Here are some fun facts: Sheffield Hallam University has 31,500 students on its books, the Millennium Gallery was pulling in nearly 777,000 visitors a year at the last count and the railway station is used by the best part of 10 million passengers annually.
Why do these numbers matter? Because the HowSt café, on Howard Street, has positioned itself to reap the benefits of all three – directly outside Hallam’s main building, on the hill down to the station and just a few strides from the gallery’s front door.
The owner, Stuart Baker, has worked in The Dorchester in London and Rutland’s Michelin-starred Hambleton Hall Hotel. He set up in 2009 as Clearly Food Kitchen, plumping for Howard Street as the location for his independent business – the name later changed to Roast, then to its present guise.
Some may recall the site was once home to the Harlequin Fish Bar – a popular spot, but more sophistication is required today.
HowSt’s speciality is all-day breakfast and brunch. Simplicity and style are the watchwords. Inside it’s a pleasant space; smart green tiles, bare floorboards and a mix of seating arrangements.
The menu is brisk, comprising seven egg dishes; full breakfasts; intriguing ‘melts’; bowls piled with fruit, greens and grains; sandwiches and toasties.
Orders were taken at our table upstairs – a big jug of filtered water was brought almost immediately before two excellent lattes arrived.
A plate of eggs royale was far from a dainty breakfast, presented as two fat, runny poached eggs perched on a veritable wedge of smoked salmon and thick, granary toast doused in a rich, fresh hollandaise.
Meanwhile a ‘full veggie’ had substance and imagination – smashed avocado, raw spinach, smokey homemade beans and two fat mushrooms, with a medley of crisp potatoes and baby plum tomatoes. Everything is cooked to order so waits are at least 15 minutes.
There’s a sense HowSt is missing a trick in the cake department. There were just two sweet items available, chocolate brownies and vanilla iced banana loaf cake, of which we sampled two hefty slices – superb, but surely a mislabelled carrot cake.
Or maybe Baker thinks cakes are not HowSt’s raison d’etre; after all, it seems to be ticking over very well indeed. The bill came to £23.35.
HowSt, 46 Howard St, Sheffield, S1 2LX. Hours: 8am to 4pm Mon-Fri, 10am to 4pm Sat, closed Sun. Closed Saturdays over summer until early September. Phone: 0114 270 0101.
Star ratings out of five: Food, 4; Service, 4; Atmosphere, 4; Value, 4
Three more to try: Vittles, Broomhill; As Thyme Goes By, Crookes; Edisons, York Street, City Centre