Henry’s Bar. What images does that name conjure up to the average – or above average - Sheffielder of a certain age?
A place that back in the 1980s was a cut above the rest – or thought it was.
A place where the city’s smart set and the wannabees would hang out before heading for Josephine’s.
To some a haven of cool, to others a place for posers. Each to his or her own
That’s what it used to mean but what is it now?
Henry’s is in a key place in the cosy jumble of old Sheffield streets and alleys behind John Lewis.
Once the home of Pollard’s and the Wapentake, a smart clothes shop or two, cafes and eateries, it was a quirky and distinctive area of the city for many years.
But not now.
Pollards has long gone, and with it the glory and gourmet frisson of its coffee roasting pans that - if the breeze was blowing the right way – you could smell from the City Hall.
Now the area is dominated by boarded up premises and charity shops and is crying out for some help. Help planned to arrive early in 2016 when work is due to begin in earnest on Sheffield’s new ‘Retail Quarter’
It will mean the end of Henry’s but in the mean time it and the others battle on. When we went the Christmas party season was in full flow. But this is not the Henry’s crowd of old.
The last time we reviewed Henry’s five years ago Martin Dawes talked about the beers and the burgers.
This time I tried a couple of halves of Elsi, made at Welbeck Abbey near Worksop and a Clarke’s IPA from Barnsley. Both excellent.
Food wise I chose fish goujons to start and my wife tried the chicken wings.
The goujons are made with cod and the fish was fresh and light but the batter - made with beer in Henry’s kitchen - lacked a bit of crunch for me.
The chicken wings were nicely spiced with crisp skin. Decent pub grub both.
Tales of Christmas past are exchanged by three gentlemen near us with much back-slapping and gap-toothed guffaws.
More merry than wise it has to be said.
For our main courses we had Toad-in-the-hole and a vegetarian Bengali burger with goats cheese and mango chutney.
The Yorkshire puddings are bought-in and light enough, the sausages are from Crawshaws and very good. The gravy according to Adam Simmonite is made from beef juices and beer and is thick and meaty.
It comes with seriously al dente broccoli and thick slices of carrot.
Karen enjoyed the burger made mostly from beans and with a good, thick slice of melted goat’s cheese, salad and a sweet chutney.
Pleasant but not inspired.
The burger came with crunchy, salty fries which were very good but I chose the ‘chunky chips’ which were indeed chunky. Blocks of square-cut potato, fried dark brown and for all their bulk, pretty tasty.
For dessert I had the New York style cheesecake - made on the premises – which was good and creamy with a hint of lemon and vanilla.
Karen had the caramel-topped apple pie which Henry’s buy in from Turner’s bakery and offers the complementary flavours of apple and caramel but needed something extra. It came with vanilla ice cream that was a little icy in the centre but was speckled with real vanilla and had good flavour.
Outside the rain falls on boarded-up shops as the Christmas crowd warms to their evening’s mission.
This area isn’t the place it once was and Henry’s reflects that to some extent.
“We just don’t know what’s going on,” said Adam Simmonite, who owns Henry’s with his brother Adam.
“We ask the council if any progress has been made but they just tell us to look at the website which hasn’t been updated in months as far as I can see.
“We hear all sorts of rumours that plans have been rejected. The council don’t tell us anything. It’s becoming so desolate round here.
“This is what it was like when we moved in here six years ago. Boarded up shops, no street lights – people don’t like coming down here.
“It improved but has gone backwards again.
“Pollards went, the Casbah has gone, the chip shop has closed, the barber and tattoo parlour lasted six months.
“It’s in limbo.
“We have Henry’s and the Brewhouse next door with our Ardvaark brewery in the back.”
So how has all this affected business?
“Takings were down over the last year and they were down from the year before that so it’s not great. We’re still able to pay the bills so it could be worse but the uncertainty of what the future holds is getting to everybody.
“If this place is knocked down as part of the development, as it looks like it will be, we won’t be starting again. We’ll just move the brewery and stick to that.”
A spokesperson for Sheffield City Council said preliminary demolition work has begun on the Grosvenor hotel as the retail quarter development begins.
“The council is trying to keep people up to date and we have announced the three potential developers. Someone will contact Mr Simmonite after Christmas to put him in the picture.”
For three courses each and two halves of beer our bill came to £44.35.
Star rating out of five:
* Henry’s Bar, 38-40 Cambridge Street, Sheffield, S1 4HP
* Tel: 0114 273 8742
* This week’s hours: Wednesday to next Monday, 11am to midnight every day.