It’s been tough but TV chef’s blast means Silversmiths and Justin survive and thrive.
When Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay swears on the telly it’s not something people generally remember.
But when he uses the f-word 140 times they’re unlikely to ever forget.
So it is with Justin Rowntree.
Justin was given the full f-word treatment by Michelin-starred chef Ramsay on his Kitchen Nightmares show in 2009 when he ran the Runaway Girl restaurant on Arundel Street in the city centre.
In an episode of 310 expletives, Justin and then chef Richie Russell felt the full tyranny of Ramsay’s take-it-or-leave-it tantrums.
But it worked.
Menus were shortened, service improved, characteristic dishes were made with local, seasonal ingredients, fresh every day.
Business for the newly-named Silversmiths boomed in the short-term glow of chef Ramsay’s ‘charm’. In the medium term it survived the recession, and long term Silversmith’s is an established force on the Sheffield restaurant scene.
Justin learned lessons he will never forget. “At least two or three times a week someone will ask me: ‘What’s Gordon Ramsay really like?’, and: ‘Has he made a difference to the restaurant?’ says 44-year-old Sheffielder Justin, who lives above Silversmiths.
“Without that Kitchen Nightmares blueprint we would not have survived. The country was going into recession and without that huge directional change we would have been finished.”
One man who remembers that tumultuous TV show is Martin Dawes, former Star diarist and celebrated food writer.
“I heard that Ramsay was doing the show in Sheffield and I stood outside in the cold for two hours to get a quote from him,” said Martin, who’s back at Silversmiths tonight to try the food and share a few memories.
“He wasn’t talking much but I got the story confirmed and I managed to get a picture of him as he had a fag outside.”
Tonight the going is easier and warmer - it’s Tuesday, steak and pie night.
We enter the restaurant to be warmly greeted by Justin Rowntree who recognises Mr Dawes immediately.
It’s 6.45pm and already the place is jumping with Christmas party groups. We share a Barnsley Gold beer, discuss menu tactics and agree Martin will have the devilled lambs liver, spiced cream and Henderson’s onion marmalade and I’ll have the homemade Yorkshire puddings with Henderson’s Relish onion gravy.
They like their Hendo’s here and I like their Yorkshires. Light and crisp on top with substance and meaty flavour below. The gravy is a delight and there’s plenty of it. I mention its being too good to leave. Mr Dawes passes me a spoon: “No point in wasting it if it’s that good,” says he. Wise words.
He’s pleased with his devilled lambs liver, it’s pink inside, as advertised, and the cream and meat juices work well, but it lacks devilment. Later owner Justin assures me that in his experience Sheffielders tend to like it on the mild side.
For main course Martin has fish pie, I choose Christmas In A Pie which, as Mr Dawes points out, is actually a stew with a shortcrust lid. I have a glass of Merlot and Martin has Verdejo.
It does feel a bit like Boxing Day leftovers but that’s what it said on the tin, so to speak. The pastry top is delicious and crisp, there’s plenty of turkey, rich, hearty gravy, a chipolata or two, some stuffing and Brussels sprouts.
We share some decent honey-roast vegetables and Martin has their excellent homemade mushy peas.
The pie lacks seasoning for Martin’s taste but there’s plenty of fish - smoked haddock, salmon, cod - and a crushed new potato top.
We order dessert and decide to try the recommended sweet wine accompaniment. Martin has the triple chocolate and orange brownie and I choose Oughtibridge apple, pear and plum panna cotta with fruit leather.
Fruit leather? Apparently it’s fruit puree mixed with gelatin and cooked overnight, sliced into ribbons and sprinkled with sugar.
Mr Dawes makes his own for his grandkids but his is more substantial than the Silversmiths variety, though that is fruity, chewy and sweet.
My panna cotta sems a little grainy but the owner said later that it’s the locally- grown pears that give a little more oomph and texture. Very tasty and served with pumpkin tuille, apple crisp, roast pear pieces, meringue and small roundels of cake with piped cream. Beautiful to look at and equally tasty and the apple sweetness of the French Monbazillac white goes well.
Martin approves of the brownie. It’s gooey, rich and smooth, comes with orange cream and more fruit leather. Good stuff.
So has Gordon been back to check progress under current chef Lee Mangles?
“No he hasn’t but I’ve been to see him at the Maze Grill in Chelsea.” said Justin. “There was a twinkle in his eye when he spoke about Silversmiths.
“He has been keeping an eye on us. A couple of his chefs come in once or twice a year and have told us that Gordon recommended Silversmiths.
“I would love him to come back to see what we are doing. I think he would be proud.”
For three courses, drinks and two americanos we paid £73.50.
Star rating out of five:
* Silversmiths, 111 Arundel Street, Sheffield, S1 2NT
* Tel: 0114 270 6160
* Open: Tuesday - Thursday, 5.30pm - 9.30pm. Friday & Saturday, 4.45pm - 9.45pm. Sunday and Monday - Closed