I ventured over the Peaks by train to Sheffield last month with very few preconceptions, other than the assertion from a number of my friends that the city was ‘pretty cool’.
It was a beautifully sunny day, early in springtime, and proved to be a perfect time for a visit. Known the world over for it’s industrial revolution heyday as the city of steel, the Sheffield I glimpsed as the train rolled into the station seemed a million miles from the typecast of a city still stuck in it’s former glory days. Exiting the station you’re greeted by a majestic 300 feet long stainless steel sculpture and waterfall that winds its way along the main walkway towards the city. More than just a striking work of art, it’s a nod to Sheffield’s industrial past that instead of looking back in wonder, seems to look forward in hope and prosperity.
I had no formal plan of attack traversing the city streets, aside from a few choice recommendations for coffee stops from the ever-reliable Matthew Spade, and a desire to visit the lush botanical gardens that frequently grace the Instagram grid of local couple Haarkon.
So, come a take a little wonder with me – and shout if you’ve any recommendations for my next trip; I’m sure I will be back!
My first port of call as I arrived in the city was Ambulo, an all-day café located within Sheffield’s Millenium Gallery, a short walk from the train station. Inspired by “culture, travel and the best produce from near and far”, the café is a symphony of concrete and glass designed by London architects Pringle Richards Sharratt, who have designed a light airy space that oozes unexpectedly Californian-style charm, especially on a bright sunny day. This place was the first of a few coffee shop recommendations from Mr. Spade, and most assuredly did not disappoint. Offering all-day dining, speciality coffee, wine and cocktails, this space definitely feels like somewhere I’d hang out frequently if I lived in the city, if only to gorge on the incredible chilli bacon jam breakfast buns. Seriously, they were out of this world!
→Ambulo, Millennium Gallery, 48 Arundel Gate, Sheffield S1
As much as I would have loved to explore the art, craft and design on offer at Millennium Gallery, the glorious sunshine outside was calling to me and, all fired up on coffee and pastries, I headed back out to explore on foot, weaving up and down the sloping side streets taking in the sights.
There’s a lot of work going on in the centre just now, with numerous cranes towering around many corners, but there was still plenty to discover. I stopped awhile in the Peace Gardens by the gothic Town Hall, created as part of the Heart of the City project by Sheffield City Council, which saw major redevelopment and the creation of 12 official Quarters in the city centre. Close by, I stumbled upon Devonshire Quarter, with many fantastic independent stores selling vintage clothing, records, jewellery and more, alongside many quirky pubs and bars that reminded me somewhat of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, albeit on a far smaller scale.
I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of Collard Manson before my visit, but as soon as I passed by and saw their window displays laden with stylish bohemian finds I knew it was a store for me. Housed within a old city centre property in the Devonshire Quarter, the space is kept stripped back and industrial in style with exposed brickwork and bare wooden floorboards – all the better to display the eclectic selection of home and fashion accessories sourced by married owners, Zara and Tim Collard. Everywhere you look there is a new corner upon which to feast your eyes with curated rustic, boho and artisanal designs, from unique ceramic tableware and mouth-blown glass, to hand-poured candles and organic linens, sourced the world over. I couldn’t help but add another coffee cup to my ever-growing collection, as well as stocking up on a few Nomad Society scented soy wax candles which I’d been looking to track down for a while, but next time I’m in town I’ll be sure to have a suitcase in tow to fully stock up!
→Collard Manson, 123-125 Devonshire Street, Sheffield S3
Ink & Water
All that walking and shopping meant another coffee stop was in order, and I stumbled across Ink & Water quite by accident as I wandered down a side street in the midst of a new-build development seeking shade from the (ridiculously warm for February) midday sun. I was attracted by the café’s simple styling and minimal branding, so it wasn’t a surprise to later discover that Ink & Water is a design agency as well, offering graphic and web design, branding, photography and video production. In this day and age, it certainly pays to be diverse – as well as being well versed in the art of great coffee! Their beans hail from local roastery, Forge Coffee, while bread and pastries are supplied daily by local artisan bakers. They also produce their own quarterly magazine, Fresh Ink, covering everything in the world of design and coffee, making it the perfect paper to flick through whilst sipping your beautifully crafted cappuccino.
→Ink & Water, 8 Fitzwilliam Street, West One, Sheffield S1
Re-caffeinated and raring to go, it was time to take a route out of the city centre, past the university, and down towards Sheffield’s popular Botanical Gardens. Opened in 1836, the gardens cover 19 acres on a south-west sloping site and were laid out by the illustrious horticulturalist and landscape designer Robert Marnock, in the gardenesque style that was all the rage in Victorian Britain. The spectacular glass pavilions, listed by English Heritage as a Grade II site of special historic and architectural interest, were designed by B.B. Taylor and opened in the same year, and now house a wonderful collection of plants from the temperate regions of Asia, the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Africa. It’s the perfect escape from the hustle of the city centre, even if the lawns do become packed with people picnicking on warm, sunny days – even in February! Inside the pavilions though, the outside world seems a long way away, the air is still, and the only sound the low hum of water filtration trickling through the system.
→Sheffield Botanical Gardens, Clarkehouse Road, Sheffield S10
After all that walking it was safe to safe I was pretty ravenous, and as I continued my suburban explorations I came across a charming selection of shops along Sharrow Vale Road, and the delightfully named Pom Kitchen. An Australian inspired all-day veggie and vegan eatery, the menu is dedicated to vibrant plant-powered dishes from supercharged power salads and smoothies to bejewelled open sandwiches and the ubiquitous smashed avocado on toast. I opted for the jazzily named ‘Jaffle‘ which was basically an Aussie take on a grilled (vegan) cheese sandwich, laden with pesto and sundried tomato. The rest of Sharrow Vale Road held plenty to behold as well, from Pom’s sister fashion & accessory shop a few storefronts down to Eve, a coffee shop famous for it’s fresh handmade doughnuts – even if I was too full to give one a try by then. They did smell amazing though!
→Pom Kitchen, 388 Sharrow Vale Road, Sheffield S11
I meandered by way back to the city centre and naturally needed a final caffeine fix before hopping aboard the train back to Manchester. Tamper Coffee was another recommendation from Matthew Spade, bringing the best of Kiwi café culture to the city. There are two outposts; one open-plan venue housed in a white-washed 19th century former silversmiths in the heart of Sheffield’s cultural industries quarter, and a more intimate coffee house on Westfield Terrace that Matt suggested I would prefer. I took his recommendation, and settled myself into a cosy corner at the back of the café, armed with my book, an espresso and large slab of coffee cake to fuel me for my journey home. Both were delicious, as was the book incidentally – Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin, celebrating all the wonderful women who wandered cities before me.
→Tamper Coffee, 9 Westfield Terrace, Sheffield S1
Now, of course, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what Sheffield has to offer but what I have seen tells me I’ll definitely be making a trip back again soon.
What have I missed? Let me know your favourite Sheffield haunts in the comments below!
All photography © Kate Baxter