Huge plans revealed for third Marmadukes café in Sheffield which will have artisan bakery, food shop and make celebration cakes
As I talk to one half of the couple behind Marmadukes, Clare Nye, at their new premises at the old Sorting Office on Ecclesall Road, curious residents can’t resist sneaking a peak through a crack in the door as they walk by.
The wait to see the beautiful building brought back to life has been longer than anticipated, due to Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns; but after 12 months of hard work and delays, Clare now hopes the third Marmadukes will open in time for the return of indoor hospitality from May 17.
Clare and her husband Tim have big plans for their third venture which will have an emphasis on “sustainability” and will build upon the motto of “best made” that has helped to make Marmadukes a success.
“Marmadukes is the merging of my passions: food, design, property and family,” explains Clare.
The new site will have an artisan bakery, a food shop with a zero waste section, an oat milk dispensary, a pastry kitchen downstairs with a separate entrance where they will also make “celebration cakes”; and when the weather allows, the drive to the side of the building will be used for open air barbecues.
The Marmadukes team also plans to purchase a preloved milk float that they will use to transport their food and drink offering to communities across Sheffield.
And in addition to the breakfast, brunch and coffee offering Marmadukes has become known for, the new venue will also have a full restaurant serving food from the daytime into the evening.
“The menu here might be a bit more fluid so that we can use what we have in the bakery and the fridge," explained Clare, adding that they have also been granted an events licence, which means they can hold up to 19 events over a 12 month period.
"We want it to be a multi-functional space and all of the furniture will be removable so that the space can be changed as and when we need it to be,” she said.
Clare envisages that the space will be used for weddings, and she has already received enquiries about holding 50th and 60th birthday celebrations there.
She is keen to emphasise that they want the Sorting Office to be a “community space where people feel comfortable and like it’s really theirs.”
Just as with the second Marmadukes café on Cambridge Street, which opened in January last year, there is a keen interest in their Sorting Office venture.
Those familiar with the former Sorting Office site will be pleased to hear that it has been restored, instead of altered, and will retain its charm and character.
"What we’re trying to do is enhance what’s already here and recycle what we can,” said Clare, adding: “We wanted to keep some of the integrity of the building.”
The drop lights that illuminated busy postal workers will now be used to light Marmadukes’ bustling bakers, baristas and chefs, all of whom will tread the same ground as the building’s predecessors, due to the original flooring remaining in place.
Located along the length and width of the expansive space at Marmadukes III, Clare says the kitchen will be “quite radically open.”
Looking around the beautifully light and airy new premises, it is quite apparent that every single detail has been painstakingly researched and considered before being selected.
From the oaty cream colour on the walls, which Clare says was chosen to evoke thoughts of bread and for its “earthy feel,” to the recycled bricks from Denmark on the Marmadukes counters which are indicative of their environmental ethos.
"We want sustainability to be the foundation of the business," she explained.
As you might expect, just as much consideration has been given to the food Marmadukes stocks.
“We do source all of our products from farms, and have always used free range eggs and meat, and have spent a lot of money on recycling and sustainability," said Clare.
Among the producers selected by Marmadukes are Estate Dairy’s butter, which the firm say comes from a herd of Guernsey cows farmed sustainably on over “500 acres of idyllic Somerset pastures”; Moss Valley Meat, based in Moss Valley on the Sheffield/Derbyshire border, that has been run by the same family for four generations and cheese from renowned London-based artisan cheese retailer, Neal’s Yard.
“We try to source locally, where we can, but some of the best producers are based in London and the South,” Clare said.
Customers will be able to buy a selection of the products from the Marmadukes food shop, and Clare says there will also be a table set up in the middle of the premises, laden with delicious bread, fresh tomatoes, cheese and “all of the delicious fillings” you want for a sandwich.
Clare admits Marmadukes’ food is expensive, as a result of their ethos when it comes to stocking “sustainable” products, but adds that the food culture in this country means value is often prioritised over quality.
She said: “If you go to places like Italy, they will spend a fair percentage of their salary on food and eating out. They will go to markets, and will want to hear who has made the products, and will want to know where they’ve come from. That’s not really a thing over here.”
“We don’t want it to just be a bakery. It’s been a long journey for me, my background is nutrition and dietetics. I’m really interested in gut health and what bread means,” she explained.
"We’ve got a long history of really rubbish bread in this country, and it stems from the post-war period, and the fact people needed to be fed up.”
Clare apportions Britain’s contemporary bread making culture to the The Chorleywood Process, a method which was founded in 1961 and is centred around quick production and a long shelf life.
She believes this often results in a product that has “zero nutritional value,” and is the reason people believe you can’t eat bread is because “it’s not good quality”.
“It’s almost a blocking agent,” she said.
Clare is passionate about ensuring that their bakery offers something different, and Marmadukes has been given the opportunity of baking bread using Wildfarmed grain, a farming project from Andy Cato, which seeks to help arable farmers grow wheat without chemicals and to protect soils at the same time.
Barnsley-born Andy founded Wildfarmed after moving to a 100 hectare farm in Gascony, France and began farming using methods with minimal input that allow different plants to grow together.
Wildfarmed work with artisan bakeries across the country, and Marmadukes will be the first place in Sheffield to be given access to their grain.
“They’re so good at what they do, and are such a professional team of people,” said Clare, adding: “It’s more expensive, but it’s what we want to do because it’s unique and special, but also because it brings together the environmental and sustainability aspects that we want to be a message about who we are to our customers.”
"Their grain has health benefits, but it’s not just about health, it’s about the environment as well,” said Clare, adding that because of the way in which grain, wheat and grass are grown together, in a symbiotic way, it helps to benefit the soil and the surrounding environs, instead of damaging them with chemicals.
As part of the arrangement with Wildfarmed, Marmadukes will have the pleasure of artisan baker, Cindy Zurias, who trained in Michelin Star restaurants and managed one of Britain’s biggest artisan bakeries, coming on board as a consultant baker while their new bakery is set up.
"Cindy will be working with us...we’ve been very lucky to get her. She’s one of the UK’s best sourdough bakers, after working at Little Bread Pedlar [in Bermondsey, London]. They’re making incredible bread,” said Clare.
Cindy will be on hand to help train Marmadukes’ bakers as the Sorting Office site welcomes customers for the first time.
Marmadukes will also be taking on four people from the most recent cohort of students from the School of Artisan Food, an internationally renowned school, and charity, based in Welbeck, Nottinghamshire which prides itself on “helping people from all walks of life to learn about healthy, sustainable - and delicious - food.”
Clare says they will be coming on board from May 10 this year, ahead of the Sorting Office opening to the public.
Clare and Tim opened the first Marmadukes café on Norfolk Row more than eight years ago. The pair decided to take the plunge and create the type of café they had always wanted to after Tim retired from Derbyshire Police in 2010, after spending 32 years with the force as a detective.
Clare says that Marmadukes’ logo of a bear riding a bike represents them as a couple.
She explained: "He’s the bike and I’m the bear. He’s helping me to get where I want to go. After we had children, they were always my priority. They came first, while my husband always had a demanding career. After he retired, it seemed like the right time to give it a go. I didn’t think we’d still be doing it now.”