Bhaji Shop ‘accidentally’ opens in HagglersPosted by: Richard Abbey
Lots of strange things happened in lockdown, but what Matt Holdsworth, Sheffield’s king of the bhaji and owner of Bhaji Shop, didn’t expect was to be coming out the other side with a new restaurant in one of the coolest hidden gems in the city.
Back before Christmas 2019, Hagglers Corner, a space that houses independent businesses, as well as a bar, café and events space, around a beautiful courtyard on Queens Road, offered Matt the chance to take on the café with a revolving list of vendors serving through the hatch onto the courtyard in the evenings.
As lockdown set in, and that plan became more and more unfeasible, Matt evolved the kitchen area and a six-month refurb began on the rest of Hagglers. All that has culminated in Matt going back to his restaurant roots and opening a full, all-day café and restaurant.
“It’s happened by accident”, says Matt, “When lockdown came, it felt like all of the businesses within this complex had loads of time to work on new concepts.
“It gave us time to work on the space and it just made sense to turn the cafe and kitchen into our primary location. So, here we are, we've kind of accidentally found a new home, even though we said that we were never going to do it again!
“It felt like it was impossible to stop it morphing into a restaurant, especially with the restrictions that have come in, but I think really it’s just where my passion is. I love doing it.”
The new space will be open all-day Wednesday to Saturday from 10am – 9pm, and Tuesday 10am – 4pm, serving up classic Bhaji Shop curries with all the trimmings (£9), as well as smaller nibbles that might be familiar from back in the Kelham Island days, such as tandoori salmon (£7), crispy chicken (£6) and lentil dhal (£4.50). Desserts and pastries will be supplied by Nevertheless Cakes, who will be baking fresh pastries and cakes from the café’s kitchen.
Matt plans to change the menu on a monthly basis and is determined to expand the menu to include other Asian cuisines that he enjoys cooking, in order to keep the menu interesting.
He said: “There's so many geographical areas that are connected to onions, garlic and chilli, so each month I want to expand the concept just a little bit, mainly because I love cooking.
“I'm always optimistic. My dream, throughout my entire catering career, has been to have a kitchen and sit-down space that's open from day to night with a full working team in it. A really interesting place to come with interesting features like the outside fire pit, and I really feel like this is the closest I’ve got to achieving that dream.
“It’s been really nice watching Sarah and Dave (Hagglers owners) achieve their dreams, and those will always be positive lockdown memories. It’s kind of why we’ve ended up where we are.”
The Abbeydale Road site has sadly closed due to the pandemic, but Matt, along with his amazing team, will continue to run the Chesterfield Road site, which was hugely supported through lockdown thanks to their takeaway offering, serving a paired down menu of curries and bhajis.
“I think it’s a really weird thing”, says Matt, “but bhajis seem, as random as it sounds, to have managed to get us through so many weird moments in our lives and it’s just carried on going. They’re like little gram flower life rafts.”
Bhaji Shop is now open inside Hagglers Corner. Walk-ins only during the day but bookings and walk-ins are available during the evenings. Bookings must be made by emailing email@example.com. For more info head over to their Insta page here.