I was eight or nine years old when we first went there. It felt so grown up. There was a real fire, dark brown leather booths, smoke hanging in the air and a resident dog that lived in the courtyard. A proper pub. Pacho, the guy who owned the place, was part of the furniture, propping up the bar with a fat cigar and a welcome smile for anyone buying a pint. His daughter Lisa was the inspiration behind my wanting to be a waitress from a young age, remembering the names of everyone who walked in, she had the patience of a saint and would always ask the chef if they’d make me a smoked salmon sandwich even when they’d taken it off the menu. It felt like our place, the place we’d go when we managed to snatch those precious ‘just the four of us’ moments when Dad was back from whichever exotic location he’d been away at this time. It was special and it was ours. Our pub.
It’s no wonder then, that not only pubs but particularly ‘local pubs’, have always held a special place in my heart. Somewhere that you can hang your hat at the end of a long day and always find a familiar face. Having worked in my fair share of the pubs and bars in Sheffield there are a few that have always felt this way for me. The Bath Hotel -which I was lucky enough to work at for one balmy summer, The Broadfield – a real hug of a pub, The Rutland – which undoubtedly serves my favourite chips, and The Dev Cat.
I’ve never heard it referred to as The Devonshire Cat but only ever in fond tones as The Dev Cat. When I first arrived in Sheffield it was simply the pub that people who really liked and knew their beer went too. However, over the past couple of months something miraculous has happened. Abbeydale Brewery (the brains behind the beer) decided to do a re-furb. Under the hawk-like eye of the wonderful general manager Liz Casserly and with expert knowledge drawn from all involved at the brewery, The Dev Cat has been transformed from homely pub to snazzy contender.
I was lucky enough to be invited down to sample some of their sumptuous delights. I took my housemates with me and we had an absolute feast.
Their menu has had a complete overhaul and now serves a mixture of small plates and comforting mains. The small plates are diverse and interesting for both carnivores and herbivores alike. We decided to try a mixture of veggie, meat and fish. We chose the pub classic of whitebait, but this wasn’t just any whitebait, this whitebait was crispy, crunchy and delicious. Our veggie small was heritage carrots with a horseradish creme fraiche – the carrots were buttery, colourful and a fun addition to the menu and added some freshness to our more deep-fried options. The final offering was definitely the highlight, the Scotch egg. A gooey, runny egg encased in herby, fantastic quality meat and deep-fried to a crispy delight. I could have eaten twelve of them.
Moving onto mains, the pork belly had to be the star of the show, served with perfectly creamy mash, al dente tender stem broccoli, a sizeable chunk of black pudding and crackling so crispy that the bloke three tables down turned around when my housemate bit into it. My other housemate went for the chestnut and mushroom pie, and while the red cabbage might have lacked some seasoning the pie itself was a wonderful winter warmer. I rounded off the trio of mains with a chicken and mushroom pie and what a pie it was. This was no measly stew with a puff pastry lid, this was a proper pie. Shortcrust pastry top and generous in size, well seasoned and creamy, it left me wanting more. It came with some of the best chips I’ve had in a while and overall it was a great meal.
All in all, The Dev Cat has retained its comfy, welcoming ambience while updating its interior. The food is great and the service was lovely, I’d definitely recommend it and will be heading back, if only for the Scotch egg.
Words & Images: Erin Lawlor