As someone who doesn’t drink coffee (how have I reached my 30s without relying on this crutch?!), I had long been immune to the lure of Tamper, as I am with most coffee shops. Returning to Sheffield after some time away, I knew it simply as “that Kiwi coffee house just off West Street”. I was aware they did food too, but Westfield Terrace was a long way to go on my lunch break for someone who doesn’t enjoy their star attraction.
But, then, something happened. It started, as all things do, with a rumour. Tamper was allegedly opening a second branch in Sheffield, this time on Arundel Street. The rumour was confirmed, the hype started to build, the Sheffield foodie Twittersphere came over all peculiar. The boys in my office, who won’t mind being described as coffee snobs, were very excited that their beloved Tamper was opening an outlet closer to home. A hitherto-innocuous place called Sellers Wheel, which I had walked past hundreds of times, suddenly became Very Special Indeed.
When Tamper opened on 1 August, I followed the feedback on Twitter. Some of my friends checked in at the new Tamper on Facebook. And, on Day 6, something caught my eye. As is often the case for me, it was the food. Oh, the food. One of my pals had snapped a picture of an amazing-looking dessert she had enjoyed and posted it on Facebook. Lauded as one of the best desserts ever, the chilli and chocolate bread and butter pudding looked simply divine. When I saw this slice of virtual food porn, I resolved then and there- coffee lover or not- I simply must try Tamper: Sellers Wheel.
So, on a recent Tuesday, when I found myself in the neighbourhood at 11:55am after a meeting finished unexpectedly early, I called up The Other Half (who works nearby) and off we went for an impromptu lunch date.
From the outside, I had no idea of how spacious Tamper: Sellers Wheel would be. But behind the white-painted brick façade, it was like stepping into a Tardis. The front part of the space is used as a retail, take-out operation. In their own words, this is “stocked up with everything you need to produce beautiful coffee in your own home”. Which might be good for the bank account of serious java-addicts, but for me, a lot of Tamper’s appeal lies in the atmosphere and aesthetic of the laid-back coffee shop space behind this.
Stepping through to the restaurant area behind the retail bit, one is immediately reminded of this area’s industrial heritage. The walls have been kept as bare brick. The tables and chairs are utilitarian chic. The lights are big industrial numbers, as you can see from the photo. If there was a way these would translate to our little house, then I’d be having some. The mural of plant life under the kitchen hatch provided a little pop of colour but, otherwise, it’s a very industrial-looking space and no poorer for it.
While we perused the menu, Tamper quickly filled up. I was quietly smug we’d got there when we did. We stepped up to the bar and ordered our food and drinks, including our desserts; the cakes are all set out on the bar and we feared our choices selling out while we were spending time on the savoury part of the meal.
Before long, we were presented with our Diet Cokes in glass bottles (always a win, in my eyes), served in jars with handles. Again, these are on my shopping list for our home. Tap water was brought over without us needing to ask or being upsold expensive bottled water- a great touch, especially at lunchtime when buying more than one drink somehow seems extravagant.
For me, it was a no-brainer. The pie of the day was bacon and egg, served with chips and gravy. My Mum used to make bacon and egg pie when I was a child, so as soon as I saw this on the specials board, that fuzzy feeling of food nostalgia washed over me. When it arrived, I was not disappointed. Two little full-pastry pies, each topped with a slice of Parma ham, a perfectly-cooked egg yolk and a sprig of rosemary. They were served on a board, separated by a mound of chunky chips topped with a smattering of girolle mushrooms. The dish was finished off by a little Kilner jar of hot gravy, waiting expectantly in the corner. Just as well the chips were there, as one of the yolks got over-excited in transit from the kitchen and arrived at our table running perilously towards the edge of the board; a quick deployment of a chip as sandbag saved the day.
It was the type of dish which instantly excited me and I could see that Tamper and I were going to get on very well indeed. Sure, it’s more elaborate presentation than my Mum would have gone for, but then she wouldn’t have been charging me £9. Plus, I am still firmly of the opinion that serving anything in a jar only serves to improve it (see my earlier note about the Coke jar/glasses).
Flavour-wise, the mushrooms on the chips were delicious, as was the gravy. The pie filling itself was a little bland, but luckily Tamper have eschewed my pet-peeve of white pepper on the tables and I was able to grind some black pepper over my pies to give them a big more oomph. Had I been served on a plate instead of a board, I might have doused my pies in the carefully-spiced gravy from the little jar.
The Other Half opted for The Big Kiwi- an all-day breakfast which was more silver spoon than greasy spoon.
I was given a little bite of everything and can confidently say that Tamper know how to do a decent breakfast to go with your coffee. The homemade hash brown was glorious- crispy and fresh- and so far removed from those anaemic little triangles normally served as hash browns. Think more carefully-executed fresh potato rosti than “Mum’s gone to Iceland”.
The butchers’ sausages were enormous, and very delicately seasoned. These were so meaty and just oozed quality… the kind of sausage you can eat without guilt. The creamed wild mushrooms made a nice change from the greasy mushrooms I would normally expect (and, indeed, serve) with a cooked breakfast and the eggs had been scrambled with a lot of care. The other components of the dish (bacon, toast and buttered spinach) were all lovely too. My only regret is that The Other Half doesn’t like beans, as the home-baked beans that normally come with The Big Kiwi are probably fabulous, too.
Though we were stuffed, we had pre-ordered those cakes, which had sat winking at us since before the mains arrived. The cakes were homemade and were both delicious. The flapjack was pretty crumbly, unlike the commercially-made pre-packaged rubbish they sell in my office canteen. It was studded throughout with dried fruit and we fought over the date on top (I lost). We also shared a lamington, which surprised us as it’s an Aussie thing- still, it was well-executed, so I’m glad Tamper have given this nod to their fellow Antipodeans. It combines some of my favourite things: sponge cake, chocolate and coconut.
Although at £25 for us both it was a bit more expensive than a usual weekday lunch, as an impromptu date it was good value. While it might be some time before I like coffee, I’ve definitely developed a taste for Tamper. I think I’d better pop back soon to try some of those home-baked beans…