When the firm behind some of Sheffield’s most beloved boozers took over The Waggon & Horses in Millhouses this March, hopes were high.
True North Brew Co, which runs 10 watering holes including Forum in the city centre and The York in Broomhill, was confident it could repeat its successful blueprint for restoring flagging venues.
But the revamp got off to a stuttering start, with complaints about poor service and a disappointing range of beers at the pub on Abbeydale Road South, beside Millhouses Park.
Miles Kehoe, who was brought in to steady the ship, admits mistakes were made but six weeks into his stint as general manager believes things are now on track and is excited about the potential.
“We let a lot of people down when it opened but we’ve listened to what customers have said, we’ve made a lot of changes and we’re determined to make this a hub for the community,” he said.
The menu is being revamped, with a focus on local, award-winning ingredients, the beer list has been extended and the team has tinkered with the music and lighting.
But one of the most basic improvements, says Miles, has been to the way staff greet customers, asking them how their day’s been rather than immediately taking their order, to generate a more welcoming atmosphere.
That friendly vibe was evident when we visited. Running late for our Sunday evening booking due to traffic, we called ahead and staff bent over backwards to accommodate us, letting us phone in our order so the food awaited us on arrival.
The dishes didn’t disappoint either.
Our starter of crispy squid, one of the hardest things to get right, was tender and well-seasoned. The beer-battered fish had a satisfyingly crunchy coating enclosing the perfectly cooked fillet, and the seared tuna nicoise salad was fresh and zingy, though if I’m being picky, the fish could have done with more seasoning.
Miles has been reunited at The Waggon & Horses with head chef Rob Limmer, his former right-hand man at The Broadfield a couple of miles down the road, which has proved one of True North’s biggest success stories.
A friendly rivalry with their old home is spurring them on, and if our meal is anything to go by they could soon be giving it a run for its money.
The bill for a starter, two mains and two soft drinks came to £33.80.