The Forum Café Bar: new menu

I was recently invited to The Forum to try out some dishes from their new winter menu.

I must confess, I’d not been to The Forum in aaaages. I think my subconscious blocks it out because in my student days, I lived at Victoria Hall, directly behind The Forum. So I spent plenty of time propping up the bar at The Forum in my youth, thank you very much, and also regularly marched past it in my jim jams heading to/from the supermarket or takeaway on West St (yes, I was one of those students).

However, since living back in Sheffield as a proper, almost-always-appropriately-attired-adult these past few years, I’ve dipped my toe back in The Forum’s waters a few times. Normally it’s a stop just for drinks; the last time I can remember eating there was in early 2013, a few days before my wedding. There’s no real reason for this, it’s just how stuff has worked out.

Having recently started viewing this bit of town more fondly again, I was really excited to check out what’s new at The Forum alongside some other cool Sheffield bloggers. And, my, has it changed. While some of their classic dishes are still on offer, the new Forum menu taps into the Korean food trend and all the buzz ingredients that go with it- bulgogi, kimchi and sriracha (though not strictly Korean in origin) to name a few.

The Forum have also embraced sesame seeds, using a flatbread as the base of a dish and, most exciting of all, serving food on proper plates– not boards, not enamel, actual drop-’em-on-the-floor-and-break-’em, pretty pottery plates.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with a champagne cocktail which was reminiscent of an Aperol Spritz. It was lovely and, as I was driving, my only drink-drink of the night:

Starting with a fizz
Starting with a fizz

Exec chef Andy Burns talked us through the new menu and how they came to devise it. They’re trying to get people to be more adventurous and trust them, by introducing new dishes which are a nod to current food trends, alongside Forum favourites like their burgers and Sunday roasts. Their gourmet toastie selection looks to be trying to bridge the gap between the two. The result is a menu that I would happily eat every single item from.

We started with a selection of The Forum’s small plates, which are £3.95 each or £10 for 3, making them a good option for a starter to share between a few people- or a main course for those who want to experience a few different things.

The spicy sriracha hummus delivered on its promise of heat. Topped with sesame seeds and chillis, as well as sriracha, it came with some crispy pitta chips. The hummus left me with some serious garlic vibes- which suits me just fine.

Spicy sriracha hummus
Spicy sriracha hummus

The baby back ribs with honey and sesame seeds were sticky and sweet, and fell apart so easily; I’d definitely order these again:

Baby back ribs with honey and sesame seeds *NOM*
Baby back ribs with honey and sesame seeds *NOM*

Rarebit fondue with toasted sourdough was a pleasant surprise. I normally don’t really like blue cheese, which this dish was made with, but, in the spirit of The Forum’s “trust them” approach to their menu, I decided to be polite and try a bit. And it was actually delicious. The toasted sourdough, from Sharrowvale-based Seven Hills Bakery, was the perfect dipper for the molten cheese, which came in a delightful mini cast iron casserole dish:

Rarebit fondue with toasted sourdough.
Rarebit fondue with toasted sourdough.

The steamed buns looked beautiful and tasted even better. The new menu features kimchi pork belly steamed buns or a bulgogi beef filling. I tried the latter and found the bun to be fluffy and sticky, and the beef well-seasoned. I added some garlic sriracha to it for  a next-level tastebud party. I’ll definitely be ordering more of these next time:

Steamed buns stuffed with bulgogi beef or kimchi pork belly.
Steamed buns stuffed with bulgogi beef or kimchi pork belly.

Therein ended the marathon of starters and we were onto the mains.

We began with the pork tomahawk chop, served with roasted vine tomatoes and house fries. Glazed with sweet soy and ginger, this was a massive slab of meat and well worth the £9.95. I’d have liked it with more of a kick, though the extensive selection of different sriracha varieties sorted this for me:

Pork tomahawk chop
Pork tomahawk chop

If it was more heat I was after, then the Korean pork belly burrito sure delivered. This is billed on the menu as containing chillies and The Forum mean it. As well as being packed with flavour, it was near-to-bursting with filling and again good value (£8.50), served with house fries:

Korean pork belly burrito- looks innocent, tastes muy picante.
Korean pork belly burrito- looks innocent, tastes muy picante.

I tried a little bit from both the chicken and the soy-glazed tofu skewer (£8.50 each) and they were perfectly fine- flavoursome and fresh- but not the most interesting things on the menu, to me anyways. Again, I added some sriracha and enjoyed the heat:

Chicken skewer with brown rice, chillies, sesame seeds, pak choi and gochujang ketchup, on flatbread.
Chicken skewer with brown rice, chillies, sesame seeds, pak choi and gochujang ketchup, on flatbread.

The crispy cod pakora were great. The batter was crispy and had a nice thickness to it. And the portion size was generous too; not bad for £8.50:

Crispy cod pakora
Crispy cod pakora

Two of my favourite items of the whole night were the shaved bulgogi beef and the beef burger.

Exec chef Andy told us that so many places, including other sites in the group, are doing the more dirty burger. So, at The Forum, they’ve set out to do the best “clean” burger they can, using high-quality ingredients. The bun is a buttermilk roll from Seven Hills Bakery, the meat in the burger is from Mr Pickles (they supply all the beef used here). The result makes my mouth water just thinking of it. The burger was really juicy, you could taste the quality of the ingredients and the seasoning of the beef was spot on:

The Forum's classic beef burger, with hero ingredients from local suppliers Mr Pickles + Seven Hills Bakery.
The Forum’s classic beef burger, with hero ingredients from local suppliers Mr Pickles + Seven Hills Bakery.

The shaved bulgogi beef was served with brown rice, chillies, pak choi and kimchi on a flatbread. It looked attractive and tasted healthy, but still like a treat. The beef was so tender; I’ll be heading to Mr Pickles soon to stock up:

Shaved bulgogi beef.
Shaved bulgogi beef.

While you’d be right to think I was filling up by now, The Forum invited us to try out some of their new desserts.

The hotteok, a Korean filled pancake, is a popular street food in Korea. It looked like a dense crumpet. Served warm with Sheffield-made Yee Kwan ice cream, I think it’s the perfect winter dessert, being quite stodgy and comforting. However, it’s probably one I’d recommend if you’ve still got plenty of room:

Hotteok- Korean filled pancake
Hotteok- Korean filled pancake

The Rolo brownie was properly chocolatey and is one I’d order again:

Homemade Rolo brownie.
Homemade Rolo brownie.

For me, the deep-fried Korean ice cream sandwich was the most interesting of the desserts. The sandwich was made of two doughnut-like halves, deep-fried so they had a bit of bite. Messy to eat with or without cutlery, this was so tasty:

Deep fried Korean ice cream sandwich
Deep fried Korean ice cream sandwich

All in all, I loved everything we tried at The Forum. The new menu really appeals to me and I’m looking forward to going back for some steamed buns, burgers, ribs, toasties and everything else soon. If, like me, you’ve not been to The Forum for a while (or ever!), take the plunge; your tastebuds will thank you.

Thanks Miles and Andy for putting on such a great night and having me along. I’m looking forward to the brewery opening next door and can’t wait to see what happens next.

PS – The Forum had a great vid produced of the night, which you can check out here.

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