Note: Relish closed in May 2014; it’s been replaced by Smith & Baker
: a seasoned sauce that is used to add flavour to other foods and that is made of chopped fruit or vegetables; especially : such a sauce made from pickles
: enjoyment of or delight in something
: a feeling of liking something
For those who’ve not been, Relish is on Ecclesall Road, on the “lower” stretch as we know it in our household (i.e. between Waitrose and the Berkeley Centre). It used to be called The Spice Market Café, but reopened in late 2010 as Relish.
Relish’s revamp, which was unveiled a few weeks ago, has been well-researched, and it shows. Some of BrewKitchen’s top brass have been to the States and to that there London to do their homework- checking out some good Brooklyn bars, as well as Meat Liquor and Pitt Cue Co in The Big Smoke. What was once a restaurant with a bit of an identity crisis is now a clearly-defined, Southern soul food offering (cooked “low and slow”), with a cracking range of beers and other drinks.
Whilst I had been to the old Relish a few times before and really liked their food and service, a few things about the Relish I used to know irked me. Firstly, their sign. Written in a graffiti-style, their name was hard to read and offensive on the eyes. No more- check out the pics below of the old and new logos.
Another thing that used to bug me about Relish was the number of chalkboards one had to refer to, as well as the paper menu, to know what was on offer. It used to be the case that there were three boards to read before making your selection. I am the kind of person who can be paralysed by too much choice in restaurants, rendering anyone dining with me completely frustrated at my inability to choose. Again, I am pleased to report this is no more- the menu has been pared down to one, very exciting, page. Yes, I still want to order just about everything on it, but at least I am just looking in the one location as I try to decide.
That’s not to say there is less choice at the new Relish- the food options are varied and many of them are customisable. For instance, you can whack a range of different toppings on your burger, once you’ve decided whether to have a buttermilk-fried chicken, beef or sweet potato & falafel burger. Same goes for the hot dogs- again, choose your base between a classic foot-long dog, a fish dog or the innovative veggie option of the onion bhaji dog- then pimp it up with a massive range of different toppings. You can see the toppings available for burgers and dogs below.
I began with a cocktail, the big apple. This was a perfectly-balanced blend of vodka, apple juice and elderflower, and a reasonable price at £5. A mug of complementary popcorn was brought over for us to nibble on while we waited on our starters.
Adelle, our host for the evening, said that we’d be trying some beers out which had been selected to accompany our food. Now, I’m not normally a beer drinker, preferring to stick to white wine, gin or cocktails but, because of BrewKitchen’s partnership with Thornbridge Brewery, and because of their joint expertise in this area (just under a year ago, they jointly published the well-considered and visually-pleasing Craft Union, their book all about matching beer with food), I decided to go with it and tried four different beers with our various courses. And I’m so glad I did!
Seeing beer as a drink that you spend time choosing and as an accompaniment to a nice meal is novel to me, but I’d try it again in future. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say I now have a favourite beer, in Kipling, a South Pacific pale ale which we had with our main courses. It was light, fruity, and easily-drinkable; a worthy replacement for the Sauvignon Blanc I would have ordered. Get me!
The starters arrived and, man, did they look good. We shared a bucket of buttermilk chicken wings, as well as some beef chilli nachos. The chicken wings had a delicious, crispy coating and plenty of meat on them, too. They were pretty tasty and, if wings are your thing, you’d be hard-pressed to find fault with these. The wings come in a range of portion sizes, costing either £4, £8 or £12 with roughly one wing per £.
The nachos were, in a word, amazing. Imagine a trough of crispy, salty tortilla chips, piled up with melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket chilli, guac (somewhat pretentiously listed on the menu as “avocado compote”, but it’s totally guacamole- v tasty too), salsa, cheese, sour cream and spring onions. YOU MUST TRY THESE. At £8.50 for a really big portion, they’d be a decent starter for 2-3 people, though they are listed in the mains section. I hate it when nachos are all chip and not enough topping; I’m happy to report this is so not the case at Relish, where things are top-heavy and all the more awesome for it. Normally I like to try something new when I return to a restaurant- however I think I’ll find it hard to be at Relish in the future and not order these.
Once the waiter had prised the nacho dish out of my hands, it was time for our mains. Our host for the evening had ordered a really generous range of dishes, which we shared between the five of us so got to try a bit of everything,
There was Miss Gussy’s Diner- named in honour of a lady who works at a Maryland diner, this was a selection tray comprising pulled BBQ pork (soooo good and juicy, with spot-on seasoning), smoked brisket (looked like beef brisket chilli, but needed a bit more heat/spice for my palate), buttered broccoli and corn on the cob (tasty butter, but slightly “dinner-ladied” broccoli) and a loaded baked potato, which I didn’t even try because I was getting so full. It looked lovely though, filled with beans and topped with a slab of cheese. For £11, this is a really good-value way to try out a range of different Relish goodies.
There was a buttermilk fried chicken burger. This was a beast of a burger, definitely a two-hands-required sort of dish. The chicken was beautiful- juicy on the inside, crisp and yummily-seasoned on the outside. For £9, you get your burger and a side of fries, as well as a delicious little pot of relish. This relish isn’t listed on the menu, but it came with the hot dog as well and deserves a mention for being so tasty. I can’t imagine trying to eat the double burger version of this, as just one bit of chicken was so substantial.
The hot dog was a dream- we had a classic foot-long dog at £8, with tex-mex topping for an additional £2.50 (beef brisket chilli, cheese, guac, sour cream, spring onion and crispy fried potato bits). The dog itself was already proper meaty-tasting; throwing extra meat on top felt extravagant but, wow, I’m glad we did. It was just divine. I think it’s partly because I am a sucker for a good bit of slow-cooked meat and also it’s down to the contrast of a fast food item with something that takes several hours to perfect.
Then, there was a full rack of baby back ribs. Like the burger and hot dog, these came with fries, as well as a little pot of delicious homemade coleslaw. The ribs had a properly punchy BBQ’d flavour and the meat was so succulent, it was falling off the bone. I was also pleased to note there was plenty of meat on these ribs- I’ve had a few near-misses with ribs at other, lesser establishments where it’s been all bone and no meat- so maximum points to Relish here. Well worth the £14.
For dessert, we shared a few things. My favourite, Death by Chocolate, was a chocolate fondant which was so perfect I almost shed a little tear. The inside was gooey and warm, with chocolate running all over the plate from my first spoonful. This was served with chocolate chip ice cream, chocolate stones (a bit like really big Smarties that looked like stones!), chocolate soil and chocolate sauce. Rich, yes. Decadent, a little. Delicious, absolutely.
We also had a Snickers brownie, which arrived with a jaunty little umbrella poking out- this felt frivolous in the best possible way and made a few of us a bit giggly. There was some vanilla ice cream next to it, which to me is indisputably king of the brownie accompaniments, especially when the brownie is served warm, as was the case at Relish. The Snickers layer in the brownie was really nice, though the peanuts could have been a little crunchier.
Our third dessert, the “zest it up” lemon sundae, was a little underwhelming. There was too thick a cake layer to be able to drill down and scoop up little bits of different components in one spoonful. Maybe it’s because I’m a chocoholic. However, the popping candy on top was another little tongue-in-cheek touch which Relish are really good at.
We were brought a Bakewell tart milkshake to finish which, had I not been so stuffed, I would have happily gulped more of. Served in an old-school glass milk bottle (yay for kitsch drinking vessels! Regular readers will know how I love them), this would have served as a good substitute for pudding. Relish also have a range of cocktail shakes, including the alcoholic version of the Bakewell tart shake. I’m looking forward to exploring their shakes more on future visits!
All in all, I love the new Relish. I liked the old Relish, but the refreshed version feels like it has a lot more purpose and less of an identity crisis going on. The improved environment inside the restaurant lends itself to a new feeling about the place- cool artwork on the walls (graffiti artist coming soon for the back wall, too) and a bespoke playlist churning out the 90’s classics- and I think there’s really something for everyone at Relish. There’s no kids menu, but kids can get half portions of the grown-ups’ stuff for half price. And, importantly, they still have the same great staff members there.
I was really pleased to try out beer with a meal and it was great having several locally-brewed numbers. I’ll be ordering a bottle of Kipling next time I’m at Relish- unless I’m there for brunch (check out their amazing-sounding brunch menu– eggs piglet have my name all over them!), in which case it’ll have to be an ice cream milkshake.
Huge thanks to Adelle and BrewKitchen for having me as their guest. After all that food, I rolled home content and excited about the “new” addition to Sheffield, wondering how many visits it would take me to try everything on the menu.
Drop me a line on Twitter or leave a comment below, I’d love to hear what you think about Relish’s makeover- is it a hot diggity dog for you, too?