Warm sun, cool breeze, blue September skies, it felt like the last day of summer.
Probably the last chance of the year to eat lunch outside without the aid of one of those gas-fired planet-warmer things.
So where better in Sheffield for that al fresco frisson than the outdoor tables overlooking the Peace Gardens?
We set off for Browns on St Paul’s Parade.
It was busy inside and after a few minutes of being expertly avoided by any staff members’ gaze we discovered they weren’t doing meals outside today, only bar snacks.
We tried the Leopold Hotel and their Leopold Square outdoor seating: similar response.
We went to the Wig and Pen on Campo Lane so we could sit in Paradise Square to eat: closed on Sundays.
So back to plan Plan A.
Before the sun had teased us with its capricious attractions, we were thinking of trying Grind Café on Green Lane, Kelham Island.
Grind has outdoor seating but even its most fervent admirers would admit that the views don’t match the civic splendour of the Peace Gardens and Millennium Square - though the Fat Cat and Kelham Island Tavern are always a sight for sore eyes.
Driven by hunger and passing time we reverted to our original destination.
The Grind Café opened five years ago promising ‘fab food using the freshest of ingredients and fab coffee using beans roasted locally’.
Since my predecessor Mr Dawes made mention four years ago I have hankered after one of Grind’s magnificent sausage rolls. So we got one of those and a stuffed Persian aubergine - by way of contrast - for starters.
The café is a modern, glass-fronted place in an up-and-coming part of town – though the owners might have hoped it would come-up a bit quicker than it has.
Grind has a quirky modern feel with an eclectic collection of tables and chairs, a dazzling salad cabinet and beautifully presented cakes on the counter. Top marks for first impressions.
We ordered and sat outside with a bottle of Easy Rider pale ale - made about 100 yards away - and a nicely presented cappuccino.
Their sausage roll is a thing of great beauty. Huge, packed with well-seasoned and sage-hinted sausage meat, with a superb pastry crust, it’s worth the walk all on its own.
The stuffed aubergine looked great, packed with colour and verve but slightly disappointing.
The sweetness of the pomegranate seeds gave it an extra dimension and the Greek yogurt, sumac (a tangy, lemony spice often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking), thyme and garlic filling added sharpness but aubergine flesh on its own is a little bland.
I ordered the belly pork and Joe - on his way back to university in Salford - had the smoked haddock bubble and squeak for his summer swansong. Two old-fashioned comfort food dishes and both looked the part served on wooden boards with dressed salad leaves.
But, and this is a big but, the belly pork had no crackling. Crackling wasn’t advertised, to be fair, but it was in mind when I ordered, though the sight of cooked pieces of pork in the chilled counter ready to be re-heated should have told me something. The meat itself was nicely done, soft and tasty though perhaps a little on the dry side.
The haddock bubble and squeak was creamy, smokey and had plenty of fish among the potato and vegetables – very good.
To go with these main course items we went for a selection of the dazzling salads - six in all.
The plate was a riot of flavour and freshness.
Chickpeas, red cabbage slaw, artichoke hearts, peanuts, spinach, whole baby carrots in cream cheese, roast hazelnuts, goats cheese and assorted salad leaves.
Cracking stuff. So good that I didn’t realise until we left that we hadn’t asked for chips or potatoes.
The mountain of lovely-looking cakes on the counter was irresistible. I had a cheeky half-slice each of the blueberry and maple syrup sponge and the strawberry and black pepper cake – through sheer curiosity.
Both sponges were light and moist and beautifully flavoured. The black pepper works well with strawberries. We’d heard it did but hadn’t tried it until now. Blueberries peppered the other sponge that also had the distinctively aromatic sweetness of maple syrup. Excellent, and all washed down with a couple of decent Americanos.
But what about those sausage rolls?
“Since your predecessor came four years ago we have changed the recipe and doubled the size of them,” said manager Hayley Glover, formerly head chef at Richard Smith’s Thyme Cafe.
“They are extremely popular and the one thing that stays on the menu no matter what. Chefs Scott Drury and Owen Manns make them and our cakes and pretty much everything else – though we do buy in pastries from Deli Italia.
“The rest of the stuff is made fresh every day, sold that day and we start again next morning.”
The food cycle, like the seasons, waits for no man - or student. Cheer up though, the forecast is for 70F degrees on Thursday and Friday. There might be one more meal outside yet...
Our bill for three courses with a beer and coffees was £35.90.
Star ratings out of five:
* The Grind Cafe, 3 Green Lane, Sheffield, S6 3AF, UK
* Opening hours: Mon to Fri: 8.30am to 5.30pm; Saturdays 8.30am to 5pm; Sundays 9am to 5pm