Food review: The Beer Engine, 17 Cemetery Rd, Sheffield, S11 8FJ

The bar at the Beer Engine
The bar at the Beer Engine
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I had an idea I’d seen it in a Laurel and Hardy film.

Stan and Ollie, poverty-stricken as usual, walk in to a restaurant having just found a wallet in the street, and are about to indulge themselves.

Patatas bravas

Patatas bravas

“We’ll have everything on the menu,” says Ollie in my reverie in that portentously pompous way of his.

All this was going on in my head as I tried to decide what to have from the tapas menu at the Beer Engine pub on Cemetery Road behind the Ecclesall Road Waitrose store and on the fringe of London Road’s multi-ethnic bustle.

Around 20 years ago it was the Beer Engine, then it became Delaney’s Music Bar, which I confess I never went to.

Now, thanks to publican and brewer Tom Harrington, it’s gone back to being the Beer Engine and back to basics.

Stripped wooden floors, minimal decoration, three rooms with fireplaces and books, a beer garden, new old-fashioned bare wood tables and chairs and a very handsome looking bar.

First impressions are good and there are a host of real ales and a display of malt whiskies at the bar.

But Mr Laurel and myself are here to eat, so to speak.

The Beer Engine does Sunday lunches but tapas the rest of the week, small dishes meant to fuel conversation and drinking rather than dominate events.

Frito Misto

Frito Misto

All the idea of Tom Harrington who worked at The Sheaf View in Heeley, the Blake in Walkley and for Thornbridge Brewery for three years as an operations manager, so he knows what it takes.

“I wanted something to complement the beer rather than be a restaurant-style place,” said 37-year-old Tom.

“We have a chef who changes the items on the menu every week or so and people seem to like it.

“We are doing really well so far and, having worked for Thornbridge, I know that you can build business over two or three years.”

Tom is also hoping to open a brewery in one of the buildings next door to the Beer Engine in the near future.

Tapas, from the Spanish word ‘tapa’ meaning a lid or a cover, was originally a piece of bread or chorizo to cover your sherry or wine glass to keep out flies.

No sherry but we had a couple of halves of a very hoppy and refreshing Hop Stuff Session IPA as we perused the menu.

But I knew what we were having.

“We’ll have everything on the menu please,” said I, having waited a lifetime to say those words.

“Now that’s the way to order, good for you,” remarked a barman serving another customer.

It was all I could do to contain an Oliver Hardy-esque flourish as I smugly put the menu on the bar.

If I’d been wearing a bowler hat I would have cocked it rakishly as I walked back to our table.

Back in the real world, ordering everything on the menu isn’t as outrageous as it seems.

It meant 10 small dishes of food between two hungry blokes which arrived in quick succession from the extremely helpful and friendly staff.

We began with roasted broad beans and corn - crunchy, salty and absolutely addictive corn kernels and beans that you get in Spain and France and wish you’d brought a suitcase-full home with you.

Next up it’s Pan Catalan, Spanish tomato toast, a bruschetta-style creation with sweet, herby and salty chopped tomatoes, garlic and onions on crusty toast. Excellent.

Char grilled chorizo comes in sausage-style chunks and is meaty, spicy and warming, if perhaps a little overdone.

The best looking plate on display was the frito misto - ‘mixed fry’ with fennel and orange salad.

The mixed fry in this case is squid, mussels, baby octopus and shrimp, all cooked in a light batter and presented with a salad of oranges and pickled fennel which is a lovely surprise and very tasty.

Our patatas bravas: ‘fierce’ or ‘brave’ potatoes weren’t particularly either.

They were pleasant enough – cubes of potato fried and with a chunky tomato-based sauce but without the kick of heat that you might expect.

The tortilla Espanola is an omelette of potatoes and spring onions and was actually very tasty if perhaps a little over-cooked.

Then probably the two best things on the menu: a bowl of Italian-style meatballs in a rich tomato sauce.

The meatballs are delicious, tasting like a pork and beef blend with herbs and complemented beautifully by the sauce.

Simple, hearty snap.

The carrot and sweet potato fritters came with a blob of sour cream and were delicious.

Crisp on the outside and soft within, sweet and light and lovely.

They don’t do desserts at the Beer Engine so I took the liberty of tasting their Glendronach 15-year-old malt whisky.

Sensational – flavours of Christmas cake, toffee and candied orange peel in a glass.

Who needs dessert?

Our bill for tapas for two, with three pints and a whisky, came to £35.64.

The Beer Engine, 17 Cemetery Rd, Sheffield, S11 8FJ The Beer Engine


Food: 4

Atmosphere: 4

Service: 5

Value: 5