Names can be chancy things when it comes to restaurants. Once I was having a dog’s dinner in a place with a faintly canine ring and, for want of anything better to say, inquired as to the name.
The owner told me she had called it after her dead pet Alsatian. I can tell you this now since the restaurant has long expired.
A few years ago Sheffield’s first ever Polish restaurant, Polonium, opened on Abbeydale Road. Things were pretty uneventful until the Russians bumped off the unfortunate former spy Alexander Litvinenko with the radioactive poison Polonium 210.
I was in charge of The Star’s Diary back then and, in the way journalists do, rang up owner Boguslaw Sidorowicz to inquire whether his food was radioactive.
He had a ready quote, I got a tale to tell, Fleet Street pinched the story and it went all the way around the world, certainly to Russia, from where a TV news station sent a camera crew over to interview him. Trade shot up overnight, leaving Boguslaw, who had taken the name from a Polish band he’d played in during the Seventies, to reflect on the vagaries of publicity.
A new restaurant called Mniam Mniam opened recently on Abbeydale Road and I wondered what sort of food it sold. It sounded oriental, possibly Thai or Vietnamese, but it’s the wrong continent. Like Polonium, Mniam Mniam is Polish. So good they named it twice? It means Yummy Yummy.
It was opened just before Christmas by two Polish ladies, Sylwia Mista, who cooked for us, and Karolina Nettu, who served.
With so many of their fellow countrymen and women in Sheffield I wondered if they got more Polish customers than English. Karolina smiled and shook her head. “More English, Poles like to save their money.”
It seemed that everyone but us was saving their money that night as we were the only ones in. Mniam Mniam, previously a Persian eaterie, is a big, bright room with well-spaced tables, dominated by a giant photo of a Polish city’s medieval square. Karolina (the ‘i’ is pronounced ‘ee’) told me where it was but I can’t spell it.
Now the menu is rather odd in that you can have any starter you want as long as it’s soup. There are 10 and in case that’s not enough choice check out another two on the specials board.
I was happy enough, I was having the sour rye soup served inside a home- baked loaf of bread, but my wife was not in the mood for soup. She noticed the serving of four potato pancakes on one of several low-priced set menus and bargained for half of them as a starter.
Served with sour cream, they were surprisingly light and crisp. They cost £2.50.
Soups are pretty big in Poland: there’s even a website devoted to them and sour rye is top of the pops. The sourness, which is rather delicate, comes from fermented rye flour and this was a pleasingly thin, salty, herby broth filled with sliced smoked sausage and topped with a boiled egg. I liked it but it did cost a hefty £5.60.
The wind must blow cold in central Europe because their food is designed to keep the chill out. Mniam Mniam offers pork chop in breadcrumbs and also tomato sauce, beef roulade, grilled sausage, stuffed cabbage, meatballs with egg or with tomato sauce and cabbage stew.
I wanted to try golasz (£9.30), their version of Hungarian goulash, beef stew with paprika. When they used to sell it at the old Menzel’s wine bar it had as much fire power as a Russian GRU soldier undercover in the Ukraine but this was milder, just as gentle as the Czech version I had at the Old Queen’s Head in the city centre. It came with dumplings, the Mittel Europa version of gnocchi, and beetroot purée on a leaf of Iceberg lettuce.
My wife had golabki, the stuffed cabbage leaves(£9.90), which means little pigeons in Polish but the filling isn’t: it is ground pork. It struck us as comfort food like shepherd’s pie. This was served with rice and salad.
For sweets you can have pancakes or cake so at least there’s a choice. T,he cherry jam and cream pancakes (£4.60) were thicker than crêpes and a little too substantial to finish while the cheesecake (£2.80) would have slowed us down had we managed to eat all of it.
Mniam Mniam is yummy rather than yummy yummy, plain food served up decently at a reasonable price. It’s BYO but they don’t charge corkage. It would help if the menu lost its soup fixation and a little more attention is given to explaining the niceties of Polish food, although the herring salad at the beginning of our meal went down well.
We paid £38.50 for food and coffee.