Alex conjures up perfect combination of ales and food at super Sentinel Brewhouse.
“I bought a carpet from here years ago,” says Tim as we walk in. Not the kind of thing you normally hear as you sit down to eat.
Though there was that mate who bought his mum some knock-off curtains in a pub on Christmas Eve one year but that was different.
And so is this. This is Sentinel Brewhouse on Shoreham Street. Formerly Geoff Hall carpets - now operating from another address.
It’s long, high, has concrete floors and metal cladding and looks less like a pub and more like a… converted carpet showroom.
It’s also fantastic. Great beer, some great food and a great story behind it.
Alex Barlow is responsible for most of that story.
Alex started work as a bar and cellarman aged 17, went on to study pharmacology at university and has an MSc in micro-brewing. He worked at the Hope and Anchor Brewery in Wadsley Bridge and Stones’ Cannon Brewery on Rutland Road.
He’s also become the youngest-ever master brewer, brewed in Burton-on-Trent and made the legendary Czech beer Staropraman at the Branik brewery in Prague.
That’s some CV.
“I’m from Chester but I’ve been in Sheffield for 25 years now,” said 50-year old Alex.
“I see brewing as alchemy, a combination of science, art and magic. I am particularly interested in the food and beer mix. It’s something I’m keen for people to explore when they come to Sentinel.”
He also insists on beer or beer ingredients being used in all food at Sentinel, even the desserts.
We get there on a balmy Wednesday evening and beer lovers are sitting outside in a surprisingly peaceful seating area a few feet from the busy ring-road.
For our first beer course I had a deep and meaty Sheffield Bitter and Tim chose a Cologne-style Kolsch lager, both excellent in their own way and both made by Alex.
For food Tim won the toss and chose the Brewers scotch egg with pork & Yorkshire black pudding, malt crusted free-range Whirlow Farm egg and Sentinel brown sauce – they make their own.
This was lovely, crunchy meaty sausage speckled with black pudding pieces, egg still slightly runny and warm with a few salad leaves for garnish. Top class.
I had the ‘cock-a-leekie’ terrine, onion & ginger chutney and toasted beer bread. The shredded and pressed meat is tender and tasty and the chunks of leek add freshness. The chutney – home made of course – gives sweetness and zip.
The toast is real bread with open texture and real crunch. I had originally been brought the wrong starter. The problem was nicely dealt with by an apology and the price of the starter knocked off the bill. Class. Anyone can make a mistake, it’s what you do after that counts.
The place is getting busier with tables taken up by diners, couples, middle-aged beer men and a table of incredibly young-looking Chinese students appreciatively sipping real ale made three feet from where they’re sitting.
For our main courses Tim had lamb breast, rosemary & olive stew, slow-braised in sentinel Ar (American red)ale, chive & mint mash and buttered chantenay carrots.
The stew is rich and dark, the stunning gravy has a good hit of lamby sweetness and the meat melts in the mouth. The mash is smooth and plentiful and better for the mint and chives. The whole carrots, always impressive, are nicely firm and sweet.
I went for the ale-glazed half rack of pork ribs slow-braised in sentinel OS (Orange Stout), apple and celery coleslaw and chilli buttered corn. The ribs are fantastic. Covering the whole plate, the corn and coleslaw both sheltered under it’s fall-apart, meaty wing.
With just a hint of dry-rub spice and none of the industrial strength ‘BBQ’ sauce that seems to plague most rib dishes elsewhere, this is how ribs should taste.
The coleslaw has a hint of Waldorf salad about it with the sweetness of apples and crunch of celery. The corn lacks crispness but the sweetness is good and the butter and spices combine nicely.
You can taste the beers in the slightly bitter finish of the lamb and in the depth of flavour of the ribs.
We had a bowl of three-times-cooked chips which were crunchy and gorgeous and Tim wondered who would be the first to try four-times cooked chips and would they be any better?
Somebody will be doing it somewhere, I’ll let you know.
For dessert warm chocolate & stout brownie, cream cheese and orange frosting, chocolate sauce 4.00 made with sentinel OS.
Brownie seems to be on every menu these days and if they were all as good as this that would be great. Warm and spongey with a hint of gooiness, the brownie itself is a good portion, the chocolate sauce sensational and the orange cream a perfect accompaniment - glorious.
Tim had the toffee hopcorn panna cotta with Our Cow Molly butter shortbread. The panna cotta had real wobble and flavour and the popcorn a charming novelty though it was a bit on the soft side. All in all a lovely beery treat.
In case you’re wondering Tim’s carpet was blue and very good value.
Three courses and four pints was £47.60 - price of starter deducted after the mistake.
Star rating out of five:
* Sentinel Brewhouse, 178 Shoreham Street, Sheffield, S1 4SQ
* Tel: 0114 3999888
* Opening hours: Mon 11am-6pm, Tue-Thurs 11am-11pm, Fri -Sat 11am–midnight, Sun 11am–6pm