After Hours at Tamper comes up with some of the most innovative food in the city.
After Hours they call it.
It’s an evening session when the day’s trade has finished at Tamper, the New Zealand themed coffee bar on Arundel Street in the city centre.
The idea conjured up memories of the ‘Gourmet Night’ episode of Fawlty Towers and gave me the excuse to watch it again, still brilliant 40-plus years on.
But of course there was no food farce at Tamper. No cackling Sybil or desperate Basil flogging his stalled Austin 1100, no ‘Duck Surprise’ or drunken chef getting amorous with Manuel.
More’s the pity of course.
But there was excellent and imaginative food, fast and efficient service and some powerful beer.
After Hours goes from 5pm to 9pm Fridays only - we booked for 5.45, the place was half full, lively and loud with weekend exuberance.
Co-owner Ben Smith says the evenings are working well: “We wanted to try something different and we have a lot of experience and talent in the kitchen with Steve Tauilli his team and they enjoy using more of their skills.”
Economics and business graduate Ben, aged 33, is also the man behind Sheffield’s occasional Peddler street market, next one April 1 and 2 at Kelham Island, worked in Shoreditch and Hackney in London and also has the ‘Hopbox’ - a horse box converted into a mobile bar which he hires out for events.
Tamper at Seller’s Wheel is in a former cutlery works with lots of bare brick, old school furniture and wooden boards. The staff are super-trendy and very friendly and you know you’re somewhere a bit different - in a good way.
I order a New Zealand beer not realising that their only Kiwi beer was a hoppy Saison Sauvin at seven per cent alcohol.
Happy hour indeed.
The menu is refreshingly brief – three starters, three main courses and two desserts.
I went for the bread and dips to start and my wife had the clam and kumara chowder.
The chaps behind Tamper - adopted Sheffielder Ben Smith, originally from Wakefield, Kiwi Jon Perry and his Sheffielder wife Natalie wanted more control over Tamper’s bakery products – so they started making their own. Their Depot bakery at Burton Street, S3 supplies both Tamper outlets - the original one on Westfield Terrace - and places like Rude Shipyard, Grind café and Sheffield caterers PJ Taste. They also have their own breakfast and lunch eatery at the Depot bakery.
We had a sourdough and a focaccia, both excellent. A chewy, substantial sourdough and soft and aromatic focaccia – top stuff with good olives, oil and balsamic vinegar.
Then the surprise - espresso butter. A strange but brilliant combination that had us tasting, tasting and tasting again to get a handle on how it worked. I still don’t know how, but it really does.
Karen’s clam and kumara (kumara is Maori for sweet potato) soup was also a hit.
Loads of it and packed with clams, the soup was beautifully spiced with cumin, turmeric, fresh tamarind paste and fennel seeds to go with sweet potato and clam veloute.
For main course I had lamb rump with spinach gnocchi, wild mushrooms & roasted beet salsa and a red wine jus.
Karen had Welsh sea bass on artichoke risotto with globe artichoke and saffron butter. The fish was cooked to perfection and the risotto was rich, smoky and with every grain of rice intact, no mush. There were hunks of preserved artichoke in the rice which also had applewood smoked cheese.
The overall combination was glorious.
My lamb rump came on a piece of slate and made a very dark plate of food which enhanced the deep woods flavour of the mushrooms and the deliciously moist gnocchi, flavoured with nutmeg, smoked garlic and parmesan. The Yorkshire lamb was – as requested - pink rather than bloody – and was tender, tasty and enhanced by the darkly-sweet jus.
For dessert we had cheese and biscuits and chocolate brownie with Our Cow Molly ice cream.
The brownie comes as two chocolate biscuits sandwiched around a thick chocolate filling. I thought it excellent but my wife preferred the gooiness of the traditional chewy-centred brownie.
My cheese and biscuits were a decent blue, a smoked cheddar and a Red Leicester type - then I noticed ‘Jacob’s’ name on one of the digestive crackers.
Nothing wrong with Jacob’s crackers, they’ve sustained us handsomely over the years, but I would have expected a restaurant with such particular specialities would make their own - and apparently they usually do.
“I’m surprised about that and can only apologise,” said Ben Smith when I mentioned it to him
“You’re right, it’s out of character. We normally make our own oatcakes and I can only assume that we have run out and someone’s sent out for some in emergency.”
These things happen and it didn’t really detract from the lovely and innovative food – some of the best in the city in my book.
For three courses each, a strong kiwi beer and a decent glass of rioja our meal came to £59.
No duck, with or without orange or cherries – or duck – on this occasion.
Star ratings out of five:
Food 4 1/2
* Tamper Coffee, Sellers Wheel, 149 Arundel Street, S1 2NU
* Tel: 0114 327 1080
* After Hours evening: 5pm to 9pm Fridays only, booking required.
Coffee shop daytime hours: Monday to Friday 8am to 4.30pm, Saturday 9am to 4pm, Sunday 10am to 4pm