My wife looks at her plate as if she’s experiencing a WeightWatchers-induced hallucination: she’s ordered goat’s cheese salad but has just got the garnish.
Alongside the dessertspoon-sized whirl of creamy cheese is a halved radish, three tiny spears of asparagus and a fourth cut into thirds, thin slices of yellow beetroot, something pickled and crunchy, hazelnut, three or four leaves of micro salad and blobs of herby sauce.
There would be riots on Watership Down if they got this for tea.
This has cost £6 but she’s already looking on the bright side. “At least I won’t have to worry about ordering pudding.”
I am faring better with my potato and spring onion soup (£6). It arrives in stages. The garnish comes first, a little battered tassel of spring onion, cubes of sautéed potato ‘croutons’ and two slices of dauphinoise potato.
The waitress returns to pour a jug of delicately-flavoured potato broth speckled with diced spring onion around it. It’s a clever way with flavours but a faff to eat a whole spring onion with a spoon.
Feeling hard done by in the salad department, my wife is delighted she is not alone. The next table has ordered ‘Scotch egg’ to find it is only half of one.
They complained about the same dish last week, were told it would be changed and, reassured, came back for more, so to speak.
Only they didn’t get it.
We are at the new Back of House on Ecclesall Road, where Kitchen was, restaurant slang for the preparation and staff area although I have rarely heard it. The space has been rearranged to look whiter and wider with motley mirrors and pictures.
To be honest Back of House had already got my back up with its website motto, “Food’s Got Proper,” American spellings and lettering on the top of the menu card which coyly announces “This menu was born on 31/5/2013.” I fear we are in the Land of Twee.
The owners Tom Robjohns and his partner Jaye Taylor have hired local lad Richard Bucklow as head chef. Last seen locally at both Walnut Clubs, he has cooked in London for starry chefs Mark Hix and Tom Aikens (who once got the sack for branding a Sheffield chef with a red hot kitchen knife) and has developed London kitchen manners.
We like a bit of value for money up north.
The bread, a lovely white mini loaf, with a tiny jar of sweet pickled onion strips and shallot and bacon butter, costs £3. Places which charge £30 a head for food normally give this free.
And places with these prices do not normally have music so strident you have to repeat your order.
You couldn’t complain about the mains, well, not much. My pork belly (£14), two fish finger sized pieces, is pig heaven under skin as crisp as slate. It comes with shreds of slightly hard glazed ham hock (try serving the meat from nearer the bone, Richard), sugar snap peas and cubes of rhubarb which do nothing but loll about looking fashionable.
But no spuds. It is a cardinal rule in restaurants that a main should include a starch: potato, rice, pasta or polenta. Some dishes on the menu have it, some don’t.
I have to pay another £3.50 for excellent buttery mashed potato, lovely but a minuscule amount. My wife has the roast chicken breast (£16), full of flavour. It comes with confit of chicken thigh, tasty, but this never works as satisfactorily as duck because the skin doesn’t crisp as well.
There is also mash, braised lettuce and tender broad beans with a chive butter sauce.
We also order a fine side dish of cauliflower cheese (£3.50). We don’t like the idea of rushing our meal so ask for 10 minutes before ordering dessert although our waitress seems keen to take the order. I pass the time working out the mark-up on that salad and reflecting that no matter how much skill goes into preparing food restaurants will only succeed if they are perceived to give value for money.
Oh dear, I’ve caught her eye and she moves in for the kill. I surrender!
Desserts are disappointing. Duck egg custard tart (£7) has good pastry but the filling is a little too sturdy and light on nutmeg while a milk chocolate panna cotta (£6) is less Italian and more blancmange.
Later I ask Richard if he’s had complaints on the salad. He says no and had tried to give it a summery touch. On main course starch he counters people wouldn’t order side dishes if they got it all on the plate.
We paid £65 for food and £9.30 for drinks. Coffee and chocolates were free as “compensation”.
Three stars all round but four for food because Richard does hit the high notes.
Back of House, 762 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield S11 8TB. Tel: 0114 327 0200. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-late, Sun roasts 12-4.30pn. Licensed. Vegetarian dishes. Credit cards. Loud music. Street parking. Web: www.bohsheffield.co.uk