The Benjamin Huntsman (JD Wetherspoon), City Centre, Sheffield (51%)

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Thursday 27th October 2016.

I would have gone Netanyahu myself. If I had to name a Benjamin. No disrespect to the eponymous Sheffield industrialist, of course.

On a bleak Welsh cottage holiday back in 2011 Skippy and I named a rather persistent housefly ‘Benjamin Netanyahu’. He hung around for a few days in the high ceilinged hallway. It was around the time of the social justice protest in Tel Aviv – you couldn’t walk a dog down Rothschild Boulevard for pop-up tents. We guess he got wind of it. Funny how you can miss a housefly.

These cavernous JD Wetherspoon revamps often remind me of railway station concourses: vast and impersonal; seething with human traffic. Patrons sit or mill with vaguely distracted looks, seeming to question their destination, as if this wasn’t quite the place they’d meant. Else, just dazed, Hopeful efforts to spot meal orders beyond the scrum of teatime custom. Both Simon and I assumed the typical baffled meerkat poses (before finally re-stating our orders to the overrun, obliging waitress).

It took a while to place our orders, in the first place, at the crowded bar. Sort of bagsed a table number on the fly with a tossed coat. All rather slam-bang: the busy scramble for a perch; the growing hubbub in the yawning crucible. A sickly post-op yellow light had me checking vital signs.

The onion bhajis were the surprise hit, however mass produced. Crisply firm with a melty centre, they packed a punch. Outshining a fair number churned forth from so-called ‘authentic’ kitchens. And the main dishes too weren’t bad at all. A traditional range of korma, rogan josh, balti, madras and vindaloo. Tender meaty chunks in generous piquant sauces. The naan bread, though, like a stiff hankie waving surrender, had, right away, given up the gosht.

‘Going large’ equates to the addition of an onion bhaji, chipboard samosa and greasy popodum with your main. A discovery emerging sometime after the arrival of my starter order of pickle tray and onion bhaji. It must have been a strange sight, that bloated doughy mass pin-balling up West Street to the Bath Hotel : a savoury Violet Beauregard; The Beast of Bhaji Moor.

£10.85 mind (a pint of Ruddles Best to boot).

benj.jpg

Attendees:
Judge ‘Gonzo’ Pickles
Simon Burton
Kunal Bhagi
Jason Paine
Ian Matthews

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