because I’m intently studying the menu while my wife is ordering cheese.

The next thing I know is that a big knife is pointed at my throat - well, almost - and I’m invited to lift off a chunk of creamy Vacheron.

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The two of them bicker at each other in a non-stop floor show.

“One customer recommended us but the bloke left saying he didn’t like it. We don’t want wimps!” says Mark.

Meanwhile at the back of a shop in a cramped kitchen chef John Parsons, the sharp end of Feed The People, is nursing one hell of a hangover from a party the night before.

Just another lunchtime, really, at Food & Fine Wine.

It’s just celebrated its fourth birthday and to those who know the blue-fronted shop on Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, this is a much treasured lunchtime secret.

It started life as a delicatessen with a serious interest in wines and there was much sharpening of knives over the Parma and other hams on display.

Trouble was, people (silly them) prefer to deli shop in supermarkets, so the deli side has receded, although you can get superb olives, well-chosen cheeses, coffee, biscuits and other goodies.

FFW is still serious about wine - you can pay four figures or more for a bottle, although they have a decent selection for around a tenner - and it runs a busy programme of tasting and gourmet dinners.

But we’re here for lunch. I’m not sure how to describe the place: a posh cafe, a deli with airs or Sheffield’s smallest wine bar?

There’s a choice of just three tables but the biggest, a tall wooden communal one seating about ten at a squash, affords a lot of ad hoc camaraderie.

Our forays here usually start with finding a seat and ordering a couple of glasses of wine, whatever’s on offer. Today it’s a pair of Kiwis although FFW majors in French and Italian.

My wife is so impressed with the Mud House Sauvignon Blanc she takes a bottle home.

FFW has always done good lunches although there was a brief period between chefs when customers had to have sandwiches.

The new chef is John Parsons, last seen locally cooking fish and offal at the Terrace in Hathersage before trying his luck in Manchester.

Now he’s back and operating the kitchen as his own catering company (outside jobs accepted) under the Feed The People banner.

It’s not a bad menu. There’s a soup, burger and Moroccan spiced lamb with flatbread, a salmon fishcake topped with a poached egg, vegetable risotto, spag bol, roast chicken with sweet potato mash and deep fried goats cheese with a beetroot relish, all coming in comfortably from between 5 and 8.

We share the soup (3.50) in a bowl big enough to paddle in with two spoons and a warm roll. The soup is tomato, roasted I'd guess, with twangs of thyme and rosemary.

My wife's smoked salmon, trout and leek tart (5) is elegant, light and tasty.

As the crispy belly pork is not ready (it was gorgeous the following week) I have the lamb shank with roasted root vegetables and a split pea broth, giving the dish a rustic, smoky flavour although the meat needed to be a little more tender. It's 8.

For dessert I fancy the trifle but Adrian is willing me to be more adventurous.

He flings open a chiller cabinet to reveal a giant Victoria sponge , which is moist and light.

A chocolate brownie proves to be wicked, sinful and probably the next best thing to sex - and cheaper. Both are 3.

Mark takes charge of the coffees.

As always, he gets a nice thick crema on top of the Americano as well as the espresso and delivers a tirade against lesser establishments for not getting it right.

Another splendid Saturday lunch.

But don't tell anyone. We want to keep it secret, don't we?

Food & Fine Wine, 760 Ecclesall Road, Hunters Bar, Sheffield.

0114 266 8747.

=Open for lunch 12-2pm Tues-Sat. Credit cards. Wine tastings and gourmet evenings. Street parking.

My ratings (out of five):

Food 4

Atmosphere 4

Service 4

Value 4

Cafe category but very posh with it.