It is a coffee shop by day transformed into a bistro come Saturday night. But, asks Colin Drury, is the food at this unusual Sheffield venture any good?
Can we break with tradition and start at the end?
The desserts at Bishops’ Coffee House and Bistro, in Norton Lees, are utterly magnificent.
The lemon and lime cheesecake is a work of mascarpone art; a whispy butterfly kiss of a sweet, mousse-like on top of a tumbling crumbling biscuit base. It’s so good that saying you eat it feels inadequate. You experience it.
And the tiramisu - oh boy. Here are hints of chocolate and coffee and cream and cookie, and then weighing in, like a heavyweight boxer, is an almighty right hook of amaretto. Forget a cheeky slug, this is like someone’s spilled in the bottle. And it’s fabulous, sugary and satisfying and with the sort of after burn that says, oh yes, you’ve been well looked after tonight.
That the place is called Bishops (after Bishops’ House in nearby Meersbrook Park) is appropriate - because chef Ian Bramall is conducting a heavenly service.
It is the climax to a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Bishops’ Coffee House and Bistro is an interesting venture. It was opened in an unassuming former take-away in an unassuming parade of shops in Lees Hall Avenue four years ago. Owner Shaun Yard - a Sheffield lad who previously managed the Dam House in Crookes - wanted to do good food in a relaxed setting; cafe by day, refined restaurant by night.
And it works. So well, in fact, he’s just opened a second place. Bishops Cafe Caribbean Street Food in Rustlings Road, Endcliffe, focuses on food from the land of sun, but the signs are that it’s already set to be a success.
So tonight we’re at the original for the Saturday bistro evening - three courses for £20 and no corkage on bring-your-own wine - to make sure, amid the expansion, eyes haven’t been taken off balls. They haven’t.
The atmosphere itself is lovely. By day this may be a place to grab a sarnie but come Saturday evening, the lights are dimmed, the blinds slanted, and the tables polished and decorated with candle. It feels transformed.
The starters are a treat. Onion and lentil soup is a dark broth so thick you could almost stand your spoon up in it; while melon wrapped in palma ham is a fruity affair brought to life by a zingy pesto dressing.
It’s warm outside but I can’t resist the roast chicken served with garlic roast potatoes, green beans and red wine jus. It’s as expertly cooked as everything else - yet it lacks kick. It’s vaguely dull. If this was a person, you’d like them - but you’d probably not stay out for a second pint. The pan fried duck - served with chilli potato cake and garlic pok choi - is similarly pleasant but uninspiring. The meat is a shade dry, though that potato is laced with enough spice to make it feel like it’s biting back. Which is a good thing.
And so to those desserts. Did I mention they’re good?