I’M not sure I should be recommending the roast beef at Masterchef at Totley after what happened on an earlier occasion when I raved about the excellence of a Sunday joint.
But here I am at the laptop just a couple of hours after eating, waxing lyrical about my three slices of perfectly cooked, tender, rosy, juicy (indeed, its essences were still gently trickling out) beef and I can still taste it.
My congratulations to the chef and my compliments to the cow for this was no prime cut but humble silverside, dressed up on the menu as salmon cut.
On that earlier occasion similar plaudits led to a gratifying increase in business for a certain Derbyshire hostelry.
Less gratifyingly, the review brought a barrage of complaints. Unaccustomed to such numbers, waiters spilled food in customers’ laps and I got angry letters saying the beef was undercooked.
These were from the ‘glad to be grey’ camp which likes its meat incinerated. If you are in that number, avoid Masterchef.
Now if you were to pair two of Sheffield’s suburbs one of the most unlikely combinations would be Totley and Attercliffe. Yet this is where the similarly named parent business is.
It started as a kind of Bhaji Central, selling onion bhajis, and has developed into a excellent café. Part of the reason is that all the food is home made, an ethos Matthew Holdsworth, son of the founder John, fully believes in. “It’s proper cooking. We do it all ourselves and that’s not something so common now, especially in pubs,” he says. Sadly no.
The Sunday lunch, at £9.95 for two courses, £12.95 for three, is short, with just two choices for each course.
Matthew, aged 33, is obviously not running before he can walk but it also allows him to focus on the meat, ringing the changes with a different animal and cut each week.
My beef is from Lower Hurst Farm, Hartington, which specialises in organic beef and lamb. The beef is Hereford.
With 35 tables, all full, there is a no-rush policy.
Matthew says he wants people to feel like they’re at home. You certainly feel that when you look out of a back window and see the next door neighbour’s washing on the line!
I had three slices of beef, partnered with a miniature Yorkshire pudding, a lively carrot and swede mash, baby broccoli, very decent roast potatoes, roast red onions given added sweetness with balsamic and roast cherry tomatoes, but sadly no promised gravy apart from the meat juices.
Apparently that was an oversight after a minor crisis in the kitchen.
There was a big jug of vegetarian gravy with my wife’s dish but that needed to be greatly reduced for flavour and a good roast deserves a good gravy.
But that is a small point after such a good dinner.
My wife had much the same with the meat replaced by two large field mushrooms sandwiching a slice of goats cheese.
She got the flavour but not quite the cheese, which had cooked away.
“I don’t think I would have listed this as the main ingredient,” she said doubtfully but otherwise enjoyed it.
The premises are a nice place to eat, with white plastered or bare brick walls, a slate floor and open kitchen which adds a bit of buzz.
Matthew took over an existing business two and a half years ago then expanded into the premises next door.
Sunday lunches are a recent extension of brunch. “I planned to stop that but people still wanted it,” he says.
The staff is young and enthusiastic.
“They are local and I spend a lot of time getting them to be just as I want then they go off to university!” says Matthew.
Which is what he did, then after a music technology degree roamed the world and found himself in a ski resort kitchen because he needed a job.
Of course, he did have a family background in catering and bhajis but this resort was in New Zealand where he worked alongside some talented chefs.
Starters are simple here, a warming root vegetable soup of carrot and parsnip, and a curl of smoked salmon or two with sour cream and spring onion on crostinis.
We shared our sweets, parkin and custard and a white chocolate panna cotta, served in an espresso cup.
Annoyingly, the parkin was far better than my two attempts at baking it that week (although Matthew does not use oats in his so is it parkin?), and was light, springy and gingery. The panna cotta was pleasant.
Masterchef is a seven days a week operation with a fortnightly Friday bistro as well – a lot of work but Matthew is loving it.
He originally had plans for a chain and expanded with sites in Darnall (now sold on) and Ecclesall Road, short-lived and defeated, among other things, by high rents and rates.
But he quickly learned that personal cooking and involvement is a big part of a business’s success.
“I enjoy being hands on. I was beginning to feel like a general manager,” he says.
Masterchef’s Sunday lunch is excellent value, particularly as it is BYO with no corkage.
With coffees we paid £29.20.
185 Baslow Road, Totley S17 4DT.
Tel: 0014 235 0884.
Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat until 4pm, Sun 10am-3pm. BYO. Music. Credit cards. Children welcome. Street parking.
My Sunday lunch star ratings (out of five): ****