After lots of tweets stating the title of this post from the head chef, the Lawful Blanket and I decided to give it a try.
The place in question is The Rutland Arms on Brown Street in Sheffield centre. Once the gaff of Trevor Wraith of Kelham Island Tavern fame then the sort of brewery tap for Blue Bee Brewery before the demise of Reet Ale Pubs, the lease is now owned by Chris Bamford and Kate Major previously of the Shakespeare and Three Tuns so all bodes well there.
Two things grabbed us as we walked through the door: firstly the blackboard menu on the bar with…yeey! small plates! The second thing was the collection of cardboard political statements over the fireplace. They seem to suggest that people not of a certain political persuasion may be less than welcome. But, as someone who believes political ideology and zealot-ism of any kind have no place in a social environment, I’ll leave it there.
Onto the main event: the food. Now anyone who’s read my review and tweets for rhe Beer Engine will know I’m a sucker for small plates. I think they’re great. Faced with a menu where there are half a dozen dishes you’d love to try but possessing neither the depth of pocket nor the stomach capacity (though the latter seems to be progressing nicely thank you) to be able to, small plates are the ideal answer. 3 for a tenner? Happy days!
Lots of the dishes have a Spanish feel but hell, it’s tapas. So, we ordered:
Hoisin Lamb & Anchovies on Toast, Lemon & Caper Prawns with Vichyssoise, Salt Cod Croquettes.
Baby Octopus Paella, Iberico Ham – Just Ham and Gordal Olives with Pickled Anchovies
As you can see they made a pretty sight on the table
We decided to go a bit “arse uppards” as we say in Yorkshire and eat the hot ones first before they went cold (or in the case of the vichyssoise, hot)
The lamb on toast looked a slightly strange combination on paper but it worked really well. The hoisin, which can be incredibly sweet and cloying if overdone, (think all those awful BBQ Chinese ready thing you buy at the supermarket) was subtle here and the addition of just a hint of doubanjiang, a kind of chilli paste, gave it a nice roundness. The anchovies with their vinegar twang cut through the rich lamb and the bread was good too. Homemade no doubt.
The prawns and soup worked well too. I’m a bit of a philistine in the world of cold soups as I think soup should be hot. This was approaching room temperature and suited me perfectly. The prawns lemony but i have to admit I struggled to get caper.
A bit of rice next. The paella was a delight, the rice sharp and tomatoey and beautifully piquant and the octopus nice and tender but of the foetus size. He’s trying to get some bigger ones of the finger width tentacle size but these were great.
More seafood, three crisp salt cod croquettes were fantastic and one of my favourites. Cod and potato with a bit of coriander made it a bit of a posh rissole and the Ajo Balnco sauce on top was traditional and thick and complimented the pepper sauce.
This Iberico ham was fantastic but I’m nailing my colours to the mast here. I think Italian Cullatello di Zibello ham beats Iberico hands down. It’s the bum muscle of a black or white pig, rubbed with wine and salt then put in a pig bladder and hung in a cellar but not any cellar…oh no. This cellar has to be open to the fog off the Po river and that lets a mould form on the bladder which gives the ham a taste that’s out of this world. The cellars do have a bit of a smell of a well kept gent’s convenience but with all the bladders its hardly surprising.
Big juicy sweet olives and gorgeous, meaty tangy anchovies. If you’re thinking this sounds like Phillipe Beriot olives and nameless anchovies out of a tin then you need to get out more. The two together are sublime and anyone who says they don’t like anchovies needs to try these.
The old Italophile in me comes out again in the olives and anchovies. I’d go for Castelvetrano olives over Gordal. They have an almost buttery taste that sends me to Italy every time. And anchovies? Two weeks before I’d been sitting in a bar in Minori on the Amalfi coast eating anchovies from nearby Cetara so I’m bound to be biased.
Seriously though, the whole collection of dishes were incredibly well cooked, daring and tasty. We need more out there food like this in Sheffield and hats off to all the guys and gals at The Rutland. I’d recommend anyone to grow some cojones and try the cracking food here.