THE facia of Richard Smith’s new eaterie Relish on Ecclesall Road is in a familiar orange. Now where have we seen that before?
You need look no further than the kitchen cupboard. It’s the same as the label on a bottle of Henderson’s Relish.
Clearly the name and the livery is an homage to Hendo’s and there are bottles of it on the tables.
But what’s this rival relish on the table with a cartoon label of the boss entitled Smithy’s Secret Recipe exhorting us to “splash it all over”?
I sprinkled the two side by side on my plate, dipped in a finger and did a taste taste. You know what? Hendo’s might have been going for “a 100 years” as it quaintly says on the label but Smithy’s is better. It’s spicier.
Ah spice. Relish has taken the place of Richard’s ill-fated Spice Market Café, which for once, didn’t have the same success as his other ventures.
So he’s gone back to a tried and tested formula of traditional dishes – the one pioneered at Thyme Café at Broomhill, then adopted at Catch and Canteen at Crosspool, the Cricket Inn at Totley and The Inn at Troway.
This is Thyme comes to Eccy Road.
If the dishes look much the same wherever you are so does the restaurant furniture: cutlery and condiments in a bucket on a table, blackboards on the walls, and the same irritating walk around the room to read them all.
Relish has a meat blackboard and others for veggies, fish, nibbles, brunch, early bird and when it’s time for desserts they plonk a mini blackboard on your table. Then there’s the printed menu for Relish classics.
You might argue if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and since the place was almost full on a wet Monday lunchtime, far busier than when it was the Spice Market Café, that speaks for itself.
However, if you are trying to eat something new by way of review it’s not easy.
But first the place. It’s had a big makeover. It looks warmer and brighter than before (and louder on the sound system for the predominantly younger clientele).
Also gone is the TV screen showing the kitchen and head chef Jack Baker’s bald spot.
Despite the breadth of the menu it seems fewer people want to go down the boiled beef and carrots road than the hordes who opt for fish and chips or burgers. I reckon Smithy must be Sheffield’s busiest chippie and burgermeister.
So what’s new? Not much but there is Jack Baker’s novel ‘Scotch egg’ made up of a poached egg wrapped in smoked haddock risotto, deep-fried and served on a bed of creamy leeks still with a bit of crunch.
It’s a twist on the Italian arancini rice balls but no Italian ever combined these particular ingredients and it’s delicate and sophisticated at £6 as a starter, £12 as a main.
My wife raided the veggie blackboard for a tartlet of oven- roasted tomatoes and heftily flavoured goats cheese with tapenade dressing (£6).
Her main course salmon was partly spoiled by an over-lemony grain mustard veloute sauce, just about cooked fish with a vivid green herb topping which looked like it had been precision-engineered. It resembled, she said, “a strip of green lino.”
Perhaps this is what the website means when it promises food “a bit rough round the edges.” Not for £15, surely?
I dodged the bangers and mash and the pie, because this only had a suet pastry top, and went for a variant of a dish eaten at The Inn at Troway, braised brisket on a parsley mash with horseradish dumpling.
The meat was all it should be: plentiful, tasty, tender (tearing easily into shreds).The mash had forgotten its parsley and the dumpling, which slumped dejectedly like a farmyard splodge, most of its horseradish. Yet overall, with the roasted roots and flavourful broth, this was a joyful bowl for £14.
We shared a fine poached pear and almond tart with custard and a novelty crumble ice cream (£5).
I’m not going to total the bill up because our three courses for review was more than most customers would eat. We didn’t get charged for two halves of Relish bitter (produced by the excellent Thornbridge Brewery, with which Relish has a financial tie-up) because they were the last out of the barrel and tasted like it.
If you want to eat cheaply try Beat The Clock between 5 and 7pm when the price of your main course depends on the time you order, ie. In at 6.23pm and it costs £6.23.
New? The late Wayne Bosworth did that at Rafters years ago.