Inside Attercliffe’s The Library Café & RestaurantPosted by: Annie Williams
We popped along to Attercliffe's newest venue to find out if the food lives up to the live music
Based in Sheffield’s oldest library is The Library Café & Restaurant, a hidden gem in Attercliffe which has brought life and soul into an area which has been gradually pushed out of the city’s limelight.
The red-brick building close to the corner of Leeds Road opened in 1894 in answer to the demand from steelworkers and their families keen for self-improvement, and later became the city's original job centre when staff started listing vacancies from local employers.
The Library re-opened its doors in October last year, but now as a café and bar with a strong focus on jazz and soul music.
There isn’t an angle within the venue which lacks character, from the still standing librarian office, which is now used as the kitchen area to the piano that was bought as a tenth birthday present for the now 104-year-old library mistress.
The origins of what was once a historic library shine through, with the existing metalwork of former book shelves, the original floor work in the site’s entrance and rustic tables and seating areas which contrast with the modernity of neon lights behind the bar, leather sofas dotted around and a fairy lit stage in the venue’s centre.
For diners, at first glance, it could be questioned whether a 14-item tapas menu is going to cover all bases and tastes, but four options down and the contrast in flavours is all there. From a flavoursome chorizo in a red wine sauce which is a dish that can only be described as the epitome of everything Spanish, to coconut chicken curry with rice where the creamy, soft chicken and coconut flavours almost disguise the hidden kick which is left at the back of the throat from one mouthful.
The only thing that can compare with the character of the venue is born-and-bred Sheffield resident, Justin Brooks, owner of The Library.
After years of working in the hospitality industry and travelling the world cooking up a storm on cruise ships and picking up inspiration from countries across the globe, Justin decided to throw in the life jacket and dock in Sheffield for his early retirement at 33.
But the self-proclaimed party-thrower didn’t rest for long and was soon back to searching for an opening that he could apply his passion for music and food into.
The plates are not priced individually, however with the tapas dishes being offered at the affordable price of two for £6 or three £9, it was only right that my friend and I ordered eight dishes between us, there was simply too many brilliant options to not try.
Opting for a range of meats, such as the spicy chicken wings, meatballs in tomato and red wine sauce and personal favourites, chorizo in red wine, spicy king prawns and the coconut curry chicken and rice, as well as vegetarian options patatas bravas, ciabatta with herb butter, apple and brie, garlic bread with goat’s cheese and jalapenos, there was absolutely nothing that could be faulted about the colourful options.
From fluffy melted cheese and freshly baked bread, which comes in fresh every morning, to the freshest tomato-ey salsa and the kick of the hot sauce which coats the chicken wings, there is not a tastebud left untingled.
It’s safe to say gin is very much the booze à la mode. From gin tastings to gin distillery tours and even gin and tonic tea bags – gin is undeniably popular, and The Library has not let the epidemic slip by. With 40 gins to choose from, most of which are chosen specifically for their local link, all at an affordable price ranging between £5-7, there is a tipple even a non-gin lover would fall in love with.
From the Sheffield Dry (£5), which boasts a citrus infusion and fruity tones to counteract the existence of any alcohol that sits within the balloon glass, to the Puerto De Indias Strawberry (£6), which despite its strongest notes of gin bursting through the freshness of the tonic, the alcohol maintains a good balance amongst the fruity undertones.
Buddying up with Attercliffe’s newest brewery and taproom, Saint Mars on the Desert, The Library will soon be working to brew up their own local beer, there is more to be confirmed on this partnership, but we have high expectations from the two.
Food starts at 11.30am and runs throughout the day. Tapas, sandwiches, soup, a children's menu and cocktails are all on offer, and every Thursday there is Jazz on the Cliffe. The library has also become a popular home to social events, from rugby and basketball socials, to book and album launches, there is no restriction to the catering of this diverse venue.
By 2024 Justin aspires for the Library Café to be one of three venues under his brand, all following the same formula tapas with food and music in a historical Steel City setting.