Out for a bite to eat in Sheffield

Eating out is a big part of city life, and as ethical consumers, we also want it to fit on with our beliefs and opinions, leading to some city eateries to respond, writes Anna Zuurmond.

LogoThis article is part of a new series by Wicked Leeks, Sustainable Cities, exploring what sustainable food means to those living in the city.

Eating out is a big part of city life. It’s part of being social and entertained, yet increasingly as ethical consumers, we also want it to fit with our beliefs and opinions. And the eating out industry is having to respond.

Take McDonald’s, for example, which has recently released its highly popular vegan McPlant burger in collaboration with Beyond Meat, illustrating how even the most cheap and cheerful of the fast-food giants is transforming to meet consumer demand. But though vegetarian and vegan options have become commonplace in cafés and restaurants, in general eating out sustainably feels harder compared to our own food shopping.

Information is far vaguer, with sources of ingredients on menus either non-existent or pretty unclear, and restaurant websites giving little information. More to the point, we are treating ourselves so should we also need to care about where the chicken or lettuce in our burger is sourced for one meal on a Friday night?

Living and studying in Sheffield, there is a strong, vibrant and growing collection of independent restaurants and cafes. Many of these are veggie or vegan and, more interestingly, a number of them are tying this in with an ethos of locally and sustainably sourcing their produce. Some classics would be Blue Moon Café, a long-standing veggie and locally-sourcing café in the city centre, as well V or V – another veggie number with seasonal menus.

Another personal favourite is Fusion Café, whose pork and chorizo chilli for £6.00 is to die for, collaborating with all local and organic suppliers but offering meals at affordable prices. Sheffield Food Hall Café, meanwhile, is a community kitchen and dining space that uses ingredients rescued as food surplus, by intercepting food waste streams from local traders.

It also works on a ‘contribute what you can’ basis, with the aim of welcoming anyone through the door. Cafés and food hubs like this are trying to reduce barriers to high quality and sustainable food, which is often aligned with your typical middle-class, green-leaning consumer.

Blue Moon Cafe
Lunch at longstanding Sheffield favourite Blue Moon Café. 

Sheffield, and of course other cities, have many brilliant examples like this. Nonetheless, it’s still pretty unique to find places that specifically advertise on this basis of being both sustainable and accessible.

Often, it can still be challenging to find out where ingredients are sourced, even in independent, indie cafés and restaurants in a ‘green’ city, even when you are specifically trying to look it up. Eco labels are currently in the pipeline, and it is imperative that these would not only be implemented in supermarkets, but in restaurants also.

On another note, young people and university students like myself are regular visitors of the 11pm Deliveroo and the 4am kebab, and it’s likely that these impulsive buys, where convenience is king, may not be going sustainable for some time.

However, what is therefore brilliant is the proliferation of sustainable fast food restaurants like Leon, which have aimed to make their menus affordable, but also carbon neutral and UK sourced (though they are still pretty southern-based, there’s yet to be one in Sheffield). Or an alternative initiative like the app Too Good To Go, which sells food that’s about to get thrown away for cheap at the end of the day.

There’s a lot of good going on, and cities like Sheffield are certainly leading the way in many areas. We are still a long way from transparency being an innate part of the eating out experience, however this evolution of sustainability onto our restaurant dinner plates is inevitable and in demand.   

12 Comments

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  1. Hi Anna,

    Really enjoying the series and finding out a bit more about what’s going on at universities. In your experience, what do you think is the number one green concern at universities? Is it plastic, meat, climate change, food waste, – I’m just thinking about what is the gateway for students to get involved in the sustainable food movement?
    Thanks,
    Jack

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  2. Living 15-20 miles from Sheffield can I add a happy customer shout out for ‘Artscene’ 35 Chesterfield Road, Sheffield S8 0RL . Locality probably described as Meersbrook, anyway near the landmark Ponsford furniture store, Serve superb home made vegetarian often vegan soup of the day with home made focaccia bread, and Italian coffee and sweet treats. Very reasonable prices. In the back a most comprehensive range of art materials.
    Dee

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  3. Hi Anna, I run a cafe in Sheffield called the John St Kitchen. We are relatively new and are interested in sourcing our food carefully. We have so far developed links with Moss Valley Farm near Sheffield where we buy our sausages and bacon; Our Cow Molly milk (which lots of students know about) and a Peak District based farm that brings free range eggs into the city on Wednesdays. We source our coffee from a B Corp coffee roaster near Huddersfield.

    On the menu we include a daily choice of vegan and gf soups – but so far we haven’t solved the question of a local source for vegetables – there are organic boxes we could use but we really need something a bit more tailored to the way the cafe orders food.

    It’d be great to chat to you about your work with Students – we don’t get many although we are near student halls – so I guess our offer doesn’t really resonate with them! If you fancy coming for a bowl of soup one lunch time I’d be happy to offer you one in return for a chance to pick your brains for other ideas for other things we could do to increase awareness about where our food comes from and how we can communicate the importance of this to our customers .. and maybe even students!

    Sophy (07967 144230)

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  4. Great to see Sheffield making yet another splash in Wicked Leeks! 🙂 Stacks of good food action happening. Sheffield was awarded a Bronze Award from Sustainable Food Cities in 2021 which is a huge achievement for the City. Everyone involved at every level of making food better for Sheffield deserves recognition and celebration. Check out ShefFood, Sheffield’s Food Partnership and the epic Bronze Award bid here: https://www.sustainablefoodplaces.org/members/sheffield/ for all the details. Thanks Wicked Leeks – you rock!! xx

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    1. Great that we could focus on that aspect of Sheffield city life – sounds like a really vibrant – and growing – sustainable food scene.

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  5. Great to read about good and sustainable food providers in Sheffield. We have enjoyed the most delicious, original and locally sourced dinner at Tonco, 2 Dyson Place, S11 8XX.

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    1. This is interesting. I live in Devon and it is quite different when eating out because there is a lot of places where vegetarian and vegan options are very small, this is unfair for those people who want it because they are restricted on what they should eat. I think in all restaurants INCLUDING McDonalds, there should be a full menu just for vegans and vegetarians which should have the same amount of choices as the ‘meat menu’.

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    2. Hi Chloe, as some places may focus on non-vegan menus or specialities, do you think it is a matter of just voting with your feet and supporting the smaller independents that do offer that choice?

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  6. Wicked Leeks published by Riverford superficially looks interesting, but too often articles by writers who are not knowledgeable on the subject. The worst are the lifestyle features, the column filling garbage we find in Sunday supplements.

    A recent Wicked Leeks an article on eating out in Sheffield under the general heading of Sustainable Cities, clearly written by someone who knew nothing of Sheffield, for example South Street Kitchen not featured, nor does any of the places I would recommend in Sheffield.

    McDonald’s! Are we being serious, McDonald’s? Sustainable eating and McDonald’s an oxymoron. And no, ultra-processed fake meat from Big Businesses is not sustainable.

    Social enterprise  cafes, yes, recover food that would otherwise go to waste, turn into delicious meals, far better than the humiliation of food banks which should not exist.

    Deliveroo, serfs working for an app, worker exploitation. You got to be joking.

    A sad reflection of Wicked Leeks this nonsense was published.

    Look around Sheffield, do not have too look too hard or too far, to find many examples of local indie business serving excellent food and coffee, using wherever possible local produce and support other local businesses.

    A few examples off the top of my head well worth visiting.

    South Street Kitchen, over the tracks at Sheffield station, up the slope, bottom of the flats, stunning view over Sheffield city centre, serving their take on on Middle Eastern cuisine

    As a local independent community café we have a strong focus on supporting other local Sheffield and Yorkshire businesses, keeping our food fresh and seasonal, and reducing our carbon footprint. Which is why we couldn’t be happier to be working closely once again with the incredible team at Wortley Hall Farm’s walled garden..

    Friday and Saturday evening, a meal based on produce from Wortley Hall Farm

    ShuJu Kitchen, not far from the Winter Garden, Union St, a co-working space, pop up kitchen serving excellent freshly prepared Taiwanese food.

    Marmadukes, near the Crucible, local sourced ingredients, excellent food, excellent coffee.

    Steam Yard, excellent coffee.

    Bullion, Cutlery Works Kelham Island, bean-to-bar craft chocolate.

    Sheffield Cheese Masters, Kelham Island, delicious cheese, milk sourced from a local farm.

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  7. Hi Keith, thanks for all the helpful tips on great places to find sustainable food businesses in the Sheffield area.

    One of the things we aim to do with Wicked Leeks is represent a wide variety of voices; it is great to have this series from Anna refelecting the realities of food culture for students, and navigating her own experience.

    The article isn’t championing fast food, but many peoples food choices do encompass McDonalds or Deliveroo – this needs to be part of the conversation about how we shift to sustainable food, and encouraging people across all sectors and age groups to engage with where their food comes from is key.

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  8. Lovely article highlighting lots of interesting Sheffield places. Just wondering if you’d heard about Food Works Sheffield? We’re the original zero food waste organisation in Sheffield – running since 2015 and we now run 2 cafés, a market, a farm and also more recently the most sustainable ready meals around; Just Meals! Everyone is very welcome to eat with us.

    Check us out: https://thefoodworks.org/

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