Running a pub in an area of Sheffield overflowing with students seems like such a simple idea.
However, a pub in a student area is not necessarily the ‘if you build it they will come’ equivalent of a baseball diamond in Field of Dreams.
The Fox & Duck has had a turbulent time as of late, starting with Sheffield Students Union pulling out of running the pub in 2012.
They claimed that there were fewer students living in the area before the Little Critters Brewery, who also run the The Doctor’s Orders, decided to take up the lease.
But just a few years later, they also surrendered their lease after deciding that having two brewery taprooms was ‘no longer a necessity’.
So, in May last year, the pub suddenly closed itself for a refurbishment as new owners Bermondsey Pub Co made a last-ditch effort to transform the pub’s fortunes.
As we step into the pub on Saturday evening, it’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into making the pub more appealing to both families and students alike.
The bright and garish interior has given way to a a much darker, modern atmosphere with Sheffield-centric trinkets, ornaments and bric-a-brac adorning the walls.
There are family-friendly booths and tables for students wanting a sit down meal with visiting parents and TVs and a fantastic beer garden for when they’ve decided to head off home.
Fans of cask ales may feel slightly limited by their choice of beer but with Doom Bar and Amstel included in the January ‘2 Pints For £5’ it’s hard to argue with the choices.
We sit down to find a hugely expanded menu with a range of burritos, burgers and tasty dogs to choose from, and all at pretty reasonable prices.
One of the more interesting parts of the menu though was actually right at the start; the ‘half pint dimples’ including Sticky Chicken Wings, Deep-Fried Breaded Haggis and Crispy Whitebait.
These all come served in a classic half pint dimple glass and topped with sauce, a memorable if slightly unnecessary attempt at jazzing up the meal.
We decided on the Sticky Chicken Wings and Mac & Cheese bites to start, both at £4, followed by a Beef Brisket burger (£10.75) and a Bulldog (£8 for mains).
In true student/pub grub fashion all the food was brought to our table at once while we enjoyed our two for £5 pints and struggled through a forgettable FA Cup offering of Blackpool vs Arsenal (though this was hardly the Fox & Duck’s fault).
Both of the half pint dimples proved to be a perfect accompaniment to our main meal with the rarebit sauce & beer glaze in the Mac & Cheese bites proving to be enough of a reason for returning alone.
Despite the strong start to the meal, both mains could have been hugely improved with a better bread offering.
The beef patty with beef brisket burnt ends, with onion rings and smoky ketchup, had all the flavour you would expect but a slightly stale brioche bun left a lot to be desired.
It was a similar story with the tasty dog as the seeded brioche sub meant that while the dish looked the part its taste couldn’t quite reach the same heights.
We left after a couple more pints, each one served with a smile by the very attentive staff and content enough that we would be sure to try the Fox & Duck again in the near future.
Star Rating (out of 5)
Food – 3.5
Service – 5
Atmosphere – 4.5
Value – 4