Former cycle shop has punters on their bikes for all-day food and delectable desserts.
Some weeks, believe it or not, this job is a struggle.
Eating is never a problem, obviously.
Taking one’s ease with a friend or family member, chatting over a meal and a glass of wine are all good, life-affirming things.
No complaints there but occasionally there’s not that much to say about a place.
Sometimes there’s no sticky carpet, no quirky service tic, no funeral wake next door, no passing railway carriages, no raucous fellow diners and no zumba class waiting to use the room when you’ve finished eating.
Minor adversity, calamity or absurdity can make for a better tale.
But now and again you just have to talk about the food, atmosphere, service and value for money.
So it was last week at the Summer House at Dore.
Lovely atmosphere, attractive décor, nicely lit, efficient and friendly service, imaginative, beautifully cooked and creatively presented food.
A delightful evening was enjoyed by both but where’s the grit in that particular oyster?
Let’s start at the beginning.
The Summer House had been a while in the making. Commuters from the south west into the city along Abbeydale Road South watched for months as it morphed from what was a cycle shop called The Bike Tree - into a really cool restaurant.
I was greeted warmly on arrival and the switched-on staff showed me to where my daughter was sitting at a table in the ‘secret garden’ area of the restaurant.
The tables have mosaic tops, there’s a ‘wall’ of small plants and the work of local artists on sale. All good.
For starters I had bruschetta, always a good test of a place – simple but not easy to make special.
This one impresses. Crunchy, crispy light bread base with warmed sweet tomatoes, mozzarella a hint of herbs and lots of flavour.
Hannah had the ham hock terrine with homemade piccalilli and a spiced pear puree. The meat was salty rich and melt in the mouth, as it should be, the pear puree went beautifully and the home made piccalilli was piquant, crunchy and fresh.
Then there’s those edible flowers. They make a dish look fantastic and, although they didn’t taste of much, add a certain something. Chef Anthony Commons gets his from the Herb Table in Hathersage. Some might find them over-fussy but I think there’s a place for creative colour.
Hannah had the crispy monkfish and chips with salad, chilli jam and lemon creme fraiche. The fish was fried in a crunchy Japanese ‘Panko’ breadcrumb coating for extra crunch and was firm, fleshy and cooked to perfection. The chips were five-star and the whole thing came together superbly.
My hanging kebab is spectacular, served on a metal frame. The marinated chicken and chorizo looks amazing - whenever one of these is taken through the restaurant they get orders for more - and is served with a deep and fruity coleslaw, sweet potato fries, a yogurt and cucumber dip and warm pitta bread.
We shared a side order of crunchy and sweet onion rings - well worth the guilt.
The chicken is beautifully tender with a hint of spice and the chorizo is rich and warming. The sweet potato fries are crunchy, peppery and a bit different and the dish works. ‘Lovely grub’ as they used to say in The Beano.
Co-owner Kate Cavan – owner of Phyto Ltd, one of Britain’s biggest producers of nail polish based in Dronfield - comes in every day to help chef Anthony Commons - ex-of the Blue Room, Woodseats and Amici - with the desserts. They are stunning and another great idea.
Instead of one big pudding an almost-full diner can get a small one or two - £1.75 each - or three each in our case for £4.95. They come in a ‘shot glass’ and are a bargain for sweets this good.
We had orange and passion fruit, triple chocolate, white chocolate and raspberry, chocolate orange with mandarin jelly and candied orange, chocolate cherry and berry and Irish coffee.
A rich, fruity, creamy chocolatey delight, the desserts are worth the trip out on their own
They also do a special group deal of 20 small desserts and 10 liqueur shots for £44.95.
Kate Green, Summer House events and marketing manager said: “We’ve been open around six weeks now. It was busier than we expected from the start and we didn’t really have enough storage room. So we’ve had the builders in on Mondays and we’re going to keep Mondays as a staff training day for the time being.”
Those opening weeks included the departure of one manager soon to be replaced by Lindsay Kent, formerly of the Blue Room in Woodseats.
“We’re trying to cater for all tastes, adds Kate.
“We eventually want to open for breakfast at 6.00 or 6.30 rather than 8.30 and stay open through the day until 10.30pm.
“That’s a long day and we don’t have the staff to do it now but that’s our aim.
“We want to make the best food we can so people come here and feel that bit special and tell their friends about us.”
So far so good.
No quirks, disasters or absurdity to report here. Luckily the food tells its own story.
For three courses each and two medium glasses of wine our bill came to £65.15.
Star rating out of 5
* The Summer House, 289 Abbeydale Rd South, Sheffield, S17 3LB,
* Tel: 0114 236 1679
* Mon to Fri: 8.30am, last food orders 8.30pm. Saturday open 9am, last food 8.30pm. Sunday open 9am, last food 8pm