The underrated joys of Spital Hill's restaurants
These places don’t generally make top 10 lists — but maybe they should
Good afternoon members — I first came across Mina Miller’s writing via an extremely funny essay about the politics of food production, a topic I had never formerly clocked as a comic goldmine. As such, I was delighted to see her name in my inbox one morning. As a new transplant to Sheffield, Mina wanted to write about a less feverishly-documented part of the food scene than the Jöros and Benches of this city — Spital Hill’s plethora of incredible restaurants. Mina has previously written for food publications like Vittles and PotLuck and used to work as a food reviewer for her local paper in Hackney.
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✈️ South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard and Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones have written to the owners of DSA in a last ditch attempt to save the airport, which is scheduled to shut its doors early in November. They are urging owners Peel to give potential new buyers enough time to complete the complex legal and financial requirements that such a deal would entail. However, if Peel refuses to reconsider, they say the government needs to step in to save it.
💧 A giant reservoir could be built near Sheffield due to “unprecedented demand” and water lost to leaks. Severn Trent Water have put forward two plans, one to build a fourth reservoir on the moors above Howden and another to build a higher dam downstream from Ladybower. However, countryside campaigners have said they are “very concerned” by the plans and say that water companies should tackle the “incredible amount” of leaks first.
🌭 The Container Park development at the top of Fargate will finally open on Monday, 17 October, the council have announced. Because of delays, four of the original vendors have now pulled out of the project. However, when it opens next week, all the units will be filled with vendors including a terrace bar, the hotdog seller Get Wurst, craft beer pop-up Heist, Korean street food stall Clapping Seoul, Mexican Fat Mex and print shop JAM Artworks.
Things to do
👻 Halloween is now only a few weeks away and local author Adrian Finney is back with another series of his Strange Sheffield Ghost Walks to mark the spooky season. There are seven walks in all between now and 31 October, with the first taking place this Friday (14 October) in the city centre. Starting at Tudor Square, the walk will include visits to locations where ghostly encounters have taken place and the site of an old Victorian autopsy theatre.
🎭 Starting on Friday (October 14) at the Crucible is The Contingency Plan, Steve Waters’ acclaimed double-bill of plays about the climate emergency. The work is made up of two separate productions — one a compelling family drama (On the Beach) and the other a thrilling political satire (Resilience). Each play stands alone, but together they’re a fearless, funny and foreboding portrait of a near future. The Contingency Plan runs until 5 November.
🎻 This Saturday (15 October) enjoy powerful music in the peaceful and beautiful setting of Sheffield Cathedral as the Brigantes Orchestra begins their season with Remembrance. The evening’s programme, conducted by Quentin Clare, features autumnal music by Finzi with top soloist Emma Johnson, a pastoral symphony which describes the landscape in northern France during WW1 by Vaughan Williams, and Larghetto for Orchestra by James MacMillan.
By Mina Miller
My partner and I are relatively recent transplants to Sheffield. Moving to a new city involves a lot of admin. You need to find a place to live, set up wifi, figure out when the local bus will arrive (if it arrives at all), peer down the street to see which bins you should be putting out — if the neighbours’ are anything to go by, it’s anyone’s guess. But it’s also a fresh start, with excitement at all the city has to offer, the sprawling Peak District, and the places that have yet to reveal themselves.
When we moved here, I looked online for the best places to eat in the city. Topping the search results were lists by the Good Food Guide, TimeOut and Hardens, among others. These provided a handy overview of the buzziest dining destinations in the city. I couldn’t help but notice, though, that the city’s centre and many neighbourhoods were dotted with Chinese caffs, kebab shops and a diversity of busy holes in the wall. Where could I find out about them?
While Sheffield might be light on nationally recognised restaurants (the closure of Juke & Loe following a glowing Guardian review being a particularly bittersweet moment for local foodies), the truth is that it is a city rich in food, with restaurants serving good value fare from around the world to residents and students alike. These places don’t usually make any top ten lists — but they feature on takeaway apps like JustEat and Hungry Panda, and sometimes the only way to discern a local favourite is to walk by and peek in.
Another thing a newcomer to Sheffield might hear when trying to get their bearings is that Burngreave ward is home to some Bad Neighbourhoods. Many a cabbie or colleague has shaken their head in disbelief when I’ve told them we were considering moving there, to be near friends. There is crime, yes. There are gangs, yes. There’s also an ongoing controversy about pedestrian access to the Tesco Extra (more on this later).
These are all issues you’d expect to find in one of Sheffield’s most deprived neighbourhoods. But there’s plenty to Burngreave beyond the statistics. The area is home to a bustling community, with active local groups, bountiful allotments, local festivals, an autumnal scarecrow trail and its own paper — The Burngreave Messenger. And one thing is uncontestable: if you’re looking for great value food, the stretch of Spital Hill between Tesco and Andover Street, which is dense with food shops, bakeries and restaurants, is a singularly great place to eat.
A food crawl of Spital Hill
When I ask Saed what he thinks of Spital Hill’s reputation, he bursts out laughing. “This neighbourhood is terrible”, he says. “And it’s getting worse. It’s not very white, but white people do come here for drugs.”
Saed is the frontman at Nergiz, one of three Kurdish restaurants operating in the local area. He works at the till, taking orders and handing out menus, and serves as a conduit between the dining space and busy team cooking up a storm in the clattering, steamy kitchen. When I ask if we can chat about the restaurant, Kurdish food and the local area more generally, a short exchange takes place between him and a wiry man standing at the back. “Bossman has given me his approval”, he says with a shy grin. I get a wide smile from bossman. Tea materialises.
Nergiz is a brightly lit, caf-style restaurant with broad tables that can accommodate large groups, or multiple small ones sharing, which is necessary on busy evenings. Opened in 2017, it quickly established itself as a destination for locals of all stripes, but it mainly serves up classics familiar to Kurds and Iraqis. If you come in on a Sunday, you’re likely to see families ordering the weekend specials, served with a generous portion of naan, stew and rice. If you want to try them, don’t leave it too long — they can run out by mid-afternoon.
Saed himself is Iraqi, not Kurdish, unlike almost everyone else at Nergiz. “We’re all friends. We get along,” he says, gesturing at the room. He came to Sheffield nearly four years ago to join family and pursue his education, believing he’d find more opportunity here in the UK. When I ask if he felt he’d been well received, he smiles and says that people generally act friendly to his face. But, he follows up, who knows what they really think.