Ameal built of many small plates in a restaurant constructed of shipping containers. Does this sound enticing? As we head towards Shalesmoor on a perishing night I’m beginning to question the wisdom, but we’ve come this far, and the prospect of a Nordic dinner in this (or any other) part of Sheffield is intriguing.
The building, Krynkl, is extraordinary. Featured in last weekend’s magazine, it is indeed constructed from redundant shipping containers – 28 of them, stacked on top of one another. Designed by David Cross at Coda Studios, it’s a “space built for work and play; hip hidey-holes for the 21st century creative”.
It’s been open only five minutes and already it’s won the Celebrating Construction in South Yorkshire Innovation Award. It’s the kind of place you might expect to see in Shoreditch rather than Kelham Island. Sheffield’s come a long way; the city of my youth was relatively featureless unless you count the Hole in the Road and Batty Norah in her turban, who lived out of bin liners at the bus station and shouted abuse at everyone.
Jöro (pronounced Yoro, it means “earth”) is the brainchild of chef Luke French and Matt Bigland, the man behind the garlanded Milestone gastropub just across the way. At Jöro we’ve got the prospect of “hyper-seasonal” – “an urban restaurant, which has a close bond with nature, to local farms, hunters and foragers and of course with the vibes of the city and its people”. Bigland is reported as saying it’s a game-changer. Some claim!
The first thing to say is that there’s no sense of being in a shipping container. It’s not only warm, it’s the very definition of urban chic, the hard edges softened with candles, local art and chunky furniture. There’s cool music, as you’d expect, and the lighting is low. We eschew the tasting menu for a series of small plates, and dinner arrives in no particular order.
Warm peas are cooked in allium oil, with tiny shards of oak smoked bacon adding crunch, and garlic cream bringing a pleasing depth to the dish. Sweet and sour baby onions have a bold black garlic glaze and koji (a sort of fungus used in the making of soy sauce) and are finished with crumbs of frozen Stilton – it’s an extraordinary looking thing with a terrific range of texture and taste.
I’m baffled by a plate of barbecued heritage carrots; there’s lovage and burnt cream in there somewhere but it doesn’t hit the spot. Likewise celeriac steak with parmesan and truffle butter – beige food isn’t pretty; it’s a misstep. But we’re back on track with a sensational bowl of fabulously fat Shetland scallops poached in apple with mussel and dill sauce; lovely colours, ivory and the palest green.
French darts around in his open kitchen, plating up on a vast wooden counter, and when he’s not delivering the dish himself, there are amazing elves. Service is an exercise in charming efficiency – these guys don’t only know every component of a dish, they know where it’s come from and how it’s used.
Two more dishes stand out: Cornish mackerel with pickled artichokes and miso oil – again, pretty as a picture, mega-fishy and a slap round the chops. A piece of Moss Valley pork does the trick too – it’s a lovely bit of beautifully cooked belly with a sharp/sweet blackcurrant sauce.
It’s worth mentioning the wine list – it’s pricey, with most of it around the £30 mark, but it’s been cleverly compiled, and the bracing Verdejo, an organic Spanish Jiminez from the “pioneering Parra brothers” is stunning. We have a brief exchange about it with our waiter, who trots off and returns with two clean glasses and a half-empty bottle of white Rioja. “We had a wine tasting last night, and if you like that, I think you’ll like this,” he says, urging us to try. Nice touch.
There are two desserts and both are gasp-worthy – Yorkshire rhubarb, lemon thyme and yoghurt; subtle, herby sweetness with Barbie pink granita, a triumph. But nothing can prepare me for the final flourish: two bars of white, aerated chocolate with sticky dots of shoyu koji fudge, so intense it sucked my cheeks in. The “Aero” just dissolved as soon as it hit my tongue, sending shivers of pleasure down my back. How. The. Hell? I’m guessing they’ve a lot of high-tech kit to play with, but I’m not a spod; I don’t need to know to make something like disappearing Aero, I’m just glad French does.
He says that he doesn’t have 100 per cent hit rate on customers “getting” his dishes, and that he’s happy with that. He knows he’s pushing boundaries and the food is so experimental it comes with the territory. He’s been monkeying around for well over a year just for the Jöro project; his menu can change mid-service, let alone day to day, so expect the unexpected. It’s smart, modern, thoughtful food and there were many more good dishes than bad, the Scandi/Jap mash-up works well – and it’s lots of fun and a bit bonkers. Keep reminding yourself you’re in Steel City with traffic thundering by on the A61, and not a chichi Copenhagen suburb.
• Jöro, 02-05 Krynkl, 295 Shalesmoor Road, Sheffield S3 8US.0114 299 1539, jororestaurant.co.uk. Open Wednesday to Saturday: Lunch 12 to 3pm; dinner 5.30 to 10pm. Small plates from £5.50 to £12. Tasting menus: five courses £35, eight courses £45, 12 courses £65 (allow three hours).
DRINKS SELECTION 5/5