This week, I’ve not had much time for fun. Work has been keeping me far too busy and I’ve been eating a lot of meals al desko. Breakfast and lunch are both consumed in front of my computer. Dinner is one of the few joys that remains (as much as I love my Dorset Cereals muesli in the morning).
Dinners out are made all the more joyous when they are celebrations, and that’s just what brought me to Graze Inn earlier this week. It was one of my bestie’s birthdays, so a gang of us headed down to the Eccy Road eatery.
Graze Inn opened around this time last year, in what used to be Champs (before the sports bar shifted down to the Pomona’s old premises). For anyone who had ever been reluctantly dragged into the old Champs, which was quite dark and lacklustre, the arrival of Graze Inn in its place was a real breath of fresh air.
For various reasons, I’d yet to sample Graze Inn before this week, though a few of my pals had been and really liked it. Graze Inn is part of the BrewKitchen group, which also includes The Cricket Inn in Totley, Artisan in Crosspool (not for long though) and Relish, just a bit further up Ecclesall Road, among other venues run by the group. I’ve been to most of the other BrewKitchen outlets and generally really enjoy their food, service and overall vibe- so I was expecting great things from Graze Inn…
Upon arriving at Graze Inn, we turned right for the restaurant; turning left takes you into the bar area. Both sides are spacious and nicely-decorated in a contemporary style.
We were shown to our table, a solid wood number with a long pew running down one side of it, and individual chairs on the other. The tables aren’t crammed in so, although it was busy, we weren’t eavesdropping on or disturbing others. Fellow diners were a mixture of families, young professionals, date nighters, students and groups of grown-up friends. In short, a really good mix of people. I thought this a promising sign that, like BrewKitchen’s other venues, there would be something for everyone here.
Once the whole gang had arrived, we set about ordering an array of cocktails and beers from the extensive drinks menu. I went for the pineapple caipirinha, which I can never pronounce nor spell. I’d had a checkered history with caipirinhas, mainly a hang-up from my student days, and thought it was time to re-visit the Brazilian cocktail. I’m glad I did. It was the perfect drink to start the night, nice and fruity but not too sweet, with a big chunk of pineapple garnishing it. It was so good, I sank two of them (I figured I’d try to cover off one of my five-a-day in beverage form).
The food menu had a wide range, which was good for our group with varying requirements, ranging from vegetarianism to a dislike of mushrooms to a constant need for red meat. We were not disappointed with what was on offer!
We decided to have starters and mains, having been told that a birthday cake had been snuck in for afters (kept secret from the birthday boy, not the restaurant, I hasten to add).
Our lovely waiter, Chris, brought us over a complimentary selection of breads, crispbreads, balsamic vinegar and oil. Just what we needed after a few drinks. When the starters arrived, they were all nicely presented. My tempura of squid, served with seaweed aioli and red chilli salt, arrived in an adorable little paper-lined colander on a wooden board, with the accompaniments in separate dishes on the board. The tempura itself was nicely cooked, as was the squid- no rubber here. The seaweed aioli was tasty, but I didn’t get a lot of chilli from the salt.
Others in the group had ordered crispy fried king prawns; the edamame beans with soy, ginger and lime; and the mini flatbread with goats cheese fondant, slow-cooked fennel & red peppers. The king prawns were lovely and meaty, and were nicely presented with some chilli jam and crème fraîche.
The edamame suffered a bit from just tasting very salty- there wasn’t really any ginger or lime coming through. Just a lot of soy and a need for a big drink. It would have been useful to have been given a small bowl to discard the empty edamame pods into. They were probably the only real low point of the meal.
The “mini” flatbread was actually pretty big. I apologise for the lack of photo, but take my word for it- unless you have a huge appetite, it might be a starter to share between two.
After a short interval, it was time for the mains. Three of us had gone for one of Graze Inn’s signature dishes- the half chicken from their rotisserie. This is rubbed in Graze’s special spice mix and comes with three sides. I chose roast garlic mash, roast Tuscan veggies and a provençale tomato sauce. At £9.50, this is really good value- not to mention cheaper, tastier and much more nicely thought through than getting a half chicken with a couple of sides at a certain chain restaurant…
The chicken was perfectly and evenly cooked, one of the great advantages of a rotisserie. The Graze Inn spice rub gave the outside a great flavour, while the inside was still succulent and juicy. No dried-out birds here. The mash was delicious, with just enough garlic that it comfortably rode the fine line where being not-quite-garlicky enough becomes face-meltingly-garlicky. Again, Graze Inn have got this spot on.
The only real weakness in my main course was that provençale tomato sauce. The flavours one would expect (onions, garlic and herbs as a minimum) from the sauce just weren’t coming through and, for me, it was more reminiscent of a slightly thicker Heinz cream of tomato soup. Still, it was pleasant enough, though I think had the chicken itself not been so carefully seasoned, it would have left things rather bland. Next time, I’ll try the mild jalapeño sauce and see if that packs more of a punch.
The selection of sides was vast, with a variety of potatoes, vegetables, salads and sauces available to choose from and you could mix them up however you wanted. Indeed, one of my friends went for the double-spud option, with normal fries and sweet potato fries. The latter were the star of the show, perfectly cooked with a good crisp outside and still fluffy on the inside. I’ll be ordering them next time! I managed to pinch a fair few from The Other Half, who’d also ordered them, in the spirit of “what’s yours is mine” (I really milk that when it comes to food).
Birthday Boy ordered the rib eye steak and chips. This was served with a rocket salad, mushrooms, tomato and onion rings. As a finishing touch, the steak was topped with two fried eggs. This was the most expensive thing on the menu, at £19.
Not cooking your meat as you’ve requested is something I think we will all agree is one of the most disappointing things a restaurant can do- thankfully, it’s maximum gold stars to Graze Inn on this front. He had ordered it rare and, to his delight, that is what he was served. It looked perfect and the clean plate when he was finished said it all.
Graze Inn’s steak burger, topped with crispy red onion rings, chorizo, jalapeños and a cheese of your choice (there are four to pick from), was a beast. Just look at it!
It received rave reviews and is definitely one for the burger lover in your life. Again, a clean plate (well, board) at the end of the meal.
This was the case also with the oven-baked aubergines and bocconcini. There was a really good range of main course options for vegetarians. Graze Inn have paid more than lip service to the veggies among us- all too often the vegetarian choice at a restaurant is limited to one, token dish. All too often, this is a mushroom risotto or a spinach and ricotta cannelloni. Graze Inn have looked beyond this and their offering for vegetarians is broad and exciting, from salads and fragrant curry to flatbreads and hot sandwiches.
Despite all being fairly stuffed at this point, we had the important matter of a birthday cake to squeeze in. Graze Inn were accommodating about us bringing a cake in, and brought it out at the right moment with candles lit and with plates for us to dish it up on. I eyed up the dessert grazing board for two as it went past though, and that’s on my list for next time, too!
The total bill of £157 between six of us (so about £26 each, before tipping) seemed very reasonable indeed, given that we’d had two courses and a few drinks each. I’d enjoyed a lovely glass of sauvignon blanc after those pineapple caipirinhas.
All in all, Graze Inn was a great choice for my pal’s birthday and is a great point on the Sheffield food scene map. The grub, atmosphere, location and service were all pretty bang-on, bar the few niggles I had with elements of the meal.
I will definitely be returning- there was so much on the menu I wanted to try out, it was hard to choose. Plus, I need those sweet potato fries in my life.
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve been to Graze Inn- what do you think I should try next time? Which BrewKitchen venue is your favourite?