Food Review: Popolo’s - Leopold Square

Sweet potato and chick pea burger
Sweet potato and chick pea burger
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Sometimes it’s not the food that you remember from a meal out.

Sometimes it’s the service, the lucky choice of wine or the atmosphere of the place.

And sometimes it’s the music.

No-one chooses a restaurant for its choice of piped tunes (do they?) but it can be a main feature of a night out – for good or otherwise.

So it was at Popolo’s in Leopold Square last week – we’ll get to the food later.

I reckon the last time I heard The King Will Come by Wishbone Ash was at the Wapentake in 1974.

That long-lost Sheffield venue closed years ago and eventually became the Casbah, but that’s another story.

The shock of hearing the King Will Come in Popolo’s took me back to the beards, brown ale and brushed denim of mid-’70s Sheffield.

Unfortunately so did the starter we chose.

‘Fried, gooey and without any discernible taste’ could be an epitaph for many things from that decade.

And so it was with our fried ‘mac and cheese’ balls.

OK it was a novelty choice and you might ask: ‘What did you expect from a fried macaroni and cheese ball?’

My answer would be: ‘A hint of cheese?’

But there was very little taste, although it had good crunch and serious gooiness.

Unlike The King Will Come. If you have any time for Tolkeinesque apocalyptic lyrics, prog rock indulgence and some fantastic guitaring Wishbone Ash’s 1972 rock classic is worth a go.

Not so the mac and cheese balls, in my opinion.

Though it has to be said that the barbecue sauce with them was excellent.

Popolo’s make their own and with what we thought were broad hints of cumin, star anise and cardamom it was a welcome change from the usual blandness of the sweet and increasingly ubiquitous ‘BBQ’ sauce.

But Popolo’s IS the kind of place you would expect to find good barbecue sauce.

With it’s rock-legends music, it’s full-sized oil drum lampshades, guitar exhibits, generously sized booths and Italian/rock ’n roll fusion thing going on you would expect it.

Dr Feelgood, Alright Now, Don’t Fear The Reaper, Whole Lotta Love, and Purple Haze help the night along but echo a bit unloved around a largely empty room.

The only other person we could see in the place – to be fair it was early on a Tuesday evening – was a Willie Loman-esque diner sitting in a shadowy corner, his bespectacled concentration illuminated only by the glow of his iPad.

On to the main course.

I chose a burger, it seemed the right thing to do, with pulled pork and Emmental cheese.

At Popolo’s you build your burger in a three-stage process, choosing your additional ingredients as you progress. My wife chose a vegetarian burger made from sweet potato and chickpeas. It’s a small detail but the brioche burger buns were a bit burnt though the pulled pork was nicely flavoured with melt-in-the-mouth tenderness.

The beef was fine, hearty and well seasoned though a little over-done for me – no choice is offered on how it’s cooked.

The veggie burger was a bit bland and though it could have done with a kick to help it along it did have a nice warming spice to it.

The veggie came with sour cream and after a thorough search we did find traces on one piece of bread.

On the positive side the fries were excellent, skins on and crispy, they were the star of the show. The coleslaw was also very good, rustic and crunchy with a good sauce.

The potato salad was different, the potato a little overcooked and in what tasted like a version of the BBQ sauce.

One of the best things we ate was a Waldorf salad – of Basil Fawlty fame – but on this occasion not ordered.

It came instead of the potato salad and when we pointed this out it was quickly and politely taken away by our excellent waiter – but not before we had both taken a decent spoonful each.

We should have kept it.

For desserts we chose two from the menu of three – the one we didn’t go for was an ice cream sundae.

We had the Oreo cheesecake with it’s dark cookie base which looked a delight but was in fact almost as bland as the fried mac and cheese balls.

Though the raspberry coulis was sharp and fruity we weren’t sure it belonged with the Oreo cheesecake.

Our other dessert was a S’more brownie – S’mores are what American girl and boy scouts cook over a campfire with a toasted marshmellow between two chocolate cookies. (They taste so good you’ll want s’more)

The biscuit base was very crunchy the chocolate section very pleasant and the salted caramel sauce was delicious, another hit on an occasionally lacklustre night.

Apart from the music.

For a life-affirming blast of Wishbone Ash click here

You know you want to.

With one very palatable Blue Moon beer, a decent glass of merlot and an Americano the bill came to £45.45.

Category: Burger Chain

Popolo’s Leopold Square

Leopold Street, Sheffield, S1 2JJ


0114 2758405

Ratings (out of five)

Food: 2

Atmosphere: 2

Service: 3

Value: 4