Art and design, gin and oatcakes give city centre lounge a story all of its own.
Christmas is a time for epic and mysterious stories of family ties, new beginnings, life-changing journeys and great deeds.
This particular tale begins to reveal itself behind Victorian-parlour-style curtains at Trippets in the glow of candles and the other-worldly wheeze of an ancient grandfather clock.
In its latest incarnation Trippets Lounge, on Trippet Lane in the city centre, has been a Jazz and Gin bar since new owners Debbie and Carl Shaw came in on Valentine’s Day this year.
Their journey is a curious one.
They had run the two Egon Ronay-starred Bull’s Head in Ashford-In-The-Water successfully for 15 years. But they moved to the big city to seek fresh fortune.
A difficult decision as Carl’s grandad and uncle had run the pub before him.
When Carl’s catering roots became entangled with Debbie’s she gave up her architectural designer job – Debbie studied at the Royal College of Art and helped design the National Media Museum in Bradford: “I’ve got the most educated pair of Marigold’s in the country,” laughs Debbie whose 21-year-old daughter Hollie was our excellent waitress on the night and son James, aged 23, works at the Pointing Dog on Ecclesall Road.
“We decided to have a go at something different after 15 years at the Bull’s Head. It was probably a bit mad but we’re loving it and things are really taking off now.”
Gone are the draught beers of previous owners Thornbridge brewery and in is gin - 50 varieties of it, along with 15 wines and six types of fizz available by the glass plus whiskies and beers etc.
The food story at Trippets is one of plenty - smaller but substantial tasting plates, serious Sheffield tapas rather than between-drinks nibbles. These are created by owner Carl Shaw and chef Alex Dobson.
We started at our very cosy window table with Fish Pie Duchesse with cod, smoked haddock and prawns in a white wine sauce with peas and crispy leeks and a smoked fillet of pork wrapped in Parma ham and crispy pork belly with a black pudding & potato timbale topped with black pudding crumble with a pork & black treacle syrup - which has to be the longest description of a plate of food you’ve ever seen.
The fish pie potato topping is slightly overdone but the sauce is rich, thick and smoky with lots of fish and prawns.
The pork is a riot of piggy loveliness. The belly is, in parts, more hard than crisp but works well with the soft tenderness of the loin. The black pudding and potato timbale (mash) is nicely seasoned and packed with flavour. The black pudding crumble is slow cooked, broken up and slow cooked again until it’s delicious crunchy crumbs of concentrated black pudding.
The dark edge of the sweet pork and black treacle syrup sets off the whole thing beautifully.
Our second courses were equally classy. My colleague Jacquie had steamed butternut squash, sun-blush tomato & forest mushroom pudding served with spinach and tomato butter sauce and I went for the saddle of venison on wilted kale with celeriac pomme dauphinoise and winter berry jus.
Both were excellent. The vegetarian pudding was as light as a soufflé and packed with flavour. The tomato butter sauce was sharp and deep.
The venison was melt-in-the-mouth tender with a rich gamey depth enhanced by the intensity of the winter berry reduction and the luxury of the celeriac and potato layers with cream and cheese.
The best bit about these smaller plates is that you’ve eaten great food but still have room for dessert.
I had Christmas pudding with a creamy rum sauce which was good without being stunning - an injection of booze night have helped - Jacquie had Yorkshire cheeses with homemade oatcakes and chutney - and here is a highlight of the meal.
Not the cheese - that was very good but maybe needed a cheddar-style piece to go with a crumbly Wensleydale, a crumbly Settle and a Yorkshire blue – but the oatcakes.
Rich, short, salty gorgeous things that melted away all too soon.
Owner Carl Shaw makes them and has been doing for the past 25 years from flour, salt, oats, butter and hot water.
They’re worth the trip (pardon the pun) on their own.
But where’s the mystery, you may ask.
Apart from getting oats, salt, butter and flour to taste that good, the mystery is in the chef…
Formerly chef on the Orient Express, the only murder Alex Dobson from Penistone experienced was cooking in summer for 200-plus people in a tiny, furnace-like railway carriage kitchen – though he did get to work alongside Michelin-starred super-chefs Raymond Blanc and Marcus Wareing and TV cook James Martin on journeys around Britain in his decade on the railway.
Perhaps there’s more magic than mystery at Trippets this Christmas but it’s a story well worth exploring…
For three tasting plates each, homemade bread, oil and balsamic vinegar and two glasses of very pleasant New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc our bill came to £55.50.
Star rating out of five:
Food 4 1/2
Trippets, 89 Trippet Lane, Sheffield.
Tel: 0114 2762930
Open Monday - Saturday from noon. Food served until 9.30pm
Christmas & New Year closure: December 25, 26 & 27, January 1, 2 & 3