Staindrop Lodge – Chapeltown

We first visited Staindrop Lodge because we were looking for a wedding venue. We wanted somewhere that we could have the ceremony and reception and, after visiting a number of places which were lovely but had very ugly carpets, (why do so many wedding venues in Sheffield have highly patterned colourful carpets? No one wants those on their pictures surely) we looked on the council website at the list of licensed venues. We saw Staindrop Lodge and, having never heard of it, had a quick look on the website and decided to visit.

When we drove into the car park our first impression was of a lovely building, bathed in sunshine (which always helps). We parked up and collected our tiny little sleeping Alfred in his car seat to go in. We walked into the bar area and I was impressed how sparklingly-clean everything was. I have literally never seen a speck of dust in that place. I would quite happily employ their cleaners any day.

I could gush all day about our wedding: the amazing service we received from the start of the process to the end, the food, the day, the hotel… but that would be quite a different blog so I will focus on the times we have eaten there as a family. (I will just very quickly say if you are looking for a night away from the kids the champagne stay-over is absolutely lovely – £150 for a night in the hotel with a bottle of champagne in your room, a three course evening meal and breakfast the next morning. I have seen pretty much all the rooms now too any they are really big and really gorgeous).

There are several areas you can eat in Staindrop – the bar area with a mix of high and low table options and a more casual, order-at-the-bar type vibe, the conservatory, which is nicest in the summer when the sun is streaming in through the many windows and the main restaurant which is on a split level. (We normally end up sitting in here because they have ceiling fans which apparently is the best thing ever as far as a toddler is concerned). There are also plenty of outdoor tables and benches which can be used in the summer.

The food menu is always changing. They print it out daily and use seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients. Some of the standout dishes I have had – roast dinners on a Sunday, spaghetti with salmon (this was properly amazing), moussaka, risotto with sea-bass and the meat pie. I would describe the food as pub classics but done really, really well and sometimes it will surprise you by being really chefy. I have honestly never had a bad meal. I cannot find anything bad to say about the food at all. The portions are always big and the prices more than reasonable. There are always plenty of kids options too. Alfred usually has the pizza (because you get a whole homemade one) or the children’s roast if it’s a Sunday.

The staff at Staindrop are always super-friendly, helpful and very efficient. To say that the majority of the staff I have seen have been very young, they always have a smile on their faces, chat away to Alfred, make sure you have everything you need and clear the table quickly when you have finished (essential to avoid noisy and messy plates being thrown to the floor incidences). They have loads of high chairs, good baby change (again very clean) and there are toilets next to the bar and the restaurant so you are never far away from one (useful for potty-training little ones). Because it’s a hotel there are loads of corridors downstairs to wander round to keep small ones entertained and there is space for them to play in the outside courtyard in the summer. (Just be aware it does have a car park right next to it so running free might not be the best idea.) They do show some sports here so the bar can get quite busy but you can always sit in the restaurant and receive table service. There is a huge car park so there is never an issue with parking.

It might seem like quite far to drive for lunch if you are on the other side of town, however there are loads of things to do close by so you can easily make a day of it. Quite often we go to Wentworth Garden Centre before or after which is just down the road and has a play area, animals, a garden centre and a really good shop full of lovely things. (It also does very, very good cake in the cafe if you have gotten peckish again). There are also lovely places to walk with beautiful scenery such as the grounds of Wortley Hall.

I want to try and think of something slightly negative to say about Staindrop to be constructive but I genuinely can’t think of anything. I just love it here. If I was going to tell them to improve on anything it would be their Instagram page. More food pictures please!

Couch Campo Lane

The first time I went to couch it was for pure convenience, my husband’s office is close to there and I had a bit of time to kill before meeting him. I decided to pop in for a coffee and some cake. The first thing I liked about it is its size. It’s absolutely huge with plenty of space for prams or for inquisitive toddlers to wander about. Even when it has been quite busy I have never not found a table. I like the variety of seat choices, some high tables, some sharing tables, loads of different comfy sofas and armchairs (although I do not condone the denim reupholstering on some of the wingback chairs). My favourite seats are the ones on the stage – they are nice and out the way and you sort of feel in the corner so you can feed comfortably or allow some Ben and Holly watching on the phone without disturbing anyone. (I believe they have WiFi to assist with this).

I really like the atmosphere in Couch. The lighting is really nice and it’s always a good temperature. The music is always really well-chosen and relaxing. The thing I like best about the atmosphere is that the customers always seem to be really jolly. I don’t know what it is about the place but it just seems to attract really nice people. I have on many occasions ended up in conversation with other patrons (usually because Alfred has decided to sit next to them or nearly knocked something off their table) and I always get loads of lovely smiles off people. Even people working alone on their laptops who you would normally expect to be irritated at being disturbed seem happy to turn and smile at Alfred toddling about. I find it very heart-warming.

One of the things I was going to rave about was the fact that they were open quite late, up till 9pm some nights and 7pm others. This was ideal for us as we could stay after work and have a glass of wine while Alfred was happily entertained with rather yummy cake and a juice. On some magical occasions he would fall asleep and we could have a proper end of day chat over our drinks but not feel bad about being in a boozer. However we popped in on Friday for a quick drink and were told the opening hours have changed. (This must be a pretty recent change as on the website it still states the opening hours as 7.30am – 7pm Monday to Thursday, 7.30am – 9 pm Friday, 9am – 9pm Saturday and 9am – 4pm Sunday) when I asked what time they were closing they said they close at 6 most nights. When we arrived at 5, however, all the cake had been put away and they were mopping round us by quarter past so they were obviously keen to get off. (I suppose it was a Friday night). When I asked for cake she seemed happy enough to go get some out for us though so Alfred wasn’t disappointed. I assume they weren’t having enough customers to justify opening so late and I know they do events some nights. (I saw a poster for a cabaret night coming up which looked pretty fun!). It does seem a shame though as there aren’t many places in town you can get a hot drink and cake after 5.

As I restaurant manager I suppose I notice the staff a lot more than other customers. My favourite type of staff are ones who are super-friendly and chatty and engage with myself and Alfred (although I know not everyone likes this service style). The staff at Couch fall into my second favourite category of doing something if you ask but studiously ignoring you the rest of the time (which let’s face it can be pretty nice if your child is being awful), If you ask them for something e.g. crayons and paper, a teaspoon because your toddler has lobbed yours on the floor, extra napkins or whatever they always seem happy to oblige and get them for you right away. They are polite, always answer any questions and never seem to mind a mess. I have no complaints about them but I have also never had a chat with one of them or have had them voluntarily go the extra mile. Having said this whenever I am leaving somewhere and Alfred has made a huge mess on the floor I always try to pick up all the bits or ask for a dustpan and brush to sweep it up if it’s super bad. Whenever I have done this at Couch they have always said ‘don’t worry we will sort it’ which is the best response.

One thing about Couch I cannot fault is the food. Everything I have eaten from has been really yummy and satisfying. As well as the usual menu they do specials so it doesn’t get boring. They only serve food till 4pm so are definitely a breakfast or lunch place. Alfred’s favourite breakfast is the porridge. You get an absolutely massive bowl with loads of Jam. I would always go for eggs Benedict or Royale. They are really good from here.

Lunch-wise I have tried the sandwiches and burgers which were both proper good. I really like the potato wedges too as a nice change from chips. The best thing I have ever eaten was Poutine, they had it on the specials but I definitely think they should make it a permanent edition. It’s basically chips with cheese and thick gravy and sometimes a bit of meat or onions etc. It is literally a comfort food dream and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I have been informed the flatbreads are also really yummy but I haven’t had one before, I’ll definitely try one next time and update you all. The brownies are always so chocolatey and amazing (I believe they are made by hashbrownies).

The milkshakes are absolutely amazing as is the Cawston Press apple and rhubarb pop (so good that I got it into my restaurant just so I could have it all the time). The wine they have is really good and I have never had a bad glass in there. They USED to do two for one on wines at certain times but that was when they opened later so I’m not 100% sure if that’s still available. They have a wide selection of beers too, some on draft and some in bottles.

Couch has really nice toilet facilities which are always lovely and clean. There is a baby change in the disabled toilet, and space for a pram in the ladies (my husband ‘can’t remember’ what the gents is like even though I think he went in there on Friday…). They have several high chairs, crayons and paper, a few books dotted about to look at and animal heads on the wall (which children seem to find hilarious). The kids menu is quite limited with a choice of chicken or sausage with wedges and beans but to be fair Alfred loves both those things so there are never any complaints from him.

I think couch is the perfect place to visit in the day either on your own with babies/kids or with a big group of friends. It’s size and the way the tables are arranged will make you feel comfortable in either circumstance. Because it’s counter service, if you have pram size children, I would recommend ordering before removing them from said pram (I have made this mistake before).

Cubana Tapas Bar – Leopold Square

People might be surprised to see that I have picked Cubana for my first review. The fact that I very rarely see other children in there makes me think most people would assume it isn’t family friendly and I suppose it isn’t in the traditional sense. One thing you will see from my posts is that when I say family friendly I don’t necessarily mean it has a ball pool, your kids can run around wild and unattended or that they have a variety of fried things with fries (that’s what soft play is for right). Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for that. But to me family friendly means that it appeals to the whole family. What’s the point of going out at all if you don’t enjoy it yourself? There has to be all the baby essentials, friendly and accommodating staff and the opportunity for both yourselves and your small people to have fun. I also like to find places where my friends without kids would be just as happy to meet me as my friends who have them.

The first time I went to Cubana with Alfred was on a wet Tuesday when I was still on my maternity leave and Alfred was around 10 months old. I was vaguely wandering around town (as I so often did just to be out the house) at about 4pm, killing time till my husband finished work at 5pm. The rain really set in and I thought I would find somewhere to go and wait for him. I mainly chose Cubana because I was near Leopold Square and because I thought it would be quiet. When I walked in it was practically empty, I expected to sheepishly order a drink and sit in a corner willing Alfred not to make too much fuss and annoy anyone. The man behind the bar engaged me in conversation right away, asked me how I was, said ‘alright mate’ to Alfred, asked me his name, asked me what we were up to and other general chit chat. This might seem like a small thing but when you are the first of your friends to have a baby and have been off with said baby for 10 months spending a lot of time wandering around and being ignored/looked at irritably by people, a bit of genuine conversation and interest really matters. I ordered a soft drink and his response was ‘you know wine is on offer at this time right?’ with that sentence he made a customer for life. I loved the lack of judgement, the way he made me feel comfortable to sit alone for an hour with me son and drink a glass of wine, because let’s face it that’s what most parents of 10 month olds need on a rainy Tuesday.

Just in case you are wondering if I just happened to have a lovely member of staff on my first visit and not all of them are as lovely, here are some of the other things members of staff have done for us on occasions we have been in since then.

  • During one visit I had a cocktail with a strawberry on the rim. When the bartender noticed Alfred eating and enjoying it he brought a little bowl full of strawberries over just for him.
  • On another occasion when I had a cocktail Alfred said he wanted a drink like Mummy’s so they made him his own (fancy juice with loads of garnishes) which he was absolutely thrilled about.
  • Technically I believe they only serve food upstairs and occasionally outside but every time I have asked them if they would mind doing a little bit of food just for him downstairs they always have.
  • Also I have never once noticed a member of staff rolling their eyes at or whispering about Alfred (I tend to notice these things) despite the fact that he can be very naughty, has spilt drinks in there, spent the whole of one visit trying to run behind the bar, spent the whole of another visit attempting to ‘play the piano’.
  • Once he was kicking right off and we were about to leave when they brought him a little bowl of ice cream which kept him quiet for long enough for us to finish our drinks.

Although we do often allow our son to have pizza, chips, sausage or burger when we go out I always really like it when places have other options. In this sense tapas is a perfect choice, one or two small dishes are the perfect size for a little person (depending on their age and appetite of course) some of the dishes that have gone down a storm with Alfred are; Albondigas (meatballs), Merluza fresca (hake with cannellini beans), Croquuetas de jamon (ham and cheese croquets) and Asado de verduras (roast vegetables).

Our favourite time of year to visit Cubana is in the summertime (most things are better in the summertime right?) If you arrive quite early you can get set up outside on one of the tables and while away an afternoon taking advantage of the drinks offers as well as the built in entertainment in the form of a band which is normally playing in Leopold Square and by taking it in turns to walk around the fountains (literally hours of toddler joy, ‘Oh yes darling, its bigger than before, now its small again, yep it’s still doing it). They normally serve food outside in the summer too and if you have eaten they will continue to offer table service for drinks. Sneaky tip – If you go during the day in the summer and all the tables outside are full, the cocktail bar next door doesn’t open till late afternoon so you can get away with a bit of outdoor space stealing. Just make sure you move when they open or you’ll get told off like we did!

The worst time to go is during the day on a weekend when it isn’t warm enough to sit outside. They normally have dance classes on then and quite understandably you will probably get a few filthy looks if your toddler is running under the dancers’ feet. I would also check how busy it is before going in. Sometimes, especially in the summer or for after work drinks on a Friday, it can get really busy and the crowd can be a little too merry to relax. If you wanted to go at that time for food rather than just drinks you can get your own table upstairs and then this wouldn’t be a concern. If you are eating I would definitely recommend the set menu, it’s such good value for money as you get literally loads of different things and you never know what your smalls are going to like – gives them a chance to try lots of new things. I would recommend booking as it always seem to be busy.

If you, like me, are pregnant while visiting there is a non-alcoholic lager option (it isn’t Becks blue, thank goodness, why does everywhere have that? It’s grim), they are happy to make non-alcoholic cocktails and no one looks disapprovingly at you if you order a cheeky little wine. I visited Cubana (toddler free, thanks Mum) for my 30th birthday a couple of weeks ago. The waitress brought me over a rum punch cocktail to celebrate and said ‘don’t worry, there is only a bit of Rum’ which I thought was such a non-patronising and refreshing way to go about things.

Cubana has the baby and toddler essentials including; highchairs on request, a lift to the restaurant on the second floor, baby change in the disabled toilet on the ground floor, loads of space to park your prams/walk about with your toddler and sofa options downstairs for a comfortable place to feed for tiny ones.

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A bit about me….

My name is Faith. I’ve just turned 30 (gulp) and I live in Hillsborough with my husband Peter and our three year old son, Alfred. We decided to take the leap and go for baby number two – first month and Lucy happened. Our little princess is due on the 24th April 2018 and we cannot wait (and are slightly terrified) to complete our family. 

I was born and raised in Sheffield and I couldn’t be happier to still be here. I’ve tried moving to London and Birmingham but the rolling hills of the steel city have always called me home. I love everything about Sheffield. The people, the pride, the community spirit, the easy distance to the beautiful peaks and, most importantly, the Henderson’s Relish.

I started working in hospitality part time when I was 15. I started in agency work and since then have done pretty much everything. I worked in a sports club and became a bar supervisor at 17.  I worked for a catering agency in London during my brief hiatus down South and whilst there worked at huge, out-of-this-world events (damn you silver service, I will never stop cringing at dropping gravy all down a woman’s white designer dress). I’ve working in bars and nightclubs. I worked as a cupcake shop supervisor. I was assistant manager at a restaurant on Ecclesall Road. I was a manager for a restaurant in Dore. I worked for a local brewery at two of their sites, helping to develop them and I am now working for a rather lovely tea company for whom I have just helped to open their first restaurant and bar (yes there will be a very biased blog post about them at some point). 

One thing I have always tried to do is work for independent businesses. Sheffield is absolutely bursting at the seams with them and I try to eat and drink in them as much as possible. I will mainly (although not exclusively) be reviewing independents on here.

Well that’s a bit about me. I’m really looking forward to having something to focus on during my maternity leave (down time is not something I am great at) and of course I mainly want the excuse to eat out all the time and do some cheeky day drinking (which let’s face it is one of the best parts of maternity leave).

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First review to follow soon will be… Cubanas Tapas Bar in Leopold Square.