"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, February 18, 2007


It would be easy to be a complete arse and judge a provincial restaurant as being good “considering it’s not in London” or dismissing it as fine for the yokels but not one that would ever pass muster down in the fiercely competitive world of the nation’s capital.

Nonna’s in Sheffield, however, would be a gem of a restaurant wherever it was situated and, if it were within easy access of London’s uber fashionable SOSHO, I could imagine it being hard to get me to leave.

My baby bruv was turning forty yesterday. God, that makes me feel old. It seems like only yesterday that HP declared that in the hierarchy of life, he was the dog, my elder sister the cat, me the mouse and the youngest, the cheese. Consequently, he was the only one I was able to beat up on. Now of course, if I tried that, he would take me to the f**king cleaners.

Anyway, he chose Nonna’s not least because it is incredibly child friendly and they welcomed my nephew and niece as eagerly as they would any adult.

The food? Well the food is simple but well prepared and shows attention not only to cooking but also to sourcing. Starters, which followed some excellent plump olives and soft bread to mop up a lovely lawny olive oil, included a dense meaty terrine, well made crostini and one of the best plates of pasta I have tried in a long time. Long sheets of papardelle came with a coating of creamy sauce and flakes of locally smoked haddock. As good a beginning as you could hope to get.

Main courses were equally up to snuff with my rib eye steak, again showing excellent provenance and enough of a Northern portion that I was unable to finish it. Others fared just as well with a main course size pasta dish of penne with chicken livers being particularly good,

Nonna’s is a burgeoning enterprise and since a previous visit, they now have the “cucina” selling their pasta to cook at home, a bar and a wine store.

It is the wines, however, that really make Nonna’s stand out. One of the best and best priced list of Italian wines I can recall anywhere including London. And, boy did we take advantage of it. Some Prosecco to begin was followed swiftly by a Gavi di Gavi which had that hint of almonds I always love. Best of all, for a mere £30, Cellori, a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot which was rich, multi layered and perfect with the hearty main courses. So good that we ordered another bottle.

It was baby brother’s birthday after all, so we, of course had to order a half bottle of Recioto to accompany the thick slab of chocolate cake they served us. A real highlight. I only discovered this wine a few years ago. Now, I order a glass whenever I see it.

The mint tea test was aced and they comped us some grappa before we staggered out into the sunlight.

As good a lunch as I have had in the past year

It would have been rude not to sample the local beers given that The Abbeydale Brewery and Kelham Island Brewery are so close. So, we did and, a few pints later, we started to get the munchies and I had a serious jones for Fish & Chips
Now this is one area where the North has the South beat hands down. Yorkshire is where the real deal is and where the best Fish & Chips in the country are to be found.

I have tasted none better recently that those at Two Steps, a chip shop that has been established since 1895.

Spectacular it was too. Portions of flaky haddock which had been protected by crisp, crunchy batter, Meat pies filled with huge chunks of steak, mushy peas and even the obligatory battered sausage ( truly the greatest contribution of Great Britain to the world ) A family of five, fed for £15. Now that really is cheap good food.

Now, I am back down South, easing my bruised liver with some Milk Thistle and donning my hat of pretentious sophistication as if I had never been away.

But, damn, I love it up North
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