I don't watch much TV. But I'm a sucker for a decent food programme.
One show I'm quite a fan of is Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. There's something about the way he speaks to people that amuses me, slightly terrifies me and inspires me to be more assertive in my own life (though perhaps a bit less shouty and sweary).
That said, I'm always a little sceptical about just how successful a visit from Gordon can be for a business in the long term.
Sure, the customers queue around the block while the cameras are in and, once he's overhauled the menu and the decor, they tend to leave pretty satisfied. But what of these restaurants' long term future? So often there appears to be an inherent lack of business nous, culinary capability and basic desire among these business owners and their staff to make a viable success of things.
Sometimes it's hard to imagine the show's effect being anything other than a sticky plaster on a shotgun wound than something likely to bring about any sort of full recovery.
Which brings me to Silversmiths. A restaurant in Sheffield which prides itself on serving locally sourced traditional Yorkshire food with a modern slant. Under its previous guise, the Runaway Girl, the restaurant asked for Gordon's help back in the late naughties.
Apparently, the old place was some kind of nightclub cum restaurant until Ramsay effed and jeffed the place up to his very high standards.
These days, the only hint that the place was anything other than the trendily decorated restaurant it is now is a stage area at the back which plays host to several dining tables rather than any sort of performer.
My partner and I got a last minute Friday night reservation as we were heading north to visit family in Yorkshire after a night in Sheffield.
Our lack of knowledge of the area meant we left our hotel far too early and arrived at Silversmith's almost an hour early.
Still, the staff seemed pleased to see us anyway, and we took our place on the stalls at the well-presented (and spotlessly clean) bar for a couple of cocktail aperitifs. Mixed by a bartender who admitted that he doesn't normally serve behind the bar, the cocktails were decent - just the right boozy kick balanced with the sweetness of fruit liquors and mixers. My partner opted for The Eccy Road - a blend of Prosecco, Strawberries, and Chambord - followed by a New-Yorkshire Cosmo - Kurant Vodka, Triple Sec, cranberry, Chambord, and lime. I stuck to a good old fashioned Hendrick's dry Martini with muddled cucumber.
The cocktails meant we pretty much staggered to our table. Thankfully it wasn't very far to stagger - we sat right across from the bar beneath hanging industrial lamps which are dim enough not to intrude and light enough to create a relaxing atmosphere (and to allow you to see what you're actually eating).
The building used to be home to George Ellis Silversmiths Ltd. And some of the decor hints at the building's industrial past. Rough wooden panelled walls, the sort that grace trendy, hipster-type bars and restaurants are marked with the individual letters of the restaurant name daubed in white.
And as you'd expect of a former silversmith, the cutlery is pretty impressive too - proper Sheffield steel I'd imagine.
Despite feeling a little tipsy after our cocktails, we couldn't resist a La Forge Estate French Malbec from the wine menu. A beautifully flavoursome wine, fruity with undertones of liquorice. It wasn't terribly full bodied but lovely nonetheless.
To soak up some of the wine while we awaited our starter, we snacked on a sharing board of tasty home-baked bread with a Hendersons oil dip. The dip was a local variation on your typical balsamic and oil mix with the Hendersons (a sort of Lea & Perrins-style sauce which seems to be big in Sheffield) offering a chutney-like taste which paired perfectly with the bread.
For starters, I opted for lemon-cured scallops with black pudding, pea textures and a bacon crisp. While I prefer my scallops pan-fried rather than ceviche-style, they were delicious with the lemon adding a real freshness to the dish. The surprise for me was the black pudding - the one element of the dish which had very nearly deterred me from ordering the scallops in the first place. It had the usual delicate, crumbly texture you'd expect of black pudding but with a spicy heat with a hint of chilli and paprika.
My partner ordered the Sheffield fishcake - Whitby white fish, potato, beer batter, and mushy peas - which I also tried and found delightful. I tend to worry that anything with a batter will be greasy and a bit soggy, but the batter here was perfectly crisp.
After a brief rest, our mains arrived. Mine: the smoked pork belly served with asparagus, black pudding, and a twice cooked duck egg, and my partner's the old English homity pie filled with broccoli, leeks & new potatoes, and cheddar and topped with puff pastry. We also shared honey roasted carrots and parsnips.
Our mains lived up to the starter - the pork was melt-in-the-mouth tender but the stars of the show were undoubtedly the egg, which was perfectly cooked with a solid white and a beautifully runny yolk, and that wonderful black pudding again.
My partner's pie was good. Personally, I'm not a fan of pies without meat, but the creamy, molten cheese leant a decent flavour to it and the big chunks of potato had held to give the pie filling an enjoyable texture.
Dessert was my least favourite course, but that's not to sound critical - it was still very good. I had a chocolate tart with a lime sauce, mango sorbet and lime and chocolate macaron. The tart was rich and chocolatey, but it felt as though something was slightly lacking, the lime didn't quite have the zingy hit to temper that richness that I'd hoped it might. The best part of the dessert was the macaron, its wafer thin veneer had the right amount of bite and the chewy, fudgey shell underneath it was superb. Forget the tart, I would've preferred a plate of just those if i'm honest.
I tried my partner's dessert - a lemon posset with a prosecco and raspberry gel. The only real criticism is that there wasn't enough of it! The posset was smooth and indulgent, but the lemon flavour could've been a little sharper for my taste.
All in all, it has to be said the Arundel Street eatery is undoubtedly proof that the pessimistic outlook I assign survivors of Kitchen Nightmares is off the mark. Hats off to the owners for creating a really good place to eat. From it's friendly, amenable service to its very good, well presented food, I was impressed by Silversmiths and wouldn't think twice about returning upon our next visit to Sheffield or recommending to friends.